Unknown workers backed by the militia (police) and druzhinniki (civil volunteers for the police), using heavy duty excavating equipment, destroyed the Holy Trinity Pentecostal Church on the eastern edge of Moscow soon after midnight September 6. On September 27 the building was ultimately destroyed.
Holy Trinity Pentecostal Church pastor Vasily Romanyuk had been woken in the early hours and had rushed to the site to try to halt the destruction, but was too late. “The workers didn’t say who they were or who had sent them,” Pastor Romanyuk complained. “They showed no documents.” Vasily called the militia to help him but when they arrived they did nothing to stop the destruction. They shrugged their shoulders and said this does not concern them. “They did all this with the protection of the militia, so some state body must have ordered this,” says Vasily.
Workers accompanied by the police arrived at the church building soon after midnight on September 6, broke into the building, cut all the telephone lines and seized the mobile phone of the female caretaker. She was taken to the police station, where she was held for the next three hours while the destruction began. She was not allowed to contact other church members.
While the caretaker was at the police, all the church’s valuables were removed, including service books and chalices for the eucharist. Two heavy duty excavators then began demolishing the building. By morning almost the entire three-storey building had been destroyed.
While the destruction was underway, about 50 men in plain clothes, who called themselves druzhinniki (civil volunteers), circled the site. As church members began to arrive to try to salvage what they could from the wreckage of the building, the men in plain clothes refused to allow them access, and behaved “highly aggressively”, church members complained.
Druzhinniki stoned church members
The druzhinniki are often used by the militia to help control violence and unruly crowds. Vasily Romanyuk says that this time it was the druzhinniki that were unruly and some of them had been drinking. They were verbally and physically abusing church members who had come to salvage what they can from the ruins.
“Some of our members who took photos of the destruction were stoned by the druzhinniki”, eyewitnesses reported in internet news articles.
Church was destroyed and contents looted
The church building sustained at least 350,000 euros ($440,000 USD) in damage. Also a car was destroyed, while a generator, the mixing desk with microphones, musical instruments, a safe and other valuable items including service books and chalices for the eucharist were taken away, amounting to 50,000 euros ($62,000 USD) in losses.
The church’s main sanctuary, the pastor’s office and the room for the church’s youth club and had been destroyed completely. Only part of the roof and a room at the top remained undamaged.
Once the workers had gone, church members spent several hours digging in the ruins to save what they could, including church books and items of furniture which were still usable.
Church service held in the ruins
Sunday worship was held at 11 am on September 9 in the ruins of the Holy Trinity Pentecostal Church and a warm invitation was sent to everyone who was able to attend. The congregation stood in the rain and prayed for their safety, the militia and city officials. However on September 27 the building was ultimately destroyed by the authorities.
Pastor Romanyuk arrested
Police officials arrested the pastor of the demolished protestant church of the Holy Trinity Vasily Romanyuk. A religious service, which Romanyuk held on the ruins of the demolished church was considered by the police a “unsanctioned demonstration”. “We simply gathered in the place where we always did, and held a service because after the demolition of the church there wasn’t anywhere else for us to hold it. A bunch of police showed up and explained that it turned out that we had an unsanctioned demonstration.” said Romanyuk.
Vasily asked the police captain why this particular meeting was unsanctioned and the one yesterday, the day before, and the meetings last week, last month, in years past were not! The police officer thought for a long moment, looking straight at Vasily. He finally said reluctantly: I understand your point. The command to act has been handed down to me from “above”. I must comply.
The protocol was commuted to a statement explaining why Vasily maintains that this was a religious gathering of the church rather than an unsanctioned meeting (connotation suggests a political rally of sorts). He was free to go after signing his letter of explanation.
Three hundred members belong to the Holy Trinity Pentecostal Church. Pastor, Vasily Romanyuk, and the congregation have long battled to save their church from confiscation and destruction.
One million mission books challenge for Russia
As times have become difficult for the Church in Russia we can only thank the Lord for giving us the privilege to massively sow the seed in Russia. GCM has received a special request from Bishop Eduard Grabovenko, representing the Evangelical Christians of Russia, to print one million P2C (Power to Change) books for distribution by ministry teams in Russia.