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Deep concerns about the infiltration of FECRIS’ Russian branch in Belgium

HRWF (07.12.2022) – Human Rights Without Frontiers is deeply concerned by the infiltration for years of pro-Putin and anti-Ukrainian propagandists in Belgian politics, including in the federal parliament of Belgium.

Bitter Winter recently published several investigation papers about FECRIS’ Russian branch: on 23 November, on 4 November and on 17 October. A new one was published on 5 December. It is titled “Novopashin confirms: ‘Russian anti-cultists are still part of FECRIS’ “, by Massimo Introvigne.

HRWF (07.12.2022) – On 19 May 2017, Alexander Korelov, the lawyer of several well-known radical Russian Orthodox propagandists hostile to Jehovah’s Witnesses and other religious minorities in Russia, such as Alexander Dvorkin, was invited by FECRIS (European Federation of Research and Information Centres on Cults and Sects) at the Belgian Parliament to a controversial conference chaired by Belgian MP André Frédéric.

 

The Belgian politician is the president of AVISO, identified as an anti-cult association in Belgium affiliated to FECRIS. In 2021, he was appointed president of FECRIS after being a member of their board for several years, along with Alexander Dvorkin, former vice-president of FECRIS for several years and known as an extremist Orthodox propagandist. This Belgian personality is very useful for FECRIS as he can give them access to the premises of the Belgian Federal Parliament for their conferences and hereby enjoy a certain aura and apparent but false legitimacy.

 

On 14 June 2022, André Frédéric hosted another FECRIS conference, as its president, in the premises of the Belgian Federal Parliament. And he published an article in a leading francophone newspaper, Le Soir, referring to their fight for assistance to victims of cults. Victims of any sort of perpetrators always deserve to be helped but in the case of FECRIS, the so-called assistance hides an ideological anti-cult agenda. In reality, FECRIS, its affiliates and other anti-cult groups repeatedly stigmatize and libel a number of belief or religious groups they do not like or they were formerly members of but they have lost quite a number of cases in various courts, an area that HRWF has specifically investigated.

 

So, how long will the Belgian Federal Parliament go on tolerating conferences stigmatizing minority belief communities?

 

Alexander Korelov claimed to have evidence that Jehovah’s Witnesses prepare a coup against President Putin, said Bitter Winter in a breaking news published on 17 October. Though, it is worth reminding that Jehovah’s Witnesses are apolitical, conscientious objectors to military service and opposed to violence.

 

For decades, the Russian branch of FECRIS has sowed hatred towards a number of non-Orthodox communities in the minds of the Russian population.

For decades, the Russian branch of FECRIS has also fed their propaganda inspired by the Kremlin and the Russian Orthodox Church with anti-Ukrainian hate speech.

For decades, FECRIS’ Russian branch has paved the way to Russia’s war on Ukraine with the blessing of Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church whilst FECRIS, based in a secular country (France) known for its laïcité doctrine, claims to recognize the right to freedom of religion.

For many years, FECRIS’ vice-president has been the controversial Russian Orthodox propagandist Alexander Dvorkin, declared persona non grata in Ukraine since 2014 and despite this ban, he is still a member of the board of directors of FECRIS.

For decades, taxpayers in France have, without their knowledge, been misused to finance FECRIS.

It is time for President Macron to listen to Bitter Winter, to the recent protest of 82 Ukrainian scholars on religious issues and other whistleblowers who have repeatedly rung the alarm bell and warned against the infiltration in France and other EU countries of the extremist ideology of Russian radical nationalists.

It is also time for President Macron to put an end to the financing of FECRIS’ hate speech against Ukraine, for Belgian MP André Frédéric to keep at distance from FECRIS and for the Federal Parliament of Belgium to put up an inquiry commission about the activities of FECRIS in Belgium.

Novopashin confirms: ‘Russian anti-cultists are still part of FECRIS’

 

Bitter Winter (05.12.2022) – There is an important question about the European anti-cult federation FECRIS: its relationship with its Russian affiliate organizations, which have slandered Ukraine since at least 2014 and are now enthusiastic supporters of the Russian invasion. They contribute to Russian propaganda by spreading the fake news that the Ukrainian government is allegedly dominated by “cults.”

FECRIS states that it is against the Russian invasion, but this cannot be good enough if it continues to be represented in Russia by some of the most ferocious anti-Ukrainian agitprop peddlers.

