Moscow Presentation

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Published on November 23, 2007

Author: Mentor

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Slide1:  Defend Russian Hindus Campaign to safeguard Hindu human rights and freedom in Russia Ramesh Kallidai (Romapada Dasa) Hindu Forum of Britain The Russian Campaign:  The Russian Campaign Part 1: The initial days Part 2: The struggle and the freedom Part 3: Continuing the persecution Part 4: Where do we go now? The Initial Days:  The Initial Days Moscow – seat of Russian civilisation:  Moscow – seat of Russian civilisation A C Bhaktivedanta Swami, Founder of ISKCON travels to Russia in 1971 Russia, at that time is the seat of Communism Communism is basically atheistic All religious activity was banned A C Bhaktivedanta Swami in Moscow :  A C Bhaktivedanta Swami in Moscow Five days of compassion:  Five days of compassion Bhaktivedanta Swami stayed in Moscow for 5 days Discussed philosophy with Soviet Hindu scholar Prof. Kotovsky Met one educated Russian youth who became the Swami’s student Thousands of Soviet people took up the Hindu principles of universal peace and love for all The struggle and the freedom:  The struggle and the freedom KGB ‘upset’ by Hindus:  KGB declares ISKCON one of the greatest ‘threats’ to the Soviet nation in 1980 A war was declared against Hindu Dharma The totalitarian state vs. handful of first peace-loving Hindus in Russia KGB ‘upset’ by Hindus The KGB persecution:  Hundreds of Russian Hindus thrown into prisons, labor camps and psychiatric hospitals. Underwent tremendous suffering and tortures, but kept their strong, unflinching faith in Lord Krishna and His words in Bhagavad-Gita Their beads were taken away, they were denied vegetarian meals They made beads out of cloth, starved instead of eating meat and refused to give up the Hindu way of life The KGB persecution Slide10:  In one of the 1981 issues of the journal “Communist” published by the Central Committee of the Communist Party the then deputy chief of KGB Semen Tsvigun wrote an article in which it was said: “There are three great threats to a Soviet way of life – Western culture, rock’n’roll and Krishna.” Case studies:  Case studies Sarkis Ohanjanyan was only 21 when he was put in prison. His only ‘guilt’ was that he believed in God, chanted the Hare Krishna mantra and refused to eat meat. One and a half years later he died in the winter of 1986 in a labor camp out of malnutrition and tuberculosis. Before his departure he was chanting on the beads made from the prison bread, and had applied tilaka on his body with the toothpaste. Olga Kiselyova was put in prison in 1983 when she was pregnant. Her ‘crime’ was that she helped in translating the Bhagavad-Gita into the Russian language. After undergoing torture and long, arduous interrogation she delivered a baby girl, Marika, in prison who died only two months later. Amala Bhakta Das father of 5, was sentenced for 5 years of labor camps, and was only released on a personal plea of Nancy Reagan. These are only a few stories among many. Early devotees in Russia sacrificed their health, freedom and sometimes even their life for what they believed in. Freedom at last?:  Freedom at last? In 1985, Hindus worldwide started a campaign of protest against religious persecution in the USSR Song released in Australia Nelson Mandela made an appeal Reagan spoke to Gorbachev Massive protests organised In 1988 all Soviet Hare Krishna devotees in prison were released by M. Gorbachev Era of religious freedom had begun Or has it? Spiritually starved Russians take up Hinduism in large numbers:  After being freed, first Russian pilgrims visited India in 1988 Spiritually starved Russians take up Hinduism in large numbers Slide14:  First Russian Hindu temple established in abandoned building (1991) …beautifully transformed by Russian Hindus’ labour of love 100,000 local Russians adopted the Hindu way of life:  …beautifully transformed by Russian Hindus’ labour of love 100,000 local Russians adopted the Hindu way of life Slide16:  10,000 Russian Hindus based in Moscow alone Slide17:  Along with 5000 members of the Indian community The only Hindu temple in Moscow:  The only Hindu temple in Moscow A place where Russian and Indian Hindus worshipped the presiding Deities Sri Sri Dayal Nitai – Sachi Suta Continuing the persecution:  Continuing the persecution Facts about Russian Hinduism:  Facts about Russian Hinduism 100,000 Hindus in Russia – majority were local Russians 97 registered communities 22 monasteries 250 home groups 20,000 free meals distributed daily Largest Hindu literature readership outside of India Changing enemies:  Changing enemies The freedom was rather short lived In 1994 the Bishops’ Council of Russian Orthodox Church made a statement on “Pseudo-Christian sects, neo-paganism and occultism” Called the teachings of Bhagavad-gita a “false religion”, which “destroys the traditional way of life formed under influence of Orthodox Church Spoke against Baptist Church, Jehovah’s Witnesses and other Christians All other religions described as Threat to the unity of national consciousness and cultural identity Incompatible with Christianity The message was quite clear: orthodox Christians and the state itself should join forces to save the cultural and national identity of its citizens Pre-revolutionary hostile model of the Church to other religions with state as a closest ally was re-surfacing after the communist regime fell down Oppressive bill passed:  Oppressive bill passed 1997 bill recognises Russian Orthodox Church as pre-eminent religion Recognises three other ‘traditional’ Russian faiths: Judaism, Islam and Buddhism All other faiths would face strict curbs on their legal rights, missionary work and educational activities Any religion not established over 15 years in Russia cannot publish books or invite spiritual leaders Slide23:  “We should allow only Orthodoxy” Vladmir Zhirinovsky, ultra-unionist Member of Parliament In 2003 the Moscow Government requested the only Hindu temple to vacate their building. In exchange the Mayor's office gave a plot of land…:  In 2003 the Moscow Government requested the only Hindu temple to vacate their building. In exchange the Mayor's office gave a plot of land… …and the old building was immediately demolished :  …and the old building was immediately demolished