News / Europe

Kremlin Ties to Orthodox Church Raise Concern

Multimedia

Audio
Peter Fedynsky

Human-rights activists say 2009 represented a breakthrough in relations between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian government.  But they say the closer ties appear to place other faiths at a disadvantage. 

Sergei Mozgovoi of the independent Freedom of Conscience Institute told a Moscow news conference Russian lawmakers are rushing through laws to legitimize decisions made earlier by President Dmitriy Medvedev on behalf of Russian Orthodoxy.  These include teaching the Orthodox faith to the exclusion of others in public schools and universities and establishment of a military chaplain corps.

Mozgovoi says this represents missionary work for the Orthodox Church, which he claims always supports even the most illegal and harmful decisions of government.  He says another factor is the government's economic decisions on behalf of the church about real estate and cultural treasures.

Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill met with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on January 5th to discuss the return of church property confiscated by the Soviet Union and still controlled by the Russian state.  The Kommersant business daily reported on the 14th that Mr. Putin called for action on a bill stalled in the Economics Ministry since 2007 that would legalize property used by religious groups. 

The RIA Novosti News Agency quotes observers as saying the bill would primarily benefit the Russian Orthodox Church and turn it into a major real-estate holder. 

Patriarch Kirill spoke in the Kremlin at the opening of a six-day symposium entitled, "Practical Experience and Prospects for Church-State Cooperation in the Area of Education."

The Patriarch says the forum is called upon to unite social forces in the spiritual transformation of society, which is impossible without engaging the entire education system.

Sergei Buryanov, also with the Freedom of Conscience Institute, says the church and state in Russia have a mutually beneficial relationship. Buryanov says authorities gain a few blessings, because the Orthodox Church enjoys relative authority, while religious organizations get real estate and some direct state financing.

There appears to be concern that growing cooperation between the Kremlin and the Orthodox Church could harm other denominations and branches of Orthodoxy in Russia. 

In the city of Suzdal, the Autonomous Russian Orthodox Church is suing for the return of 10 churches it says were illegally transferred by the courts to the mainstream Church.  And Jehovah's Witnesses say their members could face imprisonment for public distribution of their magazine, The Watchtower.  

Concern is based on Article 282 of the Russian Criminal Code, which prohibits incitement of national, racial, or religious enmity.  Many consider the law to be vaguely written and a modern-day version of prohibitions against anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda. 

Yaroslav Sivulsky represents the Jehovah's Witnesses Executive Center in Russia. Sivulsky says there is increased pressure nationwide on Jehovah's Witnesses, with the onset of mass detentions, arrests, searches of homes, places of worship, and confiscation of religious literature.

A Central Asian refugees expert at Moscow's Human Rights Institute, Yelena Riabinina, says authorities are exploiting xenophobia and fears of terrorism through arbitrary portrayals of Muslims as radicals. Riabinina says if one considers the repression of people who did not plan, commit, or have any relation to violent acts, but whose version of Islam is not deemed tolerable by Russian authorities, then what you have is a clear case of religious persecution.

Sergei Mozgovoi says authorities do not persecute Buddhists outright, but use a carrot and stick approach to reward those loyal to the state and to keep others at bay.  But he says the Kremlin prohibits visits by the Dalai Lama to avoid offending China. Mozgovoi says China and the Russian Orthodox Church constantly exchange experience about ways to pressure free thinkers and members of other faiths in a struggle against so-called sects.

In his Kremlin remarks Monday, Patriarch Kirill said the church-state education effort is aimed at creating an atmosphere of agreement to prevent national and religious hostility.  But human-rights activists are calling for tolerance and repeal of government laws that appear to favor the Russian Orthodox Church.
 

You May Like

Could Nemtsov Threaten Putin in Death as in Life?

Dynamic and debonair opposition leader had supported liberal economic reforms, criticized Russian president's aggression in Ukraine More

Oil Smuggling Highlights Challenges in Shutting Down IS Finances

Pentagon spokesman says Islamic State 'certainly continues to get revenue from the oil industry black market' but that airstrikes have made a dent More

India Focuses on Infrastructure, Investment to Propel Economy

Government expects economy to grow at 8 to 8.5 percent in next fiscal year More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More