FECRIS vice-president, Alexander Dvorkin, persona non grata in Ukraine

12 05 2014


By Willy Fautré / Human Rights Without Frontiers  

HRWF (12.05.2014) – Alexander Dvorkin, vice-president of FECRIS (*) and chairman of the Russian Association of Centres for the Study of Religions and Sects, has been complaining in numerous Russian media in the last few weeks that he was denied entry in Ukraine because of the international “sectarian lobby” behind the Maidan movement in Kyiv.

Dvorkin had been invited by the Archbishop of Lugansk and Alchevsk Mitrofan (Ukrainian Orthodox Church/ Moscow Patriarchate) to give some lectures about sects on 9-10 April in Lugansk (Eastern Ukraine). He was denied entry in Ukraine at the airport of Donetsk and sent back to Russia.

The official reason justifying his deportation was that he had been seen with the wife of Gubarev, the self-proclaimed governor of Donetsk.

During a broadcast of the Russian radio station “Komsomolskaia Pravda”, Dvorkin denied any link with Gubarev and accused the international “sectarian lobby” of standing behind “the coup of Kyiv” as well as his deportation.

Like other pro-Russian and Russian Orthodox extremists, Dvorkin discredited the Maidan movement, saying that the Acting President, Alexander Tourtchynov was a Baptist – which is true -, his Prime Minister Arseni Yatseniuk is a Scientologist his sister chairs a major scientologist organization in the USA – both accusations spread by Interfax-Religion, a Russian press agency, and checked as false by Human Rights Without Frontiers (**).

With such allegations, pro-Russian extremists in Ukraine want to show that the Maidan movement is an American plot supported by non-Orthodox/ anti-Orthodox new religious movements and that “foreign sects” are now in power in Kyiv with some extreme-right elements.

(*) European Federation of Centres of Research and Information on Cults and Sects
(**) See http://www.interfax-religion.com/?act=news&div=11127 (5 March 2014)

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TODAY IN THE COUNCIL OF EUROPE: Aaron Rhodes blasts Rudy Salles’ proposal for anti-religious legislation

8 04 2014

TODAY IN STRASBOURG: Aaron Rhodes blasts the Rudy Salles report “The protection of minors against excesses of sects,” in the Council of Europe hearing, 8 April 2014, Strasbourg

Dr. Aaron Rhodes, Co-founder of the Freedom Rights Project; President of the Forum for Religious Freedom-Europe; former Executive Director of the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights


rhodes_aaronI appreciate this opportunity to speak in the framework of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

As I understand it, the main role of the Parliamentary Assembly is to undertake investigations and make recommendations to the member states of the Council of Europe.

I am here to appeal to the members of the Parliamentary Assembly to soundly reject the resolution entitled “The protection of minors against excesses of sects.”

As a human rights advocate, I am certain that this resolution would not offer children any meaningful protection not already available to them under the laws of member states.

But if it were to pass, the resolution would itself constitute a threat to children, as well as adults, who are members of minority religions.

It would stigmatize them and increase the chances of them being exposed to prejudice, discriminated against, and even subjected to violence.

The proposal raises the obvious question:  Why focus just on so-called “sects”?  What about the threats to children by main-line religious organizations?

The resolution would be a strike against religious toleration and thus against democracy and human rights, which mean nothing if religious groups are not treated equally.

The resolution would be a stain on the Council of Europe.  It is in no way consistent with the intent of the founders of the Council of Europe.  Indeed, it is confusing that such a document, one that would weaken human rights protections and possibly inspire human rights violations, is even under consideration.

An impressive list of independent human rights organizations, and those that monitor religious freedom issues in particular, are calling for the rejection of this measure.

They are doing so because they understand that the work of defending human rights is often that of defending the rights of members of minority groups—linguistic, ethnic, racial, political, sexual, or religious minorities, whose rights and security are often threatened because of discrimination and prejudice.

Indeed, the whole philosophical edifice of human rights emerged with recognition of the moral obligation to respect people’s dignity, not because they are members of one’s own kin or shared one’s religion or nationality, or ethnicity or race, but because they are simply human beings.   It is also a central tenet of the Judeo-Christian tradition.  Pluralism gave us our appreciation for the dignity of humanity as such, and for the universality of human rights.

We believe this Resolution violates the principle of State’s duty to neutrality in matters of religion or belief, treating some with greater suspicion than others, and stigmatizing their members.

Let us apply a simple test, the test of the Golden Rule:  How would you feel, as a member of a so-called “sect,” if Europe’s guardians of human rights passed this Resolution? If members of the Council of Europe acted on the recommendations to engage in an assault on religions classified as “sects”?   Indeed, the human rights community has many times condemned the classification of religious organizations using pejorative terms like “sect.”  Passage of this Resolution will put the Parliamentary Assembly at odds, not only with obligations under its own European Convention, but also at odds with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.   The Resolution is not only a recipe for discrimination and intolerance; it will provide cover for arbitrary interference in religious life.

Let me conclude be a few words about the implications of this proposal with regard to the effort to protect the freedom of religion worldwide.

Many members of the Council of Europe consider the freedom of religion a priority concern in their engagement with other countries.  That is absolutely correct and appropriate, because the freedom of religion deeply affects the enjoyment of many other human rights, and is intrinsically among the most important rights necessary for human fulfillment.

But the freedom of religion is seriously threatened in a depressing number of countries—threatened by discriminatory laws; by blasphemy laws; by the refusal of authorities to protect members of minority religions; even by laws under which people can be executed for changing their religion—laws that exist even in some states that are members of the UN Human Rights Council.

The Council of Europe is respected around the world for upholding human rights standards.  But if the Council of Europe itself embraces religious discrimination and interference by state authorities in the form of the Resolution under consideration here, it will not only degrade its own standards, but also diminish its value as a model for others.



FECRIS – Inquisiton of the 21st century

2 12 2012

The Inquisition was an ecclesiastical body of Catholic Church set up in medieval times to search and destroy any attempt of heresy. Although the times of the Inquisition are far behind us, people who wish to punish any form of belief outside of the frame of historic religions, are still among us.

FECRIS, acronym for Fédération Européenne des Centres de Recherche et d’Information sur le Sectarisme (European Federation of Centers for Research and Information on Sects), is an umbrella organization of about 25 anti-religious organization from 16 countries. A key objective of FECRIS is establishment of European Observatory on groups of religious, esoteric or spiritual nature so that anti-religious groups in various countries can exchange information. In the minds of FECRIS members any and every minority religion is labeled as “sect” and attacked in orchestrated media campaigns. The only real product of FECRIS is increased intolerance of minority religions in several European countries.

The Journal for the Study of Beliefs and Worldviews recently published a 200 pages long research of the Human Rights Without Frontiers under title larger image Freedom of Religion or Belief, Anti-Sect Movements and State Neutrality/A Case Study: FECRIS.

Central-European Religious Freedom Institute commands this book to all individuals and organizations caring about human rights and religious freedom.

HRWF-logoPDF version is available at the web site of Human Rights Without Frontiers by clicking on the logo of Human Rights Without Frontiers.

Paper copies of the book can be ordered directly from the publisher by writing to or by clicking on picture below.



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