Staunton, January 6 – There are now five times as many mosques for every 1000 Muslims in the North Caucasus as there are churches for every 1000 Russian Orthodox, the result of an explosion in mosque construction since the end of Soviet times and something Orthodox leaders hope to correct, according to Svetlana Bolotnikova.
They see this as important not only for the revival of their own faith but also as an important means to promote the survival of Russian communities in the region and the return of Russians who earlier left and to defend the national security of the country as a whole, the Kavpolit.com journalist says (kavpolit.com/articles/pravoslavnyj_nash_kavkaz-12689/).
According to church leaders, Bolotnikova says, “Orthodoxy is being reborn in the North Caucasus albeit not so actively as Islam.” The most important participants in this process, she and they say, are young people and Cossack communities who are focusing on the social and political meaning of the Russian faith.
According to tradition, Christianity first came to the North Caucasus shortly after the death of Jesus with the visit by Apostle Andrey, but it assumed a more regular existence a millennium ago with the formation of the Alan bishopric. Indeed, Bolotnikova says, that area was baptized “a half century earlier than Kyivan Rus” and has a longer history there than Islam.
At the present time, the Russian Orthodox Church in the North Caucasus is divided into four bishoprics under the supervision of Metropolitan Kirill of Stavropol and Nevinnomyssk. He is actively promoting missionary work and church construction but says his first tasks are to get Russians there to return to the church and Russians from there to return to the region.
In these tasks, Bolotnikova says, he has the support of Moscow, the heads of the federal subjects in the North Caucasus, and Russian activists. The last have been especially active in arguing that the church must expand in the region in order to oppose foreign and domestic threats to the territorial integrity of the country.
But at the same time, the Russian Orthodox face challenges from within the Christian community. There are numerous Old Believers among Cossack groups in the region, something Metropolitan Kirill says should not be allowed to continue because they are “connected with the work of foreign special services” and seek “the destruction of the spiritual ties of our state.”