2013, Russia

Karelia and Kamchatka

Karelia and Kamchatka

Xenia Dennen


Since the turn of the century I have been involved in the research behind what at Keston Institute we call the Encyclopaedia on Religious Life in Russia Today, which in seven volumes covers all Christian denominations and religions in all the administrative divisions of the Russian Federation. We are now working on a second edition which will be more analytical, focusing on the most important religious groups which are significant players in today’s Russia.

This year my field trips have included one to Petrozavodsk in Karelia, north of St Petersburg at the western end of Russia, and most recently one to the very opposite end of Russia, Kamchatka, which is even further east than Vladivostok. The Karelian Republic, covering 172,400 sq km, has a population more than twice the size of Kamchatka’s and Kamchatka is 1½ times larger than Karelia. Both areas were the focus of virulent antireligious activity during the communist period, so that few churches were left standing in Karelia and none whatsoever in Kamchatka.

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2013, European Union

Where do we think the EU might be going; and will Britain go there too?

Where do we think the EU might be going; and will Britain go there too?

(A talk given to ‘Faith in Europe’, 17 January 2013)

Sir Michael Franklin

For those like me who support the EU and British membership of it, the past few years have not been happy ones.

It is not only in the UK that public opinion has become much less enthusiastic about the EU and it institutions. The European Commission regularly takes the temperature of public opinion through a series of polls. The best known asks people whether or not they think the EU is a ‘good thing’. It shows that over the last five years average support has declined from 52% to 30%. It has happened in virtually every EU country. In France, for instance, 52% of those polled five years ago said membership of the EU was a good thing: last year that had dropped to 46%. In Germany the figures were 65% and 54%. In Spain the fall was even more dramatic: from 73% to 55%. (No surprise that the corresponding figures for the UK showed only 33% thinking that membership was a good thing 10 years ago, and only 26% last year – but more of that later). No doubt much of this dissatisfaction reflects the general feeling of economic gloom and the perceived failure of governments, both national and European to rise to the occasion. Nevertheless, it provides a difficult political backdrop against which governments have to deal with the problems the EU faces.

Of these, the biggest is clearly the formidable problems arising from the world wide banking and economic crises for the EU as a whole, but notably for the future, indeed the survival of the EU’s single currency, the eurozone. But first let me say something about another immediate problem for the EU: the fixing of the EU budget for the next few years.

In purely numerical terms the EU budget is not a big issue: the total EU budget, some £120 billion is only about 1% of Europe’s GDP, whereas total government expenditure in most EU countries amounts to around 40% of GDP. The UK’s net contribution to the budget is a mere £7.4 billion, scarcely more than 1% of government expenditure, about half what Germany pays and substantially less than France or Italy.

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2012, Bulgaria, Rights - Religious, Human, Romania

Religious Pluralism and the European Court of Human Rights – Insights from the Cases of Bulgaria and Romania

Religious Pluralism and the European Court of Human Rights: Insights from the Cases of Bulgaria and Romania

Effie Fokas

Introduction to the European Court of Human Rights

The European Court of Human Rights (henceforth Court or ECtHR) is the court established by the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) in order to enforce the ECHR. The ECHR was adopted by the Council of Europe, whose primary aim is to create a common democratic and legal area throughout the European continent, ensuring respect for its fundamental values: human rights, democracy and the rule of law. The Council of Europe was established in Strasbourg in 1949 by 10 founding countries. Today it has 47 member states; all states in geographic Europe are members except Belarus’ (candidate status since 1993). The ECHR was adopted in 1950 and went into force in 1953. Ratification of the Convention is a prerequisite for joining the Council of Europe. The Court began operating in 1959. In 2008 it delivered its 10,000th judgment.

The ECHR has 59 articles and a number of protocols amending it. Of these, the most relevant to religious rights and freedoms are article 9, article 14, and article 2 of the first protocol.

Article 9: Freedom of Thought, Conscience and Religion

  1. Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance.
  2. Freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs shall be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of public safety, for the protection of public order, health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.
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2012, Civil Society, Poland

Civil Society in Postcommunist Poland

Civil Society in Postcommunist Poland

Jolanta Babiuch-Luxmoore

I see a difference beween Anglo-Saxon and Polish understandings of ‘civil society’. The former (derived from Locke and Hume) sees civil society as involving a contract on power-sharing between society and the state. The latter (derived more from Rousseau) sees society as essentially in conflict with the state.

In Poland discussion on civil society started in the 1970s and 1980s. The idea was to build civil society as an environment parallel to the state where citizens could ‘live in truth’, with respect for each other; the context was that nobody knew how long communism was going to last. It was to be a moral but apolitical civil society. Its apogee was the Solidarity movement. This was a very particular phenomenon: it was in fact a kind of ‘negative solidarity’ in that it brought together people who had in common only the fact that they were against the state. This negative nature was later to turn out to be a disadvantage: civil society as it evolved at this time in Poland was basically negative about the state.

