Russian Orthodox Church calls for more transparent NGOs

Moscow, February 3, Interfax – The Moscow Patriarchate believes that the activity of nongovernmental noncommercial organizations (NGOs) in Russia should be highly transparent.

“At least we need to ensure that all data concerning NGO financing from abroad be open for publication,” head of the Synodal Department for Church and Society Relations Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin said during a State Duma roundtable on legal regulation of NGO activities and funding from foreign sources.

He expressed concern over the “dubious legitimacy of the influence those organizations that serve external interests, i.e. those that have been founded and assisted by foreign political structures and seek their sponsors’ approval of their plans and activities, exert on domestic politics and government decision-making”.

It’s important to achieve a situation where “real moods in society, our society, come to the forefront, and not someone else’s political schemes, ideological stamps or political projects meant for Russia,” the priest said.

He acknowledged, however, that “it’s not always bad when some NGOs have their activities financed from abroad or when international organizations award grants or provide organizational support to Russian NGOs”, adding that “this is a long-standing practice used in a significant number of countries”.

At the same time, he warned that “he who pays the piper calls the tune”.

The wisdom of this saying should be constantly borne in mind as society determines its attitude to some or other NGOs that are being financed from abroad, the priest said.

In the 1990s, many religious organizations received, and some of them continue to receive, significant funds from abroad. Sometimes, they used overseas donations to finance pseudo-missionary and extremist activities or attempts to change the people’s historic choice against its will, he said.

The priest did not rule out more such attempts in the future. “The presence of overseas sources in NGO financing should give society the right to at least ask who gives the money, for what purpose and how it is spent,” Father Vsevolod concluded.

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