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Strengthening political influence of Orthodox chu

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  • Bill Samsonoff
    Strengthening political influence of Orthodox church PEACEMAKING STILL SUITS US. Religious leaders of CIS, under the aegis of the main church of the region,
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 2, 2004
      Strengthening political influence of Orthodox church


      Religious leaders of CIS, under the aegis of the main church of the region,
      have created their own instrument of international politics
      Portal-credo.ru, 2 March 2004

      In the view of western experts on questions of freedom of conscience, CIS
      is one of the most inhospitable regions of the globe. Of course, for
      residents of some Arab countries or, let's say, the People's Republic of
      China it is even more difficult to profess some religious views freely or
      to live in accordance with religious principles that depart from the state
      ideology. But in contrast with these countries, the area of CIS is usually
      associated with the so-called "civilized world," in which western norms of
      rights and human freedom that are enshrined in the existing corpus of
      international law operate. So it is necessary to evaluate the state of
      affairs regarding freedom of conscience in CIS from the point of view of
      these norms and this corpus. Although it is more popular to use the
      approach in postsoviet space that comes from the maxim "things could be worse."

      Apparently it is from this postulate that some participants in the
      Interreligious Peacemaking Forum of CIS, that opened on 2 March in Moscow,
      proceed. In the respectable speeches opening this very representative
      meeting there resounded in various forms assurances that everything is not
      so bad regarding religion in the CIS space. The strange persistence with
      which religious leaders of the former USSR tried to prove this to
      themselves leads involuntarily to the thought that there is a slight doubt
      in their consciousness. In such a case, what does one say about the expert
      community whose chief intellectual instinct is to have a healthy doubt
      about everything?

      The most egregious example of the abridgement of rights and freedom of
      believers is in authoritarian Turkmenistan, where only two confessions are
      permitted, Sunnite Islam and RPTsMP. Meetings of adherents of other
      societies are broken up by agents of state security and thus a multitude of
      Turkmen protestants languish in prisons. In second place, some ways back,
      come Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan, where the authorities persecute with
      special zeal any manifestation of "wahhabism," for which the chief symptom
      is taken to be a disinclination to join the official, progovernmental
      ecclesiastical board of Muslims, and they also substantially restrict the
      activity of protestants. However, problems for protestants exist
      everywhere, in Tajikistan, Georgia, Armenia, Russia, Belarus, and
      Kazakhstan. It is possible to call Ukraine somewhat of an oasis in this
      regard, where specific circumstances for religious freedom are created by
      the presence of several "state forming" Orthodox jurisdictions of
      comparable size.

      In general the experience of Ukraine is very remarkable. It says that the
      level of religious freedom in postsoviet states is directly proportional to
      the influence of the "titular confession," depending on how strong is the
      religious monopoly of the basic religious organization of the country. In
      Russia RPTsMP possesses such a monopoly, which virtually does not recognize
      the rights of "alternative Orthodoxy" to exist, and it harshly restricts
      Catholics and fights with protestants, while the so-called "traditional
      religions," that is, ethnic confessions are to a certain extent controlled
      through the specially created Interreligious Council. Belarus and Georgia
      have gone yet further, concluding special agreements with the official
      Orthodox churches of their countries, which places the other confessions in
      a second rate position. In Armenia the heart of national and state
      self-consciousness is the Armenian Apostolic church and in Azerbaijan it is
      the Shiite Board of Muslims of the Caucasus.

      The current interreligious forum in Moscow, as expected, will culminate in
      the creation of the Interreligious Council of CIS, which will extend the
      experience of the similar Russian council to all the postsoviet space, with
      the exception of the Baltic countries. The very fact of the conduct of the
      forum in Moscow, as well as some programmatic statements that resounded at
      the Eighth World Russian People's Assembly held last month, leave no doubt
      that the new council also will operate under the aegis of RPTsMP. Its
      creation should strengthen the position of the Moscow patriarchate in
      Russia itself, forcing the government to view it as an influential
      participant in international relations. This same goal also was served by
      the creation two years ago of the representation of RPTsMP with European
      organizations in Brussels, and the strengthening of the Russian
      ecclesiastical mission in Jerusalem and unification with ROCOR.

      In general, religious peacemaking in contemporary Russia is pursuing almost
      the very same goals as it did in "atheist USSR." Through its special
      position in the international arena the church can get from the state
      various forms of preferential treatment and protect itself from undesirable
      interference of the state in church affairs. (tr. by PDS, posted 2 March 2004)
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