Communism collapsed unexpectedly, and there was no Third Way because there was no time: suddenly the only agenda was neo-liberal. Postcommunist Poland has seen the rise of NGOs, which have been set up in order to take action in areas where the state has not been doing well. They have become neo-liberal, oriented towards money, getting grants from the West. They have lost the ethos of civil society, which in Poland was conceived as moral. They have largely become professionalised and cliquish closed shops, fulfilling the programmes of those who are giving them grants.

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2012, Civil Society, Russia

Roman Catholic, Anglican and Russian Orthodox Views on Civil Society and Recent Church-Related Civil Society Developments in Russia

Roman Catholic, Anglican and Russian Orthodox Views on Civil Society and Recent Church-Related Civil Society Developments in Russia

Adrian Pabst

Contemporary Perceptions

There is a widespread view that the Russian Orthodox Church is subordinate to the state and that religious authority is complicit with the political authority of the ruling regime – whether the absolutism of the tsars, the totalitarianism of the Soviet Union or the authoritarianism of Putin’s postcommunist Russia. Linked to this charge of caesaro-papism is the claim that the Orthodox East as a whole has failed to overcome the legacy of Byzantium – above all, there is no clear, constitutionally enshrined separation of powers or a robust rule of law. Since 1993 it has also been suggested that church and state in Russia have sought to put in place a neo-Byzantine settlement where individuals and society are ruled by the twin forces of president and patriarch – the representatives of earthly and heavenly powers. Closely connected with this is the common assumption that the East has no or only a weak civil society. Or, to be less general, that only Central European Catholic countries such as Poland or Slovakia have a vibrant civic culture, while the Orthodox East is statist and lacks a constitutional tradition, which would favour the emergence of intermediary institutions.

Elements for an Alternative Theological and Historical Narrative

However, both the theology and the history of the Russian Orthodox Church are rather more complex than this contemporary caricature suggests. Theologically, there is a clear distinction between state and church. St John Chrysostom, a fifth-century Greek theologian, was opposed to the sacralisation of power – a critique that underpins the distinction by Pope Gelasius I of the two swords. For Chrysostom, and for St Augustine who followed and developed St Paul’s teaching, secular rule is confined to the temporal saeculum (destined to pass into God’s Kingdom) and falls inside the church insofar as it concerns justice and the orientation of human existence to the Good.

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2012, Poland

The Current Attitude of Catholics in Poland to European Integration

The Current Attitude of Catholics in Poland to European Integration

Aleks Szczerbiak

I’m going to just start off by talking briefly about the role that the Polish Catholic Church has played in Polish history, culture, national identity and contemporary politics and society, a bit of contextual information. And then I’m going to move on to talk about the Church’s attitude towards the issue of European integration. I’m going to start by looking in quite broad terms at what have been the underlying drivers of the Polish Catholic Church’s approach to the issue of European integration. The I’m going to move on to talk in a bit more detail about how that attitude has changed, particularly how it changed in the run up to the EU accession referendum in Poland in June 2003 where it played quite an important role; indeed arguably the single most important intervention in that process was actually by a clergyman. I’m then going to move on to talk about some more contemporary matters: about the issues and concerns that the Polish Catholic Church has raised and continues to raise in the post-accession period. A lot of this is obviously talking about the Church hierarchy – the bishops and the leadership of the Church – so I’m then going to talk a little bit more about the attitudes of the laity and of the rank-and-file clergy towards European integration and Poland’s membership of the EU. Finally I’m going to talk about a phenomenon that some of you might be familiar with: a media conglomerate and a milieu of organisations clustered around a Catholic nationalist broadcaster called Radio Maryja, which is a very interesting and a very unusual case of how a Eurosceptic movement that is critical or outrightly hostile to European integration is inspired by the social teachings of the Catholic Church or what you might call Political Catholicism. I’ll also touch a little bit on the Eurozone crisis and how the Church has related to it.

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2012, Romania, Rural issues

Churches European Rural Network Visit to Romania, October 2011

Churches European Rural Network Visit to Romania, October 2011

Andrew Bowden

The Visit

We are extremely grateful to Rudi Job for masterminding our visit: without him it would not have been possible. Also, to a remarkable establishment, the Evangelical Academy at Sibiu, whose staff organised our programme. The Academy is very well equipped with excellent accommodation, and it is good to hear that it will host the next meeting of IRCA – Europe in 2012.

With the blessing of IRCA – Europe (International Rural Churches Association – Europe) – Rudi Job and I arranged for a small group to visit rural Romania between 20 and 25 October 2011.The visit was hosted by Dietrich Galter, President of the Academy of Neppendorf, Sibiu.

