Keston news service put out in the cold

Church Times (England), Feb. 28, 2003
http://www.churchtimes.co.uk/
by Rachel Harden

The Keston News Service, which monitors religious freedom in the former communist world, has been temporarily suspended, it was announced officially this week.

As a result, the director, Lawrence Uzell, and the service’s three full-time journalists based in Russia, central Asia and the UK, have all resigned. They did so in December, after the Keston Institute, the parent body of the News Service, decided on suspension.

Canon Michael Bourdeaux, who founded the Institute in 1969 and this year was elected president for life, said that new plans were afoot for the News Service, and that these would be announced at an extraordinary general meeting. This is to be held at 11 a. m. on 22 March at St Anne’s College in Oxford.

The News Service had been costing the Keston Institute £200,000 a year, while bringing only in £60,000, Canon Bourdeaux said on Tuesday. “We had sold our Oxford headquarters, and the capital was being used for the News Service. This did not seem to us to be the way forward, so the service has been suspended. But the general work of Keston goes on.

“The News Service did not operate at all for a lot of the 1990s, but the Institute carried on, studying and researching religion during the Communist period, and the way in which it survived. We are publishing an encyclopedia of religion in Russia today.

“When the News Service began again in the late 1990s, it grew in size, and became unsustainable.”

The Keston Institute was founded to promote religious freedom, and to study religious affairs in the Communist and post-Communist world. The News Service used to publish almost daily bulletins by e-mail, and more detailed weekly and bimonthly reports.

One of Keston’s trustees, Leonid Finkelstein, has also resigned over the suspension of the News Service. He said that the News Service was the most viable and important product of the Keston Institute, and that “without it, the value of Keston is nil”.

In the past, the News Service has been commended for its part in publicising the plight of Christians who were arrested, tortured and imprisoned for their faith under Communist regimes.

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