Christian human-rights groups were pleased by the meeting last month between Pope John Paul II and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev. At that meeting, the two agreed to establish formal diplomatic ties and discussed the possibility of a papal visit to the USSR. Gorbachev also proclaimed that all believers in the Soviet Union “have a right to satisfy their spiritual needs” and promised that a long-awaited new law guaranteeing freedom of religion will be adopted “shortly.”
Just prior to the meeting, the Supreme Soviet in Ukraine announced that the outlawed Ukrainian Catholic church will be allowed to register as a religious group. Many saw this as a step toward full legalization.
While religious-rights observers welcomed those developments, they also reported, however, that Russian Orthodox activist Alexander Ogorodnikov continues to suffer harassment by Soviet authorities, including interrogations, office searches, and the confiscation of computers and books. An aide to Ogorodnikov was beaten into unconsciousness during an office raid, and another associate, Sergei Savchenko, was killed under mysterious circumstances.
China Watch Continues
Reports filtering out of China continue to include good news, bad news, and a steady dose of apprehension in the wake of the hard-line Communist crackdown of June 1989. More than 150 house-church leaders were arrested last fall when officials raided an “underground convention” of more than 500 Christian leaders in Henan Province in central China. Almost all of those arrested, however, were released after paying a fine.
Observers have also reported the arrest of Christians and the confiscation of devotional and discipleship training materials in Zhejiang, ...1