IRLA Secretary General Presents at Briefing in U.S. Senate Office

Washington, D.C. ... Dr. John Graz, Secretary General of the International Religious Liberty Association (IRLA), was a member of a panel of distinguished experts on religious freedom who participated in a briefing on developments in Russia on January 31st, 2002. The briefing was held in the Dirkson U.S. Senate office building and was attended by a number of individuals interested in developments in Russia, including congressional staff and the religious liberty representative of the Commission for Security & Cooperation in Europe.

Dr. Graz began his presentation by describing the activities of the Russian Chapter of the IRLA, which will celebrate its 10th anniversary this year. "The IRLA's Russian board includes representatives from a number of faiths and has had significant success in advocating a free society in which religious pluralism thrives," he stated.

"There are five major forces that contribute to the climate for diverse faiths in Russia," Dr. Graz noted. "Russia's history, its complex politics, the religious makeup of the country, the differing policies between the central and the local government agencies, and the complexity of the law government religious organizations, are all important to understanding Russian approaches to religious freedom." He went on to provide background on each of these forces, illustrating how they impact on religious freedom in Russia today.

He concluded his presentation by noting that "we regret the 1990 statute that inhibited some religious operations, and we believe the 1997 Russian law regulating religion is too restrictive. But we have to recognize that Russia has made enormous steps towards religious freedom in the last decade. This of course doesn't mean there isn't more to do. We are particularly concerned, about a current trend towards governmental favoritism of some religious groups in Russia at the expense of others, and are actively working to ensure equal treatment of all faiths." [James Standish]