A look at the worldwide activities of the
International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON)
Soviet Devotee Dies in Labor Camp; Others Released
Jarna, Sweden The Committee to Free Soviet Hare Krishnas, which has its headquarters here, recently announced that twenty-three-year old Sacisuta dasa (Sarkis Ogadzhanyan) had died in a labor camp on December 26, 1987, just a few days before his scheduled release. He had been incarcerated for being a member of the Hare Krsna movement. His death was due to the abominable conditions of the labor camp, and especially his nutritionally deficient diet, which caused him to become emaciated.
After Sacisuta's death, Soviet devotees protested in Moscow outside a human rights meeting sponsored by the International Helsinki Foundation. The protest received international press coverage, including national television news in Great Britain.
As a result of the worldwide attention being drawn to the plight of Soviet Hare Krsna devotees, eight devotees were recently released from incarceration. Two of them had completed the terms of their sentences. The Committee attributes the release of the others to the worldwide demonstrations, petitions, letter-writing campaigns, and even hunger strikes on behalf of the persecuted devotees.
Among the devotees released was Ananta-Santi dasa (Anatoli Pinyayev), the first member of the Hare Krsna movement in the Soviet Union. Ananta-Santi has been in and out of Soviet prisons and psychiatric hospitals since 1980 because of his practicing Krsna consciousness. His recent release was from the Special Psychiatric Hospital in Smolensk, where he had served four years of an indefinite sentence. While there, he was subjected to insulin shock treatments and injections of neuroleptic drugs. Ananta-Santi's release was due in part to a meeting between Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and Australian Prime Minister Robert Hawke, during which Mr. Hawke requested Ananta-Santi's release.
Other Soviet devotees released were Sannyasa dasa (Suren Karapetyan), Asutosa dasa (Aleksei Musalov), Visvamitra dasa (Vladimir Kritski), Kamalamala dasa (Karen Saakyan), Yamaraja dasa (Yakov Dzhidzhevadze), Atmananda dasa (Armen Saakyan), and Oleg Stepanyan.
Although the Committee to Free Soviet Hare Krishnas, as well as devotees within the Soviet Union, are encouraged by the releases, they are wary that the mood may change at any moment. Besides, there are still devotees in confinement or doing compulsory labor, and the Soviet government has yet to recognize Krsna consiousness as an authorized religion.
As part of the continuing effort to gain freedom for the Soviet devotees, ISKCON's minister of public affairs, Mukunda Goswami, and Vedavyasa dasa, a former Soviet citizen and journalist who had been jailed and confined in a psychiatric hospital for his affiliation with the Krsna consciousness movement, recently attended the United Nations Human Rights Day conference at the U.S. State Department headquarters in Washington, D.C.
"We laud hospital officials and new glasnost initiatives which contributed to freeing these devotees," Vedavyasa said. "But this is no time for complacency. This summer they [Soviet authorities] allowed us to chant in Moscow on Arbat Street for six weeks, and then they suddenly began arresting and threatening us, treating us in a very rough manner. Political climates can change here rather suddenly. We must now press for the release of the remaining captives."
Anyone wanting to assist the Committee to Free Soviet Hare Krishnas can write to CFSHK Almviks Gard, 15300 Jarna, Sweden.
Samadhi Construction Progressing
Vrndavana, India – Thanks to contributions from devotees around the world and the supervision of the Committee for the Completion of Srila Prabhupada's Samadhi, work on the construction of the samadhi(shrine) of His Divine ' Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada is progressing steadily here. Major obstacles to the construction have been overcome, especially because of the dedicated efforts of Hamsa Rupa dasa and Tosana Krsna dasa, who are directly overseeing the construction.
Significant recent advances in the project include the development of a dependable system for purchasing quality marble, and the construction of a foundry for making bronze reliefs that will adorn the inside walls of the samadhi. The samadhi committee has approved preliminary artwork for the bronze reliefs, which was submitted by artist Bhaktisiddhanta dasa.
To commemorate the one hundredth anniversary of Srila Prabhupada's birth, the Bhaktivedanta Institute has planned two international conferences: The World Parliament of Religions, in Delhi in 1993; and the second World Conference for the Synthesis of Science and Religion, in Calcutta in 1996. The Institute also plans to publish a set of books based on Srila Prabhupada's teachings, entitled Scientific, Theological, and Philosophical Teachings of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
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At Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, thirty scholars, theologians, and clergy met recently to establish dialogue with new religious movements. Dean Kelley, director of the National Council of Churches' Religious Liberty Committee, and Franklin Littell, chairman and founder of the Hamlin Institute, chaired the conference. Mukunda Goswami, ISKCON's minister of public affairs, represented ISKCON. In his presentation, he summarized the basic philosophy and practices of Krsna consciousness, and he appealed to conference members to use their influence to help ISKCON fight persecution.