August 2009 – St. Petersburg
The International Center for Law and Religion Studies (ICLRS) joined with The Center for Religious Study, Russian State Humanitarian University; the State Museum of Religious History; the Russian Social Organization for the Protection of Freedom of Conscience; and Youth for Human Rights to sponsor the VIII International Scientific Practitioner’s Conference, “Russia in the 21st Century: Freedom of Conscience, Religion, and the Church.” Held 3-6 August at the Saint Petersburg Christian University in St. Petersburg, Russia, the conference featured more than 100 prominent academics, lawyers, government officials, and religious leaders from Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine. International experts from Spain, Slovakia, Hungary, and the United States were also in attendance. Participants discussed the current state of affairs in Russia, including the recent establishment of an Expert Council on religious affairs, implementation and application of legislation, and challenges facing new religious movements in the region. Recent international resolutions and European Court cases, and their relevance within Russia, were also discussed.
This statement of 12 March 2009 from Russian President D.A. Medvedev captures the spirit of the conference: “The religious organizations of our country, together with the government, can do much to avoid a spiritual decline and spreading of pessimistic feelings in society. We should work together to put a stop to all displays of extremism, including acts and propaganda of extremism. We should include youth in intercultural dialogues, in cooperating together, and bring them up in a spirit of tolerance. At the same time, we must help them remember Russian patriotism, which is upheld by interethnic consent in maintaining unity in our multi-confessional society. Practically all of our cooperative efforts depend on this.