MINELRES: HRWF Newsletter: Special Russia

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Human Rights Without Frontiers Int'l
Newsletter "Religious Intolerance and Discrimination"

18 August 2009

Editor-in-Chief: Willy Fautre 
Website: http://www.hrwf.net
Email: info@hrwf.net

Towards the clericalization of the State?

HRWF (18.08.2009) - In the last few years, a number of Russian experts
in religious studies, leaders of religious minorities and observers of
the relations between the State and the Orthodox Church have repeatedly
warned against a possible revival of clericalism in Russia and further
weakening of the separation between State and Religion. The latest news
collected by Stetson University/ Russia Religion News confirm this
The Patriarch of the Orthodox Church to be consulted on draft laws by
the ruling party
According to Nezavisimaya Gazeta (10 July 2009), Russia's ruling party
"United Russia" has announced that it will henceforth present all Duma
projects to the Patriarch Kirill for approval. By doing so, party
leaders have said, they hope to avoid "misunderstandings." Such a move,
the paper notes, is a controversial one. While it will undoubtedly
attract more voters and make the party look more legitimate, it will
also deeply involve the office of the Patriarch in the secular affairs
of the Russian state, as the author of the article notes:
"On the one hand, it is flattering. The Patriarch has climbed to the
political summit and stands there on the sixth step. However, in this
case, how is a simple orthodox patron to relate to his chief pastor,
who, in influence, is higher than Lushkov, mayor of Moscow, but lower
than Surkov, the administration's First Deputy Chief?
Having been drawn into worldly problems, the Patriarch, in my view, is
losing his sense of proportion. Certainly, the Church cannot stand
outside of social problems, and Kirill accepts this burden efficiently
and willingly. But, on the other hand, being wrapped up in worldly
questions, he is losing his majesty and reverence before a higher
spiritual authority, which a churchly man must experience. Eventually,
Kirill will be accepted as an ordinary politician - more interesting
than Grislov, but more boring than Zhirinovski.
What's more, accepting to take part in project consultations, and being
even more drawn into the political game, the Patriarch will inevitably
share the blunders of his secular counterparts (deputies, ministers, and
officials), who, as is well known, are not very respected or valued
among the people.
The politicization of Kirill will lead to a fall in the authority of
patriarchal throne itself. The Russian Orthodox Church will permanently
be accepted as a state institution, which is unlikely to be of benefit
to the Church itself or to the clergy.
I will not attempt to discuss the question of whether or not the
position of 'United Russia' and the Patriarch is in line with the
Russian Constitution, in which religion is separated from the
government. It is well known, that our power is not in literalness, but
in interpretation. However, due to the fact that in our homeland
millions of Muslims live next to orthodox members, this situation
deserves attention. 
Of course, it is very simple to explain to the orthodox community that
consultations with the Patriarch in no way minimize the merit of Islam.
Nevertheless, why not discuss future projects with, for example, the
Chairman of the Russian Mufties Council, Ravil Gaynutdin? Is he not also
capable of making very intelligent observations?
Indeed, why create additional troubles in inter-confessional relations?
Furthermore, a curious precedent is being created in party-patriarch
relations. What will Kirill do if, forgive me for suggesting, the
Communist Party of the Russian Federation wishes to consult with him? If
'United Russia' is consulting with the Patriarch, then the socialists
have every right to discuss their problems with, let's say, a rabbi.
Generally speaking, if this continues further, then our customary tandem
may be converted into a triumvirate. It goes without saying that our
democracy will hardly be strengthened in the process."

Patriarch seeks to influence national legislation about sexual education
in public schools 

Portal-credo.ru, 8 July 2009 - A meeting of Patriarch of Moscow and
all-Rus Kirill with the secretary of the presidium of the General
Council of the "United Russia" party, Viacheslav Volodin, and his deputy
Andrei Isaev was held on 8 July in the working residence of the head of
the Orthodox Church on Chisty lane, "Sedmitsa.ru" reports.

At the meeting were discussed questions of the relations between the
Church, the State Duma, and the "United Russia" party, which calls
itself the "party of Vladimir Putin..

Patriarch Kirill reported to the State Duma deputies about the "concern
of many believers," who fear the possibility of the introduction into
Russia of a program of sex education in the schools and a system of
juvenile justice.

Representatives of the "United Russia" party assured Kirill that they
will defend Russian traditions in the area of education of children and
protection of their rights.  V.V. Volodin and A.K. Isaev promised to
work against the understanding of such an interpretation of the Social
Charter of the Council of Europe which would prod Russia toward the
introduction of sex education and juvenile justice. The deputies said
that the text of the charter does not contain provisions which would
point toward the necessity of such steps.

Patriarch Kirill participates in conference of religious leaders and
government ministers with Russian President 

Portal-credo.ru, 21 July 2009 - Patriarch of Moscow and all-Rus Kirill
participated in a conference conducted by Russian President D.A.
Medvedev, which was held at the residence of the president in the
suburbs of Moscow on 21 July. The topic of the conference, according to
a report of the press service of the Moscow patriarchate, was questions
of the teaching in secondary schools of the foundations of religious
culture and secular ethics as well as the introduction into the armed
forces of Russia of the institutions of army and navy chaplains.

