Russian Orthodox Decry Anti-Christian Discrimination

Call for Explicit Condemnation of Violence, Persecution

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ST. PETERSBURG, Russia, JUNE 10, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Few have a perspective on anti-Christian persecution like the Russian Orthodox.

A recent document from the patriarchate of that Church, reported by L'Osservatore Romano, notes the "profound concern" of its synod at the increase of Christianophobia in the world.

Christianophobia "is manifested above all when religious differences are used for political ends, primarily by extremist groups whose objectives are incompatible with the good of society as a whole," the statement declared.

The Orthodox affirmed that such manifestations "deserve an explicit condemnation by all the regular forces of society, including representatives of public institutions and religious leaders."

The Moscow document is an appeal to leaders -- secular and religious -- to "elaborate integral and effective mechanisms of defense for Christians and Christian communities that suffer persecutions or restrictions in their existence and their religious activities."

The patriarchate noted recent attacks on Coptic Christians in Egypt.

It stated that some manifestations of Christianophobia "can no longer be interpreted as occasional incidents: in certain regions of the world it is a custom."

Massimo Introvigne of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) reported this month at a conference on Christian-Jewish-Muslim interfaith dialogue that a Christian is killed for his faith every five minutes.

Responsibility to protect

The Russian Orthodox statement decried such acts as vandalism linked to religious extremism, restrictions on freedom of worship, exclusive educational institutions and harsh judicial sentences -- even the death penalty -- for blasphemy.

The statement also lamented the bloodless persecution in countries where Christians are a majority: "a rigid secularism, even aggressive, that tends to expel Christians from the public sphere, while statements and acts dictated by the Christian faith, in the first place those that refer to a moral evaluation of events, bring a negative reaction."

The Orthodox leaders assured that they have no intention in meddling in nations' internal affairs -- this was the accusation Egypt leveled against Benedict XVI when he spoke against anti-Christian persecution.

"Christianity teaches its faithful to obey the law and to respect legal governments," the patriarchate stated. However, the statement continued, nations "have the obligation to respect the dignity and the rights of all and, consequently, to guarantee religious freedom and the safety of religious communities."

The Orthodox extended their condemnation to forms of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.

Issues such as Christianophobia are seen as an occasion for Russian Orthodox-Catholic cooperation, as talk of a meeting between the Pope and the patriarch continues.