Baptist church leaders from the free world confronted Soviet officials face to face in late March and demanded explanations for recurring reports of religious persecution.

“I made it perfectly plain,” said Dr. David S. Russell of London, “that many of us in the West are extremely concerned about the treatment being meted out to Christians in the Soviet Union … because of their religious convictions.”

Russell was one of five representatives of the European Baptist Federation (EBF) and the Baptist World Alliance who met for two hours with Victor N. Titov, deputy chairman of the Council for Religious Affairs of the U. S. S. R., in Moscow. The group was attending an EBF executive committee meeting being held for the first time in a Communist country.

Russell later reported in the Baptist Times that there was some straight talk at the meeting “during which I was able to make a strong plea for clemency to be shown to those still in prison.” Particular reference was made to Georgi Vins, currently serving a five-year prison sentence. On a side trip to Kiev, Russell attended the “Reformed Baptist” church where Vins once was pastor. He met Vins’s wife, who speaks good English. She told Russell that she was grateful for the prayers of so many people for her husband. She added that she had been able to visit him in Siberia and had found he was not in very good health.

Russell quoted Titov as saying that the people in question were in prison not because of their religious convictions but because they had broken laws. Titov quoted the criminal code that Vins allegedly violated, and said Vins has the right to appeal to the Soviet Supreme Court, if he is willing to “acknowledge his mistakes.” According to Russell, Titov also said that Soviet ...

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