All the activities are now held in these temporary facilities…:  All the activities are now held in these temporary facilities… … with the expectation of building a wonderful temple and Vedic cultural center:  … with the expectation of building a wonderful temple and Vedic cultural center Every week up to 1000 guests gather in the tent constructed on the plot…:  Every week up to 1000 guests gather in the tent constructed on the plot… …coming together for worship…:  …coming together for worship… … enjoying the ‘Sunday feast’...:  … enjoying the ‘Sunday feast’... “One can hardly find any other Hindu movement like ISKCON, so brilliantly different….with its unique international, intercultural approach to the propagation of the spiritual message, as well as [its] modesty, detachment and enthusiasm.” Sri Atal Bihari Vajpayee Former Prime Minister of India:  “One can hardly find any other Hindu movement like ISKCON, so brilliantly different….with its unique international, intercultural approach to the propagation of the spiritual message, as well as [its] modesty, detachment and enthusiasm.” Sri Atal Bihari Vajpayee Former Prime Minister of India Hindu leader Sanjeet Jha meeting President Putin:  Hindu leader Sanjeet Jha meeting President Putin Opposition to new temple:  Opposition to new temple The Inter-religious Council of Russia opposed the construction of a large Hindu temple in Moscow, as it “does not conform with the historical and cultural tradition of the Russian capital” Representatives on the Council included the Department of External Church Affairs of the Moscow Patriarchy, Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad; acting chairman of the Central Spiritual Administration of Muslims of Russia, Mufti of Perm Oblast Muhammadgali Khuzin and other faith leaders Blatant opposition to Hinduism :  Blatant opposition to Hinduism “Construction of a vast temple of such architectural and cultural dominance in Moscow would be improper. This does not correspond to our cultural tradition and will be incomprehensible to the majority of capitol residents," said Metropolitan Kirill. Mufti Khuzin underscored that "Russia is a country that has a thousand year old tradition not only of Orthodoxy, but also Islam, Judaism and Buddhism, and construction in its capital city of a large Hindu temple centre would be, to a certain degree, a sacrilege." Protests and misinformation against Hindus:  Protests and misinformation against Hindus Repeated protest marches held in Moscow against the Hindu temple At one large march in 2004, Russian Orthodox Churches told authorities to stop free food programme because it contained ‘cow dung and urine’! More opposition:  More opposition Alexander Dvorkin, an Anti-cult leader, told Russian media, “The extent of the planned temple is an indication that the movement is planning a massive extension of its missionary work in Russia. It's possible that construction could be stopped if the residents decide to continue their protests against it.” “No words can describe the dangers of this project. We hope that the protest actions which are about to begin in Moscow will be supported by the people of good will throughout the world.” St. Irinaeus of Lyon Religious Studies Centre Ultra-unionists beat Hindus in temple - 2004:  Ultra-unionists beat Hindus in temple - 2004 Hate crime continues:  Hate crime continues 30 Hindus, including women and children, beaten with iron rods:  30 Hindus, including women and children, beaten with iron rods Mayor does a volte-force:  Mayor does a volte-force On 3rd October 2005 Moscow Mayor issues an order rescinding the land order Land will now be taken back Gas, electricity and even water cut off If there is no land, there will be no temple Full-time residents made homeless Hindus will have no place to worship War of words:  War of words Archbishop Nikon of the Russian Orthodox Church, in reaction to the international campaign against human rights abuse against Russian Hindus said: “Lord Krishna is an evil demon – the personified power of evil opposing God” “It would be an idolatrous disgrace for a temple to be erected for the glory of this wicked and malicious ‘God’ Krishna!” The way forward:  The way forward Slide43:  Russian Orthodoxy and religious persecution have won a battle… ….but not the war:  ….but not the war Hindus the world over have united against this injustice Organisations in India, UK, Australia, America, Africa launched the Defend Russian Hindus Campaign UK campaign has involved: National Hindu bodies Members of Hindu community Politicians Media Youth? Strategy:  Strategy Three components Community Campaign Media Campaign Political Campaign Community campaign:  Newsletters Email campaigns Sign online petition VHP India to start parallel campaign Community campaign Community Campaign - Letters:  Community Campaign - Letters Write letters of protest to: Mayor of Moscow President of Russia, Vladmir Putin UK Russian Embassy Amnesty International UN Secretary General, Kofi Anan British Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw Community campaign - Interfaith:  Board of Deputies of British Jewish Catholic Church in UK Church of England World Council of Religions and Peace Other communities Community campaign - Interfaith UK Political Campaign:  UK Political Campaign Contacting local MP Official Launch of campaign in House of Commons Delegation of MPs to Embassy and FCO Put pressure on Indian Government Speak to Russia Desk in FCO Protest Marches The Human Rights angle All Party Parliamentary Group for Russia Media Campaign:  Media Campaign Stories in National and Ethnic Media Letters to Editors Speak on topic during other interviews Press Conference at campaign launch Defend Russian Hindus Committee:  Defend Russian Hindus Committee The following organisations have formed a Committee to execute the campaign: Hindu Forum of Britain Vishwa Hindu Parishad UK National Council of Hindu Temples Hindu Council of Brent National Hindu Students Forum UK Hindu Council of Australia Hindu American Foundation Hindu Council of Africa Many other national and regional Hindu organisations Slide52:  Please tell us how you can join the campaign Defend Russian Hindus Unit 3, Vascroft Estate, 961, Coronation Road Park Royal, London, NW10 7PT Phone: 020 8965 0671 Email: info@hincom.org

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