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Reaching for Religious Reunion

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  • byakimov@csc.com.au
    FYI... ... kato hetch om cc: Subject: Reaching for Religious Reunion
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 31, 2005
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      ----- Forwarded by Basil Yakimov/AUST/CSC on 01/04/2005 11:44 AM -----

      kato hetch
      <kato_ny@yahoo.c To: Nyack High <nyackhigh@...>
      om> cc:
      Subject: Reaching for Religious Reunion
      31/03/2005 08:16

      Some reading material from an outside source on the
      subject matter..


      Reaching for Religious Reunion  By Lawrence A. Uzzell
      Thursday, March 31, 2005. Page 8, Moscow Times

      Unlike Poland and the Baltic states, Russia lacks a key source of "soft
      power": a united body of ethnic expatriates who can be relied on to support
      the mother country's policies in places like Washington. But this could
      change in the very near future. Moscow may bring into its sphere of
      influence what used to be a key ideological base for the Kremlin's emigre
      foes, the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, or ROCOR. The Kremlin and
      the domestic, Kremlin-dominated Russian Orthodox Church could gain a new
      seal of moral and historical legitimacy at a time when Russia faces growing
      criticism for its swing toward authoritarianism.

      In the 1920s, when the Bolsheviks were jailing or killing thousands of
      Orthodox Christians, a small group of refugee bishops formed what
      eventually became ROCOR. That body inherited or founded hundreds of
      parishes among Russian emigres in Western Europe and the Americas, while
      seeing its own existence as temporary. Its position has always been that
      once the domestic Moscow Patriarchate clearly renounced certain toxic
      habits adopted under Soviet pressure, the Russian church should reunite.

      One of those habits is "Sergyanism," named after the tame bishop chosen by
      Stalin as patriarch of Moscow. Under Sergy and his successors, the domestic
      church's top clergy systematically collaborated with a regime that
      systematically persecuted the church's own members. The habit continued to
      the end of Soviet rule and beyond. Critics of the Moscow Patriarchate note
      that to this day, it collaborates with tyrants such as the current rulers
      of Belarus and Turkmenistan, as well as with Russia's siloviki. Sergyanism
      lives on, observe these critics, not just as past history the church has
      never repented, but as unreformed present reality.

      Consider the Moscow Patriarchate's relations with Saparmurat Niyazov,
      better known as Turkmenbashi. Turkmenistan's "president for life" presides
      over a totalitarian cult of personality bordering on self-deification. He
      has authored his own personal holy scriptures, which must be studied
      exhaustively in the state schools and venerated in both Christian and
      Muslim places of worship along with the Bible and the Koran. The
      importation of Russian-language religious literature is forbidden: Orthodox
      Christians in Turkmenistan cannot legally subscribe even to the
      Patriarchate's theological journals.

      Instead of telling the truth about Niyazov, the Russian church has awarded
      him with the Order of St. Danil, its highest honor for secular rulers. The
      Patriarchate's priest Andrei Sapunov serves as an official of the Niyazov
      government's Council for Religious Affairs, the direct continuation of the
      state agency that controlled religious life when Turkmenistan was a Soviet
      republic. Sapunov works directly with the secret police in persecuting
      Protestants who have been arrested, fined or fired from their jobs simply
      for holding worship services in their own homes.

      Nevertheless, the Moscow Patriarchate seems confident that it is on track
      toward reunification with Orthodox emigres. The public statements of both
      sides have resumed their previous cordial tone after expressions of
      disagreement in February over disputed church properties in Palestine.
      Among the honored guests at the Patriarchate's recent "Worldwide Russian
      People's Council" in Moscow were several ROCOR clerics.

      The speeches at that gathering, devoted to celebrating the Soviet victory
      in World War II and linking it to the Kremlin's current policies, suggest
      that the domestic church is counting on Russian nationalism to woo the
      emigres. Especially striking is the distinctively Soviet flavor of that
      nationalism. The main speeches failed to mention the victory's dark sides,
      for example the imposition of totalitarian atheism on traditionally
      Christian societies such as Romania and Bulgaria. Patriarch Alexy II made
      the incredible statement that the victory "brought the Orthodox peoples of
      Europe closer and raised the authority of the Russian Church." If one had
      no other information, one would think that the establishment of Communist
      Party governments in the newly conquered countries was purely voluntary --
      and that what followed was unfettered religious freedom.

      The Moscow "People's Council" also failed to reach out to a peculiarly
      tragic group of war victims, whose descendants are well represented in the
      emigre church. Facing cruelly limited choices, General Andrei Vlasov and
      the ex-POWs who fought in his Russian Liberation Army decided that a
      temporary alliance with the Nazis offered the best hope of liberating their
      homeland from Bolshevism. Alexander Solzhenitsyn has poignantly described
      their dilemma, observing that never before had so many Russians chosen to
      wage war against their own government. But reflections on why this happened
      would have diluted the triumphalist, state-worshipping flavor of the Moscow
      gathering, which declared that the 1945 victory was "achieved on the basis
      of unprecedented unity among the government, the army and the people." It
      is as if the United States' religious leaders were still silent about their
      own country's war atrocities in Dresden and Hiroshima.

      Sergyanism is clearly still thriving, despite the Moscow Patriarchate's
      occasional abstract statements asserting its right to criticize the state.
      The Patriarchate's leaders still openly celebrate "Patriarch" Sergy's
      memory, with some even favoring his canonization as a saint. With rare
      exceptions, they still issue commentaries on President Vladimir Putin's
      policies, which read like government press releases. They seem sure that
      this issue will not be a deal-breaker in their quest for reunion with the
      emigres. Putin's Kremlin will be hoping that they are right.

      Lawrence A. Uzzell is president of International Religious Freedom Watch, a
      Christian organization dedicated to protecting religious believers of all
      faiths from persecution by their own governments. He contributed this
      comment to The Moscow Times.
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