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    09 april, 2015

    Provocative attempts to link Russian Protestants with tragic events in Ukraine erode interfaith harmony in Russia

    Author: Sergey Ryakhosky, no comments

    Tragic events in Ukraine have had a massive impact on Russians, many of whom not only empathize with grief of the people of our kin country in word, but also help refugees arriving to Russia in deed. Various religious organizations, including Protestant churches, have been actively engaged in providing help to those in need. Some of them even established special centers and headquarters to assist refugees. In addition, some Protestant communities collect and send aid directly to the needy in Donbass.

    Position of Russia’s Protestant churches in regard to the Maidan demonstrations and the ensuing events has been no less clear and consistent. The leadership of the Russian United Union of Christians of Evangelical Faith, RUUCEF (Pentecostals) has repeatedly said that it’s inadmissible for clergy to get involved in any provocative actions. The same position has been voiced by Russian priests at international meetings between representatives of various religious organizations of Russia and Ukraine. At the “Religion and Peace” International Forum held in Moscow in the fall of 2014, a member of the Presidential Council for Coordination with Religious Organizations, Senior Bishop of RUUCEF, a member of the Civic Chamber of the Russian Federation, bishop Sergey Ryakhovsky unequivocally said: “As we know, people who believe in God, representatives of various religions, also took part in the Maidan disorder. There were Protestants, and a plethora of priests of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kyivan Patriarchate, and representatives of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, who were yelling slogans more reminiscent of misanthropic ideology than of Christianity. However, I can’t remember any of religious leaders during the past year excommunicating politicians with hands up to the elbows in blood, or commanders of military units who call themselves representatives of this or that faith. There are more than enough reasons for their excommunication”.

    At the same time, a number of media stories without any good reason have accused believers and priests of Russia’s traditional Protestant churches of being “agents of Maidan” or event terrorist recruiters.

    As an evidence of Russian Protestants’ support of “Maidan ideas” and actions destabilizing society they cite bishop Sergey Ryakhovsky’s backing of the international charity bike ride “Russia Without Orphans”.

    The bike ride drew participants not only from Russia, but also from other countries, including Ukraine. After they took part in the bike ride and came back home some Ukrainians took an extreme anti-Russian stance, accusing Russians and the President of the Russian Federation of all calamities of Ukraine. This fact prompted the Russian Alliance For Social Initiatives “Russia Without Orphans” to terminate its relations with its former partners, as an open letter of the head of the Alliance Ivan Iklyushin was published way back in September, 2014. Previously friendly, mutually beneficial relations between “Russia Without Orphans” and “Ukraine Without Orphans” – the two organizations with akin missions, advocating adoption of orphans by nuclear families virtually got totally destroyed. This is yet another devastating effect of the developments in our neighboring country – the civil war and all-encompassing hostility.

    We deem it necessary, in this regard, to make the following explanations. Senior Bishop of RUUCEF, a member of the Civic Chamber of the Russian Federation Sergey Ryakhovsky officially backed the philanthropic effort (i.e. the bike ride) of the Russian organization aimed to promote responsible adoption of orphans in Russia. Relevance of actions aimed to promote adoption of kids is obvious given that there are 80 thousand children deprived of parental care in this country. To endorse the event conceived to work out a plausible solution to the problem of orphanage in Russia is what the leader of RUUCEF asked of the heads of Russia’s regions. The event resulted not only in more than 13,000 km of distance across Russia covered by the participants, many of them formerly being street kids, or over 300 public events in various cities of this country, but also, and that’s most important, in hundreds of children having been adopted by now.

    Thus, any allegations that Russian Protestants may act as a “fifth column” of Russian society are false. While all rumors and assumptions about it are eroding the interfaith harmony in Russia.

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