Murdered Priest Hailed a Martyr
28 / 05 / 2013/
SOURCE:/ /IWPR/ <http://iwpr.net/report-news/murdered-priest-hailed-martyr
/By Yuri Akbashev
The brutal murder of a Russian priest in his church has sent a fresh
wave of terror through the Orthodox community in Kabardino-Balkaria.
Since the outbreak of hostilities in Chechnya in September 1999, the
Orthodox Church across the North Caucasus has been like a city under siege.
Now the killing of Igor Rozin in the town of Tyrnyauze is likely to
reinforce the sense of isolation in a predominantly Muslim society and
increase resentment against Islamic militant groups.
Valentina Varapaeva was cleaning the church early in the morning when a
young man appeared at the door asking for Father Igor. She told him to
come back towards midday when the priest was due to arrive.
The man duly returned at the appointed time and was greeted by Father
Igor who, to Varapaeva's surprise, invited him into his room. "In all
the time that I knew him, I never once saw Father Igor invite a stranger
into his room," she later told the police.
The two men spoke quietly and calmly for some time but finally Varapaeva
heard the priest say, "If you have come for my soul, then take it!"
She rushed into the room to find the stranger standing over Father
Igor's blood-soaked body with a curved dagger in his hand. The man
turned towards her. "Don't kill me, I have small children!" she cried
and the killer ran out into the street.
Father Igor, who had suffered two knife wounds to the chest, died on the
way to hospital.
An hour later, Ibragim Khapaev appeared at Tyrnyauze police headquarters
and confessed to the killing. Police discovered that Khapaev had
previously been given a four-year suspended jail sentence for attacking
his cousin with a knife.
But local parishioners insist that Father Igor's murder was part of a
wider plot to drive the Orthodox Church out of the North Caucasus.
The priest had established the Tyrnyauze parish last summer and enjoyed
increasing popularity in the local community. However, the Tyrnyauze
church was a tiny outpost of Orthodoxy in Balkar (Muslim) territory and
Father Igor had received death threats in the past.
Now the priest is being hailed as a martyr to his faith. Local
parishioners argue that the champion mountain climber who was nearly two
metres tall could easily have defended himself against the murderer.
"He chose to die so that, by spilling his blood, he could show the
strength of his faith," said one. "He simply bowed down before the will
Father Igor's funeral was attended by both Christian and Muslim
residents of Tyrnyauze. In an address to the crowd, his wife said, "I
have forgiven his murderer and you must do so too because it is God's
The priest was buried in his native Tyrnyauze while a service in Nalchik
was attended by Orthodox leaders and priests from across the region.
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