HRWF (27.06.2012) – Russian Bishop Konstantin Bendas reacts to report about his visit to MIVILUDES in Paris

By Willy Fautré, Human Rights Without Frontiers

Georges Fenech, the president of MIVILUDES, convicted by the Paris Criminal Court

The Russian media dealing with religious issues have widely echoed the 1 June 2012 decision of the Paris Criminal Court convicting Georges Fenech, the president of MIVILUDES (Interministerial Mission for Monitoring and Combatting Cultic Deviances), for public defamation, as it can be seen hereafter.

The case originated because of a defamatory accusation published in the 2009 annual report of Miviludes, describing activities for the year 2008, implicating an association of lay Catholics-the French Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property (TFP).

The 17th chamber stressed the lack of accuracy in the report’s verifications as well as the lack of restraint in its expressions. The court also emphasized that a state agency such as MIVILUDES should not use vague approximations in its work.

Fenech was found guilty but is appealing the decision.

MIVILUDES’ narrative about the visit of Russian Evangelical Bishop Bendas In his May/ September 2011 information letter (See, the president of MIVILUDES was boasting of receiving the visit of Konstantin Bendas, vice-president of the Union of the Evangelical Christians of Russia, and was reporting about it as follows: “The meeting which took place in a very friendly atmosphere has given the opportunity to clarify the Russian and French ways of addressing the issue. Mgr Bendas has expressed the wish to invite the president of MIVILUDES in Russia, in particular to explain to the Duma the structures, the missions and the functioning of MIVILUDES as well as the French legislative arsenal in this matter. Mr Fenech has answered that he would accept with pleasure an invitation to go to Moscow.”

Russian Bishop Konstantin Bendas’ narrative about his visit at MIVILUDES

During his official visit to France in 2011, First Deputy of the Supervisory Bishop of the Associated Russian Union of Evangelical Faith Bishop Konstantin Bendas met Georges Fenech and later shared his impressions:

“I have very mixed feelings about the meeting with the head of MIVILUDES .Besides me and Mr. Fenech, his first deputy and a representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which organized my visit, were present, as well as a translator provided by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of France.

“My entire trip to France was dedicated to sharing experience in the sphere of interreligious relations and relations between the State and denominations.  In France, as in Russia, there have been more and more frequent attempts on the part of various interests to use the religious factor to incite discord, social tension or even to justify crimes. Conflicts and wars initiated or justified by religious rhetoric flare up more and more often in various parts of our world.

“First of all, I was struck by the extremely high level of secrecy and security of Mr. Fenech’s agency. The building of MILIVUDES did not have a signboard and had an enormous number of security cameras. Gendarmes met us at the entrance, fully equipped, in flak jackets, with automatic guns. There were security cameras all inside, even in the small elevator. A gendarme saw us to the President’s office.

“The office of Mr. Fenech was set up in a very dear way, even as compared to offices of other high officials, for instance, a Deputy Minister of Education of France, a head of a department of the Ministry of Defense, a Deputy Minister of Interior Affairs. Nowhere else did I see such exquisite and chic furniture and interior decorations. None of the State officials of France I met wore so expensive suits and so outrageously expensive golden watches.

“I was trying to find out sincerely what the threat was to employ such security and invest so much money. However for the one hour and a half of the talk I did not receive a definite answer.

“There were some thought-up and non-Constitutional formulas such as “sectarian danger” or “sectarian deviations”. I did not get a direct answer to my enquiry what exactly that meant. According to Mr. Fenech, it is something “going beyond the limits of what already exists”. But the standard or the canon of “what already exists” stayed unclear. For example, I asked whether the teaching and practice of the Roman Catholic Church was the canon the infringement of which posed the sectarian danger. They said, “No, Catholic Church has many sectarian deviations too.”

Moreover, according to the President of MILIVUDES, the fight with sects is not limited to religion! Sectarian deviations can be observed everywhere: in politics, economics, social issues. According to Mr. Fenech, a sectarian danger is an attempt to influence a person who is in a state of “manipulative weakness”. Counting on his fingers, the fighter with sects named the following situations: when person’s loved ones have died recently, when a person is ill, is disabled, recently divorced, when a person has family difficulties and conflicts, as well as all children, adolescents, young people, pupils, students and pregnant women, people in the army service, in prison, subordinates… There weren’t only people who are in a bad mood in the list. Nearly the whole population of the Earth falls into the category of liable to sectarian influence. And MILIVUDES was trying to protect any person from the influence. As you see, the scope of their activity is very wide and the criterion and canon in the matter is MILIVUDES itself.

To my mind, some people invented a sheer danger and are getting big money for its study and prevention. At the expense of the State and the taxpayers MILIVUDES is searching for a black cat in a dark room, while it isn’t there. Mr. Fenech mentioned as one of his achievements his influence upon anti-sectarian bodies and organizations in various countries, hinting, among others, upon some adepts in Russia. When the meeting ended and we went out of the building, I heard a sigh of relief from the woman who was the translator. I enquired concerning the impressions of the laic person who is not an insider in religion and I heard, “I have never been in any sect, but if they do exist, they look exactly like MIVILUDES.”

What can be said in conclusion? The invention of new dangers and methods of combating them infringing the current laws and justice is inadmissible. Our multi-national and multi-confessional country should be especially cautious in that regard. The State help must be provided to the organizations that promote interethnic and interreligious dialogue and peace. Their efforts strengthen the unity of the society. The fighters with the imaginary sectarian danger have to be fought, sorry for the weak repetition, meticulously applying all the available instruments of the law.

The press-service of the Associated Russian Union of Evangelical Faith with the use of materials of

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