But Christians hold out
From a Special Correspondent
" BATTLE to the death against religion " has just been launched by the Soviet Government, according to a fully-documented study of the present status of religion on the Soviet Union just published by the "American Committee for Liberation." Religion, according to the
booklet. has been branded as " unscientific " and condemned as " anti-social," and there have been fresh outbreaks of earlier violent methods of repression.
In spite of all this. however, different religious bodies in the Soviet Union report that their numbers are increasing. "Among the cities' populations there are hundreds of thousands of believers", the official atheist monthly Science and Religion has complained, "and in the country many more."
Many other Soviet papers have also expressed alarm at the numbers of young adults and teenagers attending church services. This is, significantly, in direct contrast to the original Communist claim that only old people were interested in religion. which was depicted as a left-over from a bygone age. Their increasing concern about the influence religion is having on youth reflects an unmistakable religious trend.
Christians are not the only major religious group to be persecuted. says the report. There is a particularly violent hatred of Judaism. and Buddhists and Moslems are also under considerable social disadvantages and live in a constant state of repression.
The Soviet government has also begun to use several new methods of persecution, the report adds, and not all of these involve compulsion. Increasing use is being made of apostates: articles by them and interviews with them calculated to discourage believers and foment unrest appear regularly in newspapers.
One of the most prominent of these is the renegade priest Ossipoff. who has left his post at a Leningrad theological academy to persuade people that they could " build their lives without God."
Additional stress is being laid on the role of agents provoc-areltrs who are to insinuate themselves into religious families and sow the seeds of doubt. Parents who teach religion to their children are also discriminated against.
Some of the more violent instances of persecution in the past few years have included:
a The world-famous Oechcrsjy monastery in Kiev has been closed on false evidence, and the Pochayes, monastery in the Western Ukraine has only ten monks left:
• The Archbishop of Kazan has been sentenced to three years in prison for refusing to read the government-ordered "peace appeals" in his church; • Some 60 per cent of those sentenced to death for Economic "crimes" have been Jews; and
• Christmas ceremonies in Moscow last year were disrupted by tanks and tractors being driven continuously around the church.
At the same time, the report concludes, "All forms of pressure, forced education or violence, have not yet smothered religion."
(See special article on Page 4)