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Anti-War Movement Beginning To Emerge Among Russian Orthodox Faithful – OpEd

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Earlier this week individuals appeared before the headquarters of the Russian General Staff carrying posters that clearly indicated they were acting on the basis of religious convictions (sova-center.ru/religion/news/authorities/elections/2016/10/d35654/, portal-credo.ru/site/?act=news&id=122515 http://www.svoboda.org/a/28059348.html and facebook.com/gradustv77/?pnref=story).

Among them were: “What does Christ Teach? Under the guise of tradition and spirituality we are offered war, war and more war.” “Covering himself with Orthodoxy, Putin sows hatred and war.” “Blessed are the Peacemakers.” “If you want peace, prepare for peace.” And “We stand for peace, but we are preparing for war.”

The appearance of these anti-war Christians attracted relatively little attention in Moscow or the West, but that is a mistake, Sergey Filatov of the Moscow Institute of Oriental Studies suggests, because they are part of the spread of genuine and potentially powerful anti-war sentiments among the faithful (sova-center.ru/religion/publications/2016/10/d35675/).

The hierarchy of the Moscow Patriarchate and the traditions of Russian Orthodoxy more generally are so associated with caesaro-papism and support for authoritarian governments, their force structures and army. But that is now the only trend of opinion within the church especially at the parish level, Filatov says.

Over the last 25 years, he says, “militarist attitudes and support for military victories … is slowly but consistently weakening” within the church, especially at the lower levels but also among some of the hierarchs as well.

“Among the laity, there exists not only a politically liberal pacifist minority, but also anti-war ‘evangelical’ attitudes among believers whom you wouldn’t call liberals with regard to other issues.” What is surprising is not that “Orthodox pacifists have appeared but rather than they have appeared only now.”

Among Christians around the world there has been a slow and sometimes not so slow shift to anti-war positions among many denominations, Filatov says. Roman Catholics have been among the leaders of this in the West as can be seen from the pope’s calls to both sides in the Ukrainian conflict to reach an agreement, calls that have outraged some Ukrainian patriots.

“In Russian Orthodoxy,” the orientalist continues, such “anti-war attitudes are only now being born.” But they have not come out of nowhere or only from abroad. “If one compares the statements of Metropolitan Kirill of 20 years ago and now, then it is possible to see that in his patriotic and statist ideology, the militarist component has weakened.”

“Our society in general did not take note of the most important case when the Russian Orthodox Church did not support the unification of Crimea to Russia and with regard to the conflict in south-east Ukraine consistently has called for reaching an accord” rather than supporting views of patriotic circles it is traditionally been close to.

“This position has many causes, but whatever they were, this position for the Russian Orthodox Church is unique and it represents a most important precedent for the future,” Filatov argues. The church may remain very conservative on many moral issues but on war, it is increasingly going to be against militarism.

That represents a change, and one with enormous consequences for relations between the Kremlin and the Moscow Patriarchate and thus for Russian society and the country’s political system as a whole.


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Paul Goble

Paul Goble

Paul Goble is a longtime specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia. Most recently, he was director of research and publications at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy. Earlier, he served as vice dean for the social sciences and humanities at Audentes University in Tallinn and a senior research associate at the EuroCollege of the University of Tartu in Estonia. He has served in various capacities in the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the International Broadcasting Bureau as well as at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Mr. Goble maintains the Window on Eurasia blog and can be contacted directly at [email protected] .

2 thoughts on “Anti-War Movement Beginning To Emerge Among Russian Orthodox Faithful – OpEd

  • October 22, 2016 at 10:33 am
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    It is the U.S. and not Russia who are the war makers. As for the Ukraine crisis it was orchestrated by the neocon cabal which influences American foreign and military policy. I guess the holocaust during WWII did not teach them a lesson, they need another one to complete the job.

    Reply
  • October 23, 2016 at 7:24 am
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    Goebbles i..e Noble, trying it again spreading disinformation. Surely, the Russians, including the orthodox church and any other Christian denominations that may exist in Russia see full well that Putin and the Russian government have no intention to fight wars instead of using diplomacy to solve disputes. Putin urged from the beginning that the government in Kiev should talk to the rebels and find agreement, negotiate a solution, not fight a war. It was Kiev ordered by the US who started and continues that war. Russia is giving support to its Russian brothers in Ukraine and the Russian people are not only fully aware of that but approve of it. Same with Crimea. There was no war for Crimea. The people of Crimea voted in a free and fair referendum to join Russia. Nobody forced them so to do. They had a choice of greater autonomy within Ukraine and chose to join Russia. Again, no war here. No intention to fight war except by Kiev and the USA. Syria is an ally. Russia didn’t want to fight that war, nor was it necessary, had the US agreed to listen to Assad and accept a negotiated solution. But the US refused, instead escalating time and again the civil war it incited itself. So how is that Putin the dictator who dictate war? Surely, it isn’t. The dictator to dictate war is the US and again, surely, the Russian people understand the difference and that it is necessary for the Syrians, for world peace and for world trade for Russia and China and Iran to support the legitimate Syrian government – for that very reason, to prevent endless war like the US produced in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya as well as in other African countries.

    Yes, the world wants peace and that means the US has to change its attitude. It has to end the war on terror by ending terror.

    Mr. Gobel appears to try and insinuate that there is in Russia a peace movement that opposes Putin. There isn’t. Because Putin isn’t a warmonger. There is however a world movement for peace and it opposes the US government’s endless wars and endless interference in the internal affairs of other countries.

    The Orthodox church in Russia has no cause to go against their government. That is of course what irks the US: that the Russians can differentiate between a good government and a bad one. In this case, the bad government is the US government. It is pure fascism.

    Reply

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