Attacks on Christian, Muslim holy places raise issue of moral limits of freedom – Russian Church

Moscow, September 20, Interfax – The Russian Orthodox Church has reminded people who start religious conflicts and riots that freedom of expression should have clear moral limits.

“I personally think that the continuing actions in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, the appearance of a film insulting the founder of Islam, the attacks on U.S. embassies and taking down their flags, desecration of graves, and the drawing of swastikas on synagogues are links of the same chain,” Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, the head of the Synodal Department for Church and Society Relations, told Interfax-Religion on Thursday.

He called the people who desecrate symbols that are extremely important to specific social groups and buildings that have always been considered off-limits such as religious buildings and diplomatic missions “madmen.”

Such crimes are much more important than regular crimes because “when you desecrate a symbol held dear by some people, community, or religious group, you try to belittle and subjugate the entire group. It is not a coincidence that such actions have led to large-scale conflicts in history,” Father Vsevolod said.

“Such actions can upset civil accord and cause conflicts between large groups of people which we now see in many places, which means that such actions should not take place. Specific countries, and maybe the world community, should fully rule them out. Punishment for them should be serious and unavoidable,” he said.

The priest said such actions need “the toughest possible” legal evaluation, adding that “freedom of speech, creation, and expression should have clear moral limits because it is not absolute and, according to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and elementary life logic, should not stretch beyond morals, public order and civil accord.”

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