By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife
BUDAPEST/MOSCOW (BosNewsLife)– Russia has stripped several Christian institutions of their right to offer higher education, several sources confirmed.
This month, the Theological Institute run by the Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Ingria lost its higher education license, said religious rights watchdog Forum18.
Another Lutheran college in Russia is launching a court case against a similar action, Christians said. The colleges of the Baptist Union and Pentecostal Union have reportedly also lost their licenses, while other Christian institutions have been banned from accepting new students.
The closures began when Russian inspectors claimed the schools did not abide by federal educational standards, something they are not legally required to do, Forum18 explained.
However, academic leaders argue that the structure of their programs is “completely different” from others under the licensing requirements. Under Russian law, religious, educational institutions are permitted to follow the federal policies if they wish, but they are not obliged to do so.
To get around the latest restrictions and keep their schools open, some educational institutions have opted to offer lower-level education.
Yet, difficulties remain about clergy education involving foreigners or Russians educated abroad, experts said. Russia has passed legislation forcing anyone seeking to join a religious organization to be educated in Russia.
Those who have received foreign education must undergo further training in a Russian school. However, with Christian colleges losing their licenses as institutes of higher learning, they will not be able to provide the necessary education.
Russian authorities did not comment on the controversy. It comes while long-time Russian President Vladimir Putin appears to extend his power base over various institutions in the country where he faces growing public discontent.
Putin has a close relationship with the more traditional Russian Orthodox Church, which also cooperated with the Communist regime till the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.