Staunton, February 20 – Both civil and religious leaders are clearly frightened that the killings of Orthodox believers by a Muslim at a church in the Daghestani city of Kizlyar could spark a religious war between Christianity and Islam on Russian territory, a conflict that could prove far more violent and destructive than even the Chechen wars.
And consequently, even though most media coverage has tried to characterize the event as an act of terrorism independent of faith, Russia’s religious leaders both collectively and individually have warned of the dangers of such violence and called for “unity in the face of extremism.”
In a statement yesterday (pravmir.com/statement-interreligious-council-russia-attack-believers-kizlyar/), the Inter-Religious Council of Russia, which includes representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church, Muslims, Buddhists and Jews, declared:
We, heads and representatives of the traditional religions in Russia, were pained by the news about an attack against Orthodox believers in the town of Kizlyar in which five people were killed. The perpetrator of the crime purposefully shot at Orthodox believers at the moment when they were coming out of the church after a divine service.
The killer carried out his attack on the Forgiveness Sunday – the day when the Orthodox Christians traditionally seek to reconcile themselves with all. It exposes the misanthropic ideology of extremism manifesting the true face of the Satan’s servants who cover up their true face with the name of God. The aim of the terrorist and his inspirers is to stir up interreligious discord, to destroy the age-old tradition of peaceful coexistence between Christians and Muslims in Russia. The religious leaders of our country call to do everything possible to prevent it.
In these mournful days we appeal to all to refrain from provocative actions. The terrorist act in Kizlyar again and again makes us all to pay attention to the danger of spreading extremism and intolerance, especially among the youth. In this connection, we call upon the Russian State and public and religious institutions to give the closest attention to the moral education of young people, which is called to guard them against the threat of extremism.
Once again it has become clear that today children and youth stand in the vital need to receive the right notions of religion, to learn to distinguish between age-old religious traditions and imported pseudo-religious teachings and extremist sects.
We call upon the special services leaders and officers to do all that is possible to detect and neutralize those who have joined terrorist organization and become imbued with misanthropic ideology before they will commit crimes.
We call our whole society to peace, accord and solidarity. Let the common grief that has befallen us make us rally even more strongly.
The leaders of the individual denominations echoed these themes (interfax-religion.ru/?act=dujour&div=97 and http://www.interfax-religion.ru/?act=news&div=69318
On the one hand and despite their characterization of the action as terrorist, Russian government officials have not yet made that determination, a remarkable delay given their usual hair-trigger willingness to make such declarations especially when the evidence seems clear and those involved are convinced of that fact (republic.ru/posts/89611).
And on the other, both Orthodox Christians and Muslims were explicit this time around that what had taken place was intended to discredit each in the eyes of the other and spark conflicts between them (youtube.com/watch?v=SpzxE1cnUZU, interfax-religion.ru/?act=news&div=69318slamio.ru/news/society/musulmane_reshitelno_osudili_napadenie_na_tserkov_v_kizlyare/).
But perhaps most worrisome of all were comments by those far from either faith who described what happened at Kizlyar as “almost a religious murder” and religious people who spoke about the victims as “martyrs” (apn.ru/index.php?newsid=37058 and interfax-religion.ru/?act=news&div=69319). Such language may cast a long shadow on the future.