By Milena Faustova
Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas was awarded the prize of the International Fund for the Unity of the Orthodox Peoples on Saturday. The award ceremony took place at the Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow and was led by Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia. The Voice of Russia’s Milena Faustova reports.
This Orthodox award, named after Patriarch Alexiy II, was presented for the 11th time. This time it went to a Sunni Muslim. Mahmoud Abbas can rightfully be described as the keeper of Orthodox values in the Middle East. Valery Alekseev, who heads the International Fund for the Unity of the Orthodox Peoples, had this to say in his interview with a Voice of Russia correspondent.
“Mahmoud Abbas was picked from among other candidates for the award for being the guardian of Christian values in the Middle East. Mr.Abbas devotes a lot of his time to promoting the Christian-Islamic dialogue and encouraging Orthodox pilgrimages and the Orthodox presence on the Holy Land. In addition, he has been making a hefty personal contribution to a Palestinian settlement which is crucial for the stability in the Middle East and elsewhere.”
Russia’s cultural and humanitarian cooperation with the Palestinian Authority has reached a new level thanks to Mahmoud Abbas. Since Mr.Abbas took office as Palestinian leader, a number of land plots and buildings which had been acquired by the Russian government in Jericho, Bethlehem and Bethany at the end of the 19th century, has been restituted the the Russian Orthodox Church ni Palestine. Under his leadership, a number of Russian cultural and spiritual centers and a Russian school for Palestinian children have been built. Mahmoud Abbas has fully delivered on his pledge to assist in reinstating the Russian presence in the Middle East. Palestinians see Russia as a political ally, Valery Alekseev says.
“Russia supports Palestinians in their bid for independence. Russia’s stance on this is known worldwide. Russia has been sparing no effort to secure a settlement of the complicated Palestinian issue which has been on the agenda for more than 50 years. Russian diplomacy has been working to this effect for years. The spiritual and cultural support of the Holy Land, the cradle of religious faith, adds to the overall peace-keeping effort in the Middle East and all over the world.”
The award of the International Fund for the Unity of the Orthodox Peoples is given annually to heads of state and government, speakers of parliament, Orthodox clergy and political leaders for their achievements in establishing economic and political ties in keeping with the traditions of Eastern Christianity. More than 50 people have received the award since it was established several years ago. Along with Mahmoud Abbas, this year’s nominees include Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa Theodore II and Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic.