No grounds to talk about religious enmity in North Caucasus despite church fires – Archbishop Feofan

Pyatigorsk, November 2, Interfax – Despite attempts to set Christian churches on fire, there are still no grounds to talk about religious enmity in the North Caucasus, Archbishop Feofan of Stavropol and Vladikavkaz.

“I attended a meeting of law enforcement officials and they confirmed it was arson. Not only two Orthodox churches had been set on fire [in Karachayevo-Cherkessia] but also a prayer house of Pentecostals. The incident is a well-planned provocation. But there are no grounds to talk about religious contradictions or enmity in the North Caucasus, especially between Orthodox and Muslim believers,” the Archbishop told Interfax.

“It should by no means be said that the Muslims are to blame. You can’t judge all people by individual incidents. Policemen are killed and so are muftis, but the way the attacks are orchestrated is the same. These are attempts to destabilize inter-religious peace, but they are futile,” he said.

The mufti of the North Caucasus was at the meeting. “We are unanimous in our assessment of the incidents. A people’s assembly of the Karachayevo District took place today and all participants agreed that the church fires were a provocation,” Archbishop Feofan said.

It was reported earlier, two Orthodox churches and a Baptist church were set on fire in Karachayevo-Cherkessia early Monday morning.

“According to preliminary information, all three arson attacks happened between 4:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m. on Monday. The arsonists set fire to an Orthodox church in Orjonikidzevsky. The fire almost destroyed the church,” Kabardino-Balkaria Interior Ministry spokesman Kazim Baybanov told Interfax.

Another Orthodox church and a Baptist church were also set ablaze.

“The fires destroyed one room of the Orthodox church and the lobby, and the stairs and some of the second floor in the Baptist church. Both buildings had caretakers. The Orthodox church caretaker put out the fire himself, and the Baptist church caretaker called for firemen,” he said.

The fires did not injure anyone, Baybanov noted.

He presumed that the fires were started with something flammable was tossed through the churches’ windows.