Saturday, April 6, 2024

Moscow Patriarchate Drops Plan for Massive New Missionary Effort among Muslims Lest It Incite Clashes in Tatarstan and Elsewhere, Top Synod Official Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Apr. 2 – Two months ago at the end of January, a group of Orthodox missionaries met in Moscow and announced they were laying the groundwork for a grandiose missionary effort among Muslims in Russia and neighboring countries, an effort that they said would soon lead to the convention of a Congress of Orthodox Christian Turks.

            But nothing has been heard about that since, despite the fact that at the time, it enjoyed the support of the head of the Synod’s administration for bishoprics in the countries of the near abroad. Now, sources in the Patriarchate suggest that the ROC MP has decided to cancel or at least put on extended hold any such effort (

            Bishop Yevfimy, head of the Synod’s Missionary Department, says that “the project of Orthodox pan-Turkism” that some raised at the January meeting not only has no place in Russian Orthodoxy but has the potential to spark conflicts not only between Christians and Muslims but between Russians and non-Russian nationalities.

            In places like Tatarstan, the churchman, who headed the Kazan Spiritual Assembly between 2014 and 2019, the balance between Orthodoxy and Islam is very much valued by both sides but could be destabilized if the ROC MP were to make such a missionary effort. Tatarstan’s Muslims and the republic government would both respond very negatively to that.

            The Tatarstan government has very carefully balanced support for Islam and support for Orthodox Christianity and those involved in mixed marriages have even come up with plans for their children, baptizing every other child and raising the others as Muslims. Trying to change that would be dangerous.

            Bishop Yevfimy points to two serious flashpoints in the Middle Volga as far as the ROC MP is concerned. The first involves the Kryashens who see themselves as a separate nation but whom the Tatars view as Christianized Tatars. Unfortunately, he says, there simply aren’t enough priests to support this community and that does need to change.

            And the second are the Chuvash, a Turkic people who converted to Christianity many centuries ago but who retain attachment to some pre-Christian ideas that are anathema to Russian Orthodoxy. Addressing that will be difficult but requires the most careful approach, Bisho Yevfimy says.


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