Knowing that it had a Russian problem, FECRIS decided to camouflage its website. The Russian organizations that are part of FECRIS, still listed as such on March 31, 2022, disappeared from the list of its member organizations on its Web site in early April. However, it was unclear whether they had been expelled or FECRIS had just made a cosmetic adjustment of its website.

The names of FECRIS board members are filed with the authorities of France, where the organization is registered and headquartered. We checked periodically and the worst Russian anti-cultist, Alexander Dvorkin, continued to be indicated as a board member. CESNUR, the parent organization of Bitter Winter, wrote to FECRIS asking whether the Russian affiliates were still part of the federation and Dvorkin was still a board member, but never got any answer.

Last month, on November 11, 82 Ukrainian academics, including all the leading scholars of religion in the country, wrote to French President Macron asking him to discontinue the financial support France continues to offer to FECRIS, given the fact that the anti-cult federation maintains its relationship with Russian organizations that give an active and important propaganda support to the invasion of Ukraine.

The Ukrainian academics knew that FECRIS would have answered, as it did, that it also has two Ukrainian affiliate organizations. They explained that one is notoriously pro-Russian and the other has been inactive for years, and at any rate neither went on record condemning the anti-Ukrainian propaganda by the Russian branches of FECRIS.

The letter generated an unexpected development, which in a way solved the problem of whether FECRIS just went through the motions of discontinuing its relationships with its Russian affiliates or expelled them.

The Russian FECRIS affiliates are in turn part of a national anti-cult organization called Russian Association of Centers for Religious and Cultic Studies (РАЦИРС / RATsIRS). Its president is Alexander Dvorkin and its deputy president is Archpriest Alexander Novopashin, a fanatical anti-Ukrainian anti-cultist from Novosibirsk. They are also the representatives of the Moscow “Center for Religious Studies in the Name of Hieromartyr Irenaeus of Lyon,” in itself an affiliate organization of FECRIS. The local Novosibirsk anti-cult organization Information and Consultation Center on Cultism at the Cathedral in the name of the Holy Prince Alexander Nevsky, led by Novopashin, is another Russian affiliate of FECRIS.

Novopashin decided to answer the letter of the Ukrainian scholars to Macron. He had his answer published by 4s-info and then reproduced on his own website. Presumably without knowing most of those who had signed, he gratuitously insulted them by writing that they are “82 Ukrainian cult apologists who call themselves scientists.” Some of those who signed have never written about “cults,” but this is not the most interesting part of Novopashin’s answer.

Novopashin wrote that the Ukrainian “pseudo-scientists” attacked “the European Federation of Centres for Research and Information on Sects and Cults FECRIS, registered in France. Our Information Center at the Cathedral in the name of the Holy Prince Alexander Nevsky is a corresponding member of this organization. But the complaint primarily mentions a well-known Orthodox theologian, my friend, Professor Alexander Leonidovich Dvorkin, and, well, me, your humble servant.

Professor Dvorkin is the President of the Center for Religious Studies in the Name of Hieromartyr Irenaeus of Lyon, representing FECRIS in Russia. And I am the vice president of the Center. The main target of cult apologists and cults, as a leading Russian expert on cults, is Professor Alexander Leonidovich Dvorkin. The letter was sent in the hope that the President of France would influence FECRIS to expel Professor Alexander Dvorkin and myself from the organization.”

As Catholics say of Rome, “Novosibirsk locuta, quaestio soluta”: when Novosibirsk has spoken, the question has been solved. If those Novopashin sees as the villains in the story “hope” that he and Dvorkin would be expelled from FECRIS, it is clear that they have not been expelled yet. In fact, Novopashin confesses that his center in Novosibirsk is still “a corresponding member of the organization,” as it was before the 2022 invasion of Ukraine. Dvorkin’s Center for Religious Studies in the Name of Hieromartyr Irenaeus of Lyon is still “representing FECRIS in Russia.” Nobody has expelled them. Why their names have disappeared from the FECRIS’s website is a question that FECRIS may perhaps answer.

In the meantime, Novopashin clarifies, for the benefit of both the Ukrainian academics and FECRIS, that he and his friends continue to actively “support the special operation in Ukraine.”

Photo: Archpriest Alexander Novopashin. From Telegram.

Further reading about FORB in Russia and Belgium on HRWF website

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