Smirnova Viktoria, Milena Faustova
The Russian Orthodox Church is concerned with the growing number of cases of persecution against Christians in the world. It calls on the world community to defend the rights of Christians.
This was the main topic discussed at the meeting of the Russian Orthodox Church’s supreme body, the Holy Synod, which took place on May 30th in St. Petersburg. The meeting was chaired by the head of the Russian Church Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill.
In an interview with the Voice of Russia, a spokesman for the Russian Patriarch’s office Vladimir Legoyda said:
“The Synod listened to a report by the Chairman of the Church’s Department for Public Relations Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk. The metropolitan was very concerned with the growing anti-Christian sentiments in the world. The meeting adopted a resolution which said that the Russian Orthodox Church has always condemned any manifestations of anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and other religious hatred.”
One of the latest examples of activation of anti-Christian moods is the unrest in the Egyptian city of Giza, where several Christian churches were set on fire and several Christians of the Coptic rite were killed.
“Unfortunately, the number of similar incidents is growing,” said Vladimir Legoyda. “I think this is hardly incidental. One can speak of a growing trend for anti-Christian moods in several countries.”
Christians may be discriminated against in diverse ways. In countries where Christians are a minority, their freedom is sometimes limited by bans on church services, on building new churches or inability to get theological education. In some countries, being a Christian means facing a risk of severe persecution and even a death penalty.
However, even in some countries where Christianity is a traditional religion, Christians may face discrimination, sometimes under most absurd pretexts. One of the examples is the recent demand of the Italian government not to expose crucifixes and other Christian symbols in schools. And this happens in Italy, where 98% of the population position themselves as Christians!
The resolution adopted by the Russian Synod calls on all the people of common sense to condemn such cases of persecution. The Russian Church believes that to stop religious discrimination, a dialogue of governments and of religious and public organizations is needed.
“Russia can serve as an example of religious tolerance,” Vladimir Legoyda said. “In Russia and other countries which are under the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate, diverse denominations have been coexisting quite peacefully for many years. We are ready to share our experience of tolerance with all who want to build a free and just society.”
The Russian Church believes that to defend the rights of Christians, a better legal base is needed. Secular authorities must respect people’s right to confess any religion and protect the security of religious communities.