The programme included:

  • A journey to the ruins of the Cistercian monastery at Kerz (Carta) where we met the parish priest Michael Refer and a representative of the agricultural society.
  • A visit to the summer residence of Baron Samuel von Bruckenthal in Freck which is being restored as a tourist attraction.
  • A visit to Michelsberg to a visit to meet the entreprenneur Michael Henning. (Subject: My village before and now). Meal on a farm.
  • Journey to Mediasch, Pretai and Biertan to see various rural projects linked with local churches.
  • Visit to the old mill in Holzmengen (nice name: literally ‘loads of wood!’)
  • A meeting with Jochen Cotaru in respect of the development project at Harbachtal, the project Natura 2000, and certain individual projects in the village (for example restoration of the old village mill).
  • A visit to the service in a village parish (Grossau or Reussdoerfchen). After the service a conversation with representatives of the parish and their work with the Gipsy community.
  • A visit to the ‘shepherd-village’ Sibiel, the museum of icons ‘Zosim Oancea’.
  • A meeting with a representative of the regional agency for tourism, concentrating on possibilities for developing tourism in rural areas.
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2012, Romania

The Romanian Orthodox Church: Relations with the State and with Other Orthodox Churches

The Romanian Orthodox Church: Relations with the State and with other Orthodox Churches

Lucian Turcescu

In communist times the Romanian Orthodox Church (ROC) was recognised by the state but firmly under state control. All prominent church figures had to gain state approval and were expected to collaborate with the secular authorities. Very few ROC leaders have confessed to collaboration, however, so this is still a live issue. One of the first to do so was Patriarch Teoctist himself, who then stepped down in 1990; but after three months, at the insistence of other members of the Synod, he came back and remained as patriarch until 2007.

Teoctist was a monastic; his successor Patriarch Daniel is a man of the world who is interested in marketing the church in contemporary society. Teoctist was pro-Russia and under his leadership the ROC tended to issue statements critical of the West; Daniel by contrast is pro-western and pro-EU. As far as church-state relations are concerned, Teoctist favoured the English model of an established church, and he and some clergy argued that bishops should be members of an upper house of parliament. Daniel is more in favour of the German model: partnership between church and state but not dependence. Previously the ROC encouraged priests to stand in elections; nowadays it discourages this on the grounds that priests, as Romanian citizens, have the right to engage politically, but not in a partisan manner by running on a particular party list. Several church leaders we have spoken to, including Daniel before he became patriarch, are not in favour of the symphonia state-church model, but prefer the idea of partnership, whereby for example the state would devolve social care to the church, giving it money to carry this out.

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2012, Romania

Romania: In the Shadow of the Past

Romania: In the Shadow of the Past

Lavinia Stan


Given Ceau?escu’s personalised rule, the local uncivic political culture and widespread corruption and intolerance, the country’s limited historical experience with democracy, and the bloody Revolution of December 1989, it is not surprising that Romania faced serious challenges in its efforts to create a stable democracy and to gain acceptance into the larger European family. After Ceau?escu and his wife were executed on Christmas Day 1989, Romanians hoped to gain the political rights and economic prosperity they had been denied for 45 years. But the weakness of civil society and the absence of organised political opposition sealed the country’s fate, as power reverted to second-echelon nomenklatura members, who rejected communism less than they rejected Ceau?escu.

The first years of postcommunist transition in Romania tell the story of the former communists establishing control over the state apparatus, intimidating political rivals, rigging elections, and appropriating state resources through shady privatisation deals. The country has yet to overcome this handicap, as its democratisation and marketisation unfolded at a slower pace than those of other countries in the region. Whereas in Central Europe the collapse of the communist regimes brought the pro-democratic opposition to government, in Romania this happened only in 1996. Whereas in those countries economic stabilisation, liberalisation and privatisation were largely completed by the mid-1990s, in Romania these processes extended almost to the end of the decade. Whereas Central European countries joined the European Union (EU) in 2004, Romania did so only in 2007. The country will need more time to catch up with the other EU member states.

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2012, Greece

Orthodox Social Service and the role of the Orthodox Church in the Greek Economic Crisis

Orthodox Social Service and the Role of the Orthodox Church in the Greek Economic Crisis

Lina Molokotos-Liederman

The Research

This work is based on research commissioned by the International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) that was conducted in 2008 and 2009. Parts of this article were reworked from the final Orthodox diakonia survey report, used with permission of the IOCC. The results of this work are available at IOCC (2009) and have also been published as Molokotos-Liederman (2010).

Orthodox Diakonia

The general question that frames this presentation is the link between religion and social problems from the perspective of approaching religion as a solution. The role of faith-based NGOs is therefore particularly relevant. I will specifically focus on the Christian Orthodox approach to addressing social issues of poverty, injustice and inequality through social service. This part of the presentation is based on my work for the Orthodox diakonia survey for the IOCC.

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