Religious Sects Mighty in Russia

Many families lose their relatives because of religious sects, but some religious communities cannot be stopped as there is nothing illegal about what they do

Pravda.Ru/September 11, 2003

The author of the story decided to go and see one of Russia's religious sects after she met a colleague with whom she studied at the university. That was Oleg Trifonov, the guy known for his passion for girls; each time other students met him Oleg was smoking cigarettes and constantly had a bottle of beer in his hands. That seemed strange but Oleg even managed to come slightly drunk to examinations. But suddenly the guy gave up the university studies when he was already a third-year student. When later Oleg dropped in at the university a couple of times, other students noticed that he had completely changed, it was an absolutely different guy. He no longer told funny stories, gave up smoking and drinking alcohol, he didn't even pay attention to girls. Other students of the faculty said he joined a sect.

Now, in half a year after that meeting Oleg makes no secrets about his activity. He says he falls into some trance to help cure alcohol and drug addicts. He even offered to drive the devil out of the author of the article. The girl was shocked to see how the guy changed within few months.

The journalist decided to attend a session of Christ's Church that was held in a rented room of the City House of Culture in Turgenev Street of in the city of Rostov-on-Don. That was not the only place where disciples of the above mentioned religious community gathered; these people gather almost every day in any suitable rooms. Sometimes special meetings are organized for separate groups consisting of children, students, girls or boys.

On the day when the journalist attended the session it was a Sunday sermon; half an hour before it started crowds of young and not really young people gathered near the House of Culture. The way how the people treated each other drew the journalist's attention immediately: the people were extremely well-disposed toward each other, they hugged and used any opportunity to touch the one with whom they talked at any particular moment.

That seemed strange but the principles immediately understood that the journalist was a newcomer; she was immediately introduced to a girl named Zhenya and a woman Ljuba who worked as an ambulance doctor. "Both women stayed close to the journalist all day long: they were constantly asking about university studies, about the place where I live, about my interests and attitude to religion. Even though the women insisted I should give them my telephone number I kept silent. We agreed that we would meet the next day. The girl, Zhenya, confusedly told about her previous bad life: she drank alcohol, used drugs and stole; but her life considerably improved when she joined the church."

As it turned out, a man named Vadim Gonyayev was the charismatic leader of the community in Rostov-on-Don. The man looked the age of 30-35; a tall, handsome, charming and wonderfully dressed young man looked like a prince from girls' childish dreams.

Vadim preached at that very meeting which the journalist attended; he did it in a wonderful manner. It was an interesting story with vivid and believable examples; the man was a perfect speaker. Vadim analyzed in detail a paragraph from some testament. It is highly likely that newcomers get particularly charmed with community leaders citing of the Holy Scriptures. But very often community leaders interpret the texts in their own manner, rather primitively by the way. Vadim managed to catch the attention of the packed hall; the people encourage the leader "Go, Vadim!", "Well done!"

The journalist tells: "I failed to become a conscientious parishioner, I was yawning all the speech long. It was only Ljuba's intent glance that made my try to look concentrated. The woman gave me a book of the Testament so that I could follow the text or the scripts of church songs. In breaks between sermons read by other members of the community the principles jumped up, snapped their fingers (it was not allowed to cross oneself there) and sang religious songs that sounded very much like jazz passages."

There was a separate room next door where little children of the parishioners stayed. The journalist wasn't allowed there as she wasn't a child or a parent. But she was extremely surprised that the community took care of all ages of the parish.

It is said that the community which session the journalist attended was not the worst place where citizens of Rostov-on-Don could find themselves. The parishioners of the sect don't make sacrifices to the Satan or indulge in group sex. On the contrary, principles of Christ's Church are not allowed to have sex before marriage; people from the sect spend their free time only with parishioners and marry only people from the community. Members of the community are mostly newcomers of the city and lonely people tired of their problems. These people get touched with the ostensible sympathy of other parishioners and the kind atmosphere in the community. But it turns out later that these people cannot leave the sect easily.

If you still ask yourself why missionaries are working so hard to set up new communities all about the country, here is the answer to the question. Each principle of the church pays 10-15 per cent of the monthly income into the church budget. What is more, it is well known that principles made even bigger contributions.

Christ's Church was founded by Pastor Kip McKean (Massachusetts, USA) in 1979; then the teaching spread further. In the mid-1990s the international Churches of Christ had 118 thousand of parishioners in 89 countries of the world. Today Christ's Church is considered to be one of the most closed and most dangerous destructive religious organizations abroad. Because of its radicalism the Church is officially prohibited to work at the universities of the USA and Great Britain.

The teaching of Christ's Church is remarkable for its extremely primitive (which in its turn means easy to understand) interpretation of Christianity; at that rather aggressive methods of influence upon the personality are used to suppress the critical sensations and the power of apprehension of people.

The cult is based upon the pyramid principle: each mentor has several pupils whose lives he scrupulously controls. The people employ different methods of pressure: they are very obtrusive, try to deprive other community member of their spare time and sleep; they organize inadequate nutrition, make the adepts feel guilty and what is more dangerous the mentors establish absolute control over the spare time of the adepts.

Those who abandon the religious community are considered to be dead. Those who stay in the community even try not to mention those who leave the community.

As a result of staying in Christ's Church the spiritual and intellectual outlook becomes reduced; people get aggressive each time it comes to faith problems; they break up the relations with friends and relatives, they experience abnormal psyche changes.

After attending the community the journalist decided to attain a commentary from the chief expert of the Rostov Committee for Inter-nation relations, Religion and the Cossacks Vladimir Popov.

"Relatives of young people who got involved into the religious group you speak about have appealed to us several times already. A boy from the Grekov College told us that two girls from his course attended the sermons of the church within a month; then the girls fell into a grave depression but couldn't stop attending the sessions. A woman who brought up her son alone told us that as soon as her son entered into the community he immediately decided to give them his own computer; the boy had no objections.

Citizens of Rostov-on-Don who suffered as a result of the Church's activity say that other members of the community take thorough care about relatives who fell under the influence of the Church. They meet up to three times a week and sometimes oftener. What is more, community leaders establish control over the conscience of adepts; the relations in the Church are based upon a destructive principle (it is ordered that adepts must break any sort of relations with those who don't belong to the community).

Many of the Church adepts give up drinking alcohol, smoking and other bad habits. At the same time they get plunged into the activity of the religious community and cannot live without it any longer. They bring all the money and precious things to the community; they abandon their families, little children and aged parents, they leave for other places to do their missionary activity.

There is no reason to close the church as no official violations have been discovered in its activity. It could have been possible to close the church on the basis of numerous petitions of relatives; but as a rule relatives don't want to give publicity to their problems.

Not so long ago parents of one girl who entered into the community even appealed to the administration of the presidential envoy to the south federal district. The parents say that the girl is now focused on the Church interests only; she performs badly at school, broke up with her boyfriend who disliked her new interests. Now the girl communicates with a guy from the community, her "brother", and they are supposed to marry later. The parents even appealed to the Regional Prosecutor's Office. Unfortunately, the parents have failed to achieve any success."

About 85 religious organizations are working on the Russian territory.

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