The conference was held at the "Barvikha" state residence and included
the director of the presidential administration of Russia, S.E.
Haryshkin, the first deputy director of the Russian presidential
administration, V.Yu. Surkov, Russian Minister of Defense A.E.
Serdiukov, Russian Minister of Education and Science A.A. Fursenko, the
head of the Buddhist Traditional Sangkha of Russia, Damba Aiusheev, the
chairman of the Coordinating Center of Muslims of the Northern Caucasus,
Mufti of Karachaevo-Cherkesia Ismail Berdiev, the chairman of the
Council of Muftis of Russia Ravil Gainutdin, the chairman of the Central
Ecclesiastical Board of Muslims of Russia, Talgat Tadzhuddin and the
chief rabbi of Russia Berl Lazar.

Opening the meeting, Medvedev reported that he had received two appeals
from leaders of religious associations. One of them dealt with the
question of teaching the foundations of religious culture in secondary
schools and the second was the introduction of the institution of army
chaplains into the armed forces of Russia.

As the president noted, these topics deserve careful attention and an
immediate response on the part of the government. At the same time
Medvedev stressed especially the importance of a religious component in
education and military training, which exerts a substantial influence on
the formation of the person and Russian citizen.

"I have made the decision to support both of these suggestions," the
head of the Russian state declared.

Commenting on the first question placed on the conference agenda, D.A.
Medvedev emphasized that in many regions of the country substantial
experience in teaching the foundation of religious culture has been
acquired, which simplifies the accomplishment of this task on the
federal level. As regards the Ministry of Defense of RF, the president
said that for a long time already it has been cooperating fruitfully
with the main religious associations of Russia.

At the same time, Medvedev gave special attention to the fact that every
normative act regulating questions dealt with at the conference must go
through public discussion, since the decisions made by it touch upon an
extremely delicate sphere of human individual and social life.

"I think it necessary to conduct an experiment in teaching the
foundations of religious culture in 18 regions," the president declared.

The head of state noted that pupils and their parents will be able to
select the confessional subject themselves, the foundations of Orthodox,
Muslim, Jewish, or Buddhist culture. Also, Medvedev suggests, there may
be worked out a general course on the history of religions of Russia. In
addition, the president pointed to the necessity of giving those
desiring it the right to study the foundations of secular ethics.

"The selection of the pupils and parents must be voluntary. Any
compulsion in this sphere will be counterproductive," Medvedev noted.

The president indicated that the foundations of religious culture will
be taught by secular pedagogues, but at the same time the necessity will
be recognized of having broad experience of the methodological,
conceptual, and other achievements that have been acquired by the
traditional confessions of Russia.

As a result of the experiment being conducted, the practice of teaching
of these disciplines will be able to extend to the entire country, the
president emphasized. In the opinion of the head of state, the proposed
date for beginning the universal introduction into school curricula of
the foundations of religious culture and secular ethics could be
designated as 2012.

As regards the second question discussed at the conference, the
president stressed that among the armed forces personnel of Russians
there are adherents of all traditional confessions of the country. "They
risk what is most dear, their lives. And they all have the right to
spiritual support in accordance with their own religious convictions,"
the head of state noted.

As one variant of the resolution of the question, D.A. Medvedev
suggested introducing a standard according to which in those units where
followers of a certain confession constitute more than 10 percent of the
personnel, it would be appropriate for clergy representing it to be on
the staff.

"I think that your position is an example that it is possible to achieve
consensus on contentious questions. Very correct conclusions have been
drawn from many years of discussion," Patriarch Kirill emphasized in his
speech. The primate of the Orthodox Church rated highly the idea of
voluntariness that lies at the base of the proposals on teaching
religious culture in the schools. The most important thing, according
the Kirill, is to manage to overcome the anxiety displayed in various
public circles in connection with the discussion of this topic.
"Voluntariness and alternatives are the basis on which this system may
exist," the patriarch noted.  (tr. by PDS, posted 15 August 2009)
Hundreds of millions of rubles to finance teaching religious culture in
Russian schools
Portal-credo.ru, 21 July 2009 - After a conference with the president of
Russia, the Russian Minister of Education reported that hundreds of
millions of rubles will be directed to the introduction of foundations
of religious culture in Russian schools.

The introduction of a system of teaching the foundations of religious
cultures in Russian schools will cost hundreds of millions of rubles,
Russian Minister of Education and Science Andrei Fursenko told
journalists on 21 July, as a result of a special conference with the
president of the country.

According to the minister, in the process of implementing this idea,
more that 40,000 teachers will be retrained, RIA Novosti reports.

"The scale of the money is hundreds of millions of rubles," he said.
"But this money will not be wasted," the minister emphasized, adding
that even without the introduction of new subjects teachers still must
go through retraining, which permits the improvement of the quality of

The minister reported that at the first stage 12,000 schools in 18
regions will be involved, which is a fifth of all schools in Russia.

In preