Translating Words, Interpreting Events

Resurgent Russia: The Hope of Persecuted Christians

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By Ralph H. Sidway, guest contributor

Scarcely a day goes by now where we do not read of yet another in a constellation of initiatives being undertaken by both the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian government on behalf of persecuted Christians and other victims in Syria, Egypt, and elsewhere in the world.

For instance, on July 31 it was announced that a charitable drive launched at the end of June by Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia had raised US$1.3 Million to assist victims of the Syrian armed conflict. That these funds will be distributed through the auspices of both Orthodox Christian Patriarch John X of Antioch as well as Supreme Mufti Ahmad Badreddin Hassoun of Syria, shows the Moscow Patriarchate’s application of the Christian principle of caring for one’s neighbor, regardless of creed.

Patriarch Kyrill of Moscow and All Russia at the recent celebration of the 1025th Anniversary of the Baptism of Rus.

This may not seem like a lot of money, but it is underscored by another program run by the Moscow Patriarchate, a “boots on the ground” affair in which representatives of the Russian Church enter harm’s way to personally deliver to Syria shipments of much needed medical equipment:

“Representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church have carried medical equipment at the amount of about three million rubles to Damascus,” said Hieromonk Efrem, acting representative of the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia for the Patriarch of Antioch.

Yet the Russian Church is not limiting her involvement with world affairs to “mere” acts of grassroots charity.

In July, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, together with Russian President Vladimir Putin, took the occasion of the recent celebrations in Moscow, Kiev and Belarus of the 1025th anniversary of the Baptism of Rus into Orthodox Christianity as the ideal opportunity to nurture the conciliar ties among the Local Orthodox Churches, who together comprise the world’s second largest Christian communion, with an estimated 225-300 million members.

Putin, in his address to the assembled hierarchs, affirmed the significance of the moment:

At a time when people are again in a search for moral supports, millions of our fellow citizens see them in religion and trust the wise pastoral guidance of the Russian Orthodox Church. Her selfless service of education is extremely called for and her public authority and peace efforts are aimed at strengthening harmony and stability and restoration of historical relations between our peoples and with our compatriots abroad…

This strengthening of Orthodox Christian ties is central to Russia’s foreign policy as well:

Putin noted that in many regions of the world, especially in the Middle East and North Africa, inter-confessional tensions were growing and the rights of religious minorities including Christians were infringed upon. “I believe” he said, “this acute problem should become a subject of close attention of the international community. Our country will continue pursuing an active creative policy towards the soonest possible settlement of conflict situations. And here, of course, the active stand, participation and support of Local Orthodox Churches and their primates are very important for us.”

Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev) of Volokalamsk, head of the Russian Orthodox Church’s DECR (Department for External Church Relations), at a meeting of Russian traditional religious leaders with (then Prime Minister) Vladimir Putin in February 2012, laid out the concerns of the Russian Church regarding her fellow Christians in the Muslim world:

I would like to speak about the situation of Christian minority in the Middle East and in some other countries… Christians are killed, Christian women are raped, Christian Churches are burned down, mass exodus of Christians from the lands, where they used to live in peace with Muslims and representatives of other religions, is taking place.

Metropolitan Hilarion expressed his wish that… systematic protection of Christians subjected to persecution in different countries will be one of the trends in Russian foreign policy.

At the conclusion of his speech Metropolitan Hilarion noted that “Strong Russia is the country which protects Christian minorities in these countries and insists on providing guaranties for the rights of Christians being observed in exchange for political support or economic aid.”

Vladimir Putin said in reply: “You can be sure of it. There is no doubt about that.”

Putin’s upcoming visit to Egypt should be a prime example of how this Russian foreign policy emphasis will work. According to a report at Debka.com:

For Putin, this will be his second trip to Cairo; his first took place in 2005 when Hosni Mubarak was president. He will play it to the hilt as a platform to show the world, and especially Arab Muslims, that he alone of the world’s five leading powers is openly committed to fighting radical Islam and ready to assist any Arab leader sharing this commitment.

This tough realpolitik approach is the only way to confront Islamic supremacists, and at the same time protect the world’s persecuted Christian communities. Indeed, Putin’s vigorous approach to foreign policy is like clear, fresh water, after being exposed for so long to the muck of the Obama administration’s incomprehensible support of toxic Islamic extremists and terrorists in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Syria and elsewhere.

The United States, unmoored from her Christian and moral foundations, and with her leadership enabling Islamic extremists and terrorists, herself founders in the raging waves of history, and has already abandoned the world’s Christians to perish in the tempest.

Whereas it is Russia, led by her revitalized Christian conscience — personified in the resurgent Russian Orthodox Church— which presents an image of assured strength, moral clarity, and unflinching resolve in the face of evil. Russia has founded her house on a rock, and, having been already tested by decades of persecution, knows how to endure the storms of history.

Ralph Sidway is an Orthodox Christian researcher and writer, and author of Facing Islam: What the Ancient Church has to say about the Religion of Muhammad.  He operates the Facing Islam blog.

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  • Catholic4life

    God Bless Russia and President Putin!

  • Adriana

    Russia was consecrated to Holy heart of Virgin Maria of Fatima by Pope JPII in 80′. Russia belongs Jesus Christ now.

    • maxime1793

      Hablas ingles?

  • msint

    Russia is the only HOPE for christians persecuted in the Middle East and elewhere

  • http://greekasianpanda.blogspot.com/ GreekAsianPanda

    It’s a bad thing when besieged Christians have to turn to the corrupt Russian Orthodox Church. But if anyone has a problem with it, they only have themselves to blame for not speaking up for those who need help.

  • aebe

    Amazing . That Russia ,led by a man that would be overjoyed to see the return of communism , would work to aid repressed and abused Christians . Our own Presidunce has not had the will or courage to do what is right , and he supports those who are the abusers .
    Validate your 2nd Amendment Rights . Carry

    • maxime1793

      Putin is not pro-Communist. The Communists are the largest opposition party in Russia and vote against his policies. Putin has gone out of his way to stop otherwise popular initiatives like restoring the name Stalingrad to Volgograd or resurrecting the statue of ex-NKVD chief Feliks Dzerzhinsky in Moscow.

  • Dom

    Doy gracias a Dios, Trino y Uno, por el Presidente Putin y por la Iglesia Ortodoxa Rusa por colocar en el gobierno este freno a la bestialidad no solo en el oriente, en occidente ya se ven los brotes de odio a los cristianos. Que Dios dé larga vida al Patriarca y al Presidente Putin.

  • Keyser Soze

    This sounds good at first, but a closer look indicates that the Blessed Mother’s wishes for Russia at Fatima have hardly been fulfilled. For the time being, Russia is tolerating her Orthodox Churches, but how long will that last? Does the average layman understand that many of the older bishops in the Russian Orthodox Church are former KGB operatives–leftovers from when the KGB controlled the Church? Does the average layman understand the severe restrictions that the Russian government has placed on Catholic priests, which consists of a de-facto persecution of Catholics? We can only hope and pray that Pope Francis will soon do what we have waited nearly 100 years for other popes to do: Consecrate Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Until then, this is just more noise from the great deceiver.

    • Keyser Soze

      And I mean consecrate RUSSIA. Not “the world”.

      • Catholic4life

        Yes! The Consecration has not been done by any Pope and it looks like Pope Francis isn’t going to do it either! There is no peace in the world and there never will be until this is done proper. Our Lady said “Russia”
        not the “World!”

        • David Thomas

          In July 1952 Pope Paul XII specifically consecrated the people of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary by his apostolic letter Sacro Vergente Anno.

          The private revelation of Fatima was deemed “worthy of belief” by the Roman Church, but too many act like the fate of the universe hinges on everything being done the way they expect. God can fulfil prophescies in ways we never expect. Besides, if you just look at the Thotokos Derzhavnaya icon you’ll see that Mary is already the Tsarina of Russia!

    • maxime1793

      There are probably fewer KGB remaining in the Russian Orthodox Church than homo priests and bishops in the Roman Catholic Church. And even for those who were KGB, that does not make them heretics while many RCC bishops cosy up to the socially libertine, but no less authoritarian or Christophobic, States of West Europe.

      Trad Caths are always beating on about the “consecration of Russia” as if that means anything or makes any sense, as if a Pope can say some words and change the fate of Russia. Tell me, though, can you worship in the Catholic Church as you prefer? Trad Caths are in the strangest position – demanding everyone be Catholic and accept Catholic dogma but not wishing to submit to many decisions of their own hierarchy beyond 1960. The pope is infallible, but somehow sometimes wrong, or he isn’t a true pope, or …. the logical gymnastics are astounding.

      Perhaps you should consider Orthodoxy…

  • Another Catholic

    God bless Russia

  • David Thomas

    I applaud the efforts to help people, but your story of cooperation raises some concerns. The Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian Government are slowly becoming the same thing. Don’t they learn from past mistakes? The blurring of lines between church & state didn’t work out that well in 1917. It may seem like the Church has influence over the state, but one day you’ll wake up to find that the Church has become an instrument of the state. The majority of Russians carry their Orthodox cards, but only about 2% show up for Divine Liturgy on Sunday.

    • maxime1793

      And in the US there is no state church by law but the main Protestant denominations give full backing to the State, putting a flag by the altar, singing national hymns in church, supporting imperial wars abroad, and citing Romans to demand obedience to the State, even when it acts unconstitutionally.

      So you can have full secularism and the same problem!

      • Credo Deum

        Actually, many protestants have protested against traditional protestants, and then furter splits.
        Universal Unitarianism seems to be the end of the line and is indistinguishable from secularism and even hedonism if you can make an argument for it and you can follow the only rule they have: ‘get along’ (same as the state)

    • Credo Deum

      The blurring of lines beween church and state would have been fine except for those murderes who killed the czars; you know the type don’t you: they are the type that will call for a separation of church and state and even murder for it.

  • http://media.nola.com/tpphotos/photo/9346409-standard.jpg bondmen

    It certainly makes one wonder if the elected officials wants editorial and spiritual control of the church for political power purposes?

  • Jim J. McCrea

    Russia, there, is doing the right thing!

  • disqus_Hkjtb7dDLr

    God Bless Russia for being the persecuted christians champion

  • DONNA LANDS

    How history changes shoes. Now our country is communist and they serve God. We put down Christians and they help lift them up. They save Christians and we help the evil ones! They serve God and the left in power in our Country erases God. May the angels lift all of us up to help our Christian brothers and sisters in their hour of need and always. May Gods light continue to guide our brothers and sisters in Russia.

  • Luis C.

    Excellent article and very good news from Russia.