The global community should develop effective mechanisms for the protection and support of Christianity, the Russian Orthodox Church believes, since it looks like the second persecution of Christians is happening in the world today.
According to the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community, 75% of all religious persecution in the world is against Christians. If this trend keeps, Christianity will soon exist only in history books, believes the head of the Department of International Religious Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, Metropolitan Ilarion of Volokolamsk.
“At present about 100mln Christians are persecuted in many countries. It is obvious that Christians are becoming the most persecuted religious community in the world.”
The most difficult situation is in the countries of the Middle East. Thus, Metropolitan Ilarion says, a Coptic Christian church was burnt down in the Egyptian city of Alexandria on the 1st of January 2011. In March there were armed brawls between Muslims and Christians in several Egyptian cities, Cairo included. A similar situation exists in Sudan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and Pakistan. However, we should not blame Islam for the escalation of tension, the Russian priest says.
“Islam is a peaceful religion and the Koran preaches respect for people of other confessions, in particular Christians and Jews. The persecution we are witnessing today does not stem from adherents of moderate Islam but from radical groups that also make other Muslims’ life difficult. It is clear that there is only one step from fundamentalism and radicalism to terrorism.”
The political community, which does not think about ordinary people’s suffering in pursuit of its own interests and ambitions, plays a big role in stirring up inter-confessional conflicts. A good example is the situation in Kosovo. The forceful separation of that land from Serbia has destabilized the religious situation in that region, Metropolitan Ilarion says.
“Kosovo is a primordial Serbian land and the cradle of Serbian Orthodoxy. With time, as a result of various processes, Orthodox Christians became a minority there. There are towns there with no Christians at all because all of them had to leave their homes. There are thousands of Kosovo refugees. In other places Christians live as though under siege. I have met a woman who has to live in a Christian church which is guarded by international forces. She cannot leave the compound and visit her own house where she has not been for four years.”
At a session of the Holy Synod late in May, the Russian Orthodox Church adopted a document strongly criticizing the growing phobia of Christians. Metropolitan Ilarion is convinced that today all confessions together with the political and intellectual elite should develop effective mechanisms to protect Christians both at the inter-confessional and inter-state levels. Each case of violence and persecution of believers should become a subject for wide international discussion and even legal proceedings.