Moscow, July 31, Interfax – Russia and other states have the right for their own model of relations between religion and state different from the USA and they should not make excuses for it, head of the Synodal Department for Church and Society Relations Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin said commenting the recent report of the USA State Department on international religious freedom.
“I”ve been reading this report for many years, and I think it becomes more and more balanced. It’s good that the topic of Christians’ exodus from some countries of the Middle East is mentioned, that not only countries which have political difficulties with the United States are criticized, but also their allies. However, misbalances still exist,” Father Vsevolod told Interfax-Religion.
He believes this document is correct in covering anti-Semitism and Islamophobia and “the topic of the latter is voiced in the reports more and more often, but it doesn’t say anything about systematic Christianophobia as a special phenomenon practiced in some countries of the West.”
“Russia and some other countries are traditionally criticized for giving some preferences to certain religious communities and fighting against extremism. We should stop excusing for this. Certain religious communities enjoy support in our civilization as in the majority countries of the world, and actions of dangerous religious or pseudoreligious groups are eliminated,” the priest said.
According to him, representatives of Orthodox and Islamic civilization can as well criticize the USA for not extending support to Orthodoxy or Islam. At the same time, he believes that “that model of the state detachment from key religious and public questions, which America formally sticks to, is marginal to the contemporary world: majority of peoples perceives relations between religion, state and society in a different way.”
“We have the same right to say that the American system of relations between religion and state is not correct and needs changes. It doesn’t make sense to extend excuses: preferable support of Orthodoxy, traditional Islam, Judaism, Buddhism – is the choice of our people and this choice is more correct than the American one. However, people of the USA has the right to make any choice for themselves, as well as we have the right for our own,” the church official said.
Saying that we shouldn’t declare universal a position of one civilization preconditioned by “peculiarities of its history,” he was surprised that the State Department criticized certain countries of the Middle Asia for fighting against religious extremism.
“We know what happened in Syria and Iraq when extremist forces got a chance to act. There is the same danger in some districts of the Middle Asia. We want to believe that no one wants to repeat Syrian or Iraq scenario in these states as they are striving to preserve inter-ethnic and interreligious peace,” the interviewee of the agency said.
According to him, countries, which understand the importance of supporting traditional for them religious communities and limiting destructive extremist work, can and should unite to prove that “this view is correct: it is China, India and many countries of central and eastern Europe, including Russia and Ukraine, and countries of the Latin America, countries of the Middle Asia.”
“I’d like to stress that we shouldn’t be afraid of declaring that our understanding of relations among religion, state and society is correct. Our approach is centuries’ tested and secure peace in societies, which I’ve mentioned,” the priest summed up.