Church Service Stormed, Pastor Beaten

Country: Russia

Date of incident: April 2, 2008

Pentecostal service stormed by perpetrators, pastor beaten, parishioners threatened with pistols held to their heads.

Shouting "Sectarians are everywhere!" and "You must be destroyed!", four young men led burst into Living Word Church in Kuznetsk on April 2nd and threatened parishioners with a pistol held to their heads and beat up Pastor Shugurov and warned him not to inform the police or his family would suffer. Initially intimidated, Pastor Shugurov did not appeal to local police until April 22nd. Two hours later, Sumarukov struck again, this time with seven others. Entering just before the church's performance of a Passion play, the group shouted "Allah is God!" in apparent mimicry of the 2002 Moscow theatre siege by Islamist militants. While this time the parishioners were able to defend Pastor Shugurov from physical attack, Sumarukov threatened to murder him "in a dark alley" and burn down the Pentecostals' church. Police sent only one officer in response to the parishioners' request for a group of officers, the Moscow-based Slavic Centre for Law and Justice reported on May 30th. Pastor Vera Gavrilina of a sister church in Serdobsk (Penza Region) similarly received death threats for being a "sectarian", also in April. None of the alleged participants in two violent attacks on a Pentecostal church – by three people in the first attack and eight people in the second attack – has gained either a criminal or administrative record for the attacks. Asked why, given the seriousness of the attacks, no criminal case had been launched and no criminal trial had taken place, a senior investigatory official responded: "That's your subjective view." Only one attacker – Oleg Sumarukov - appears to have had any form of official action taken against him. However, a local newspaper thought to have encouraged the April 2008 attacks was given an official warning.