Opinion: Russia Can Provide an Example for Europe of "Mutual Understanding" Between Religions

June 21, 2004

Source: Russian Information Agency Novosti


On June 21, 2004 Russian Information Agency Novosti ran an opinion piece by political analyst Pyotr Romanov, commenting on the differences between the religious situations in the European Union and in Russia. Romanov writes, "Current religious events in the European Union and Russia coincide and differ at one and the same time. Russia has outstripped Europe in certain matters as multi-confessionalism has been its long-standing practice. Orthodoxy, Islam, Judaism and Buddhism have gradually got accustomed to one another over the centuries of co-existence and have virtually seen no conflicts over the past decades. The U.S. Department of State seeming to trace all the world events, including the state of religious tolerance, has not even made a mention of any discrepancy between Russia's traditional confessions. Some reproaches can be heard only about the unwillingness to let all manner of sectarians penetrate this country. Mention could be also made of long-standing mutual claims by the Russian Orthodox Church and the Vatican, which however do not have a direct bearing on the Russian political authorities. Solutions for these problems usually shape up in a dramatic but, as a rule, civilized debate. It seems that Christianity, Judaism and Islam in the European Union will have to go a long and hard way to achieve the level of mutual understanding that already exists in Russia. The all-European constitution in this sense is just a starting point rather than the statement of religious harmony. Besides, secular Russia has got a long record, including decades of Bolshevik rule. The fall of bellicose atheism triggered off a drastic change in the Russian state. Though the secular nature of the Russian Federation is formulated in the Constitution quite definitely, the state has remained indebted to the believers and therefore tries to pay off by restoring old churches once turned into storehouses and atheism museums. While political correctness in the European Union causes removal of Christian roots from the common constitution, the voice of conscience in Russia calls for paving the way to the Church. This is anyway a two-way road. It is time that the Christians in Europe and atheists in Russia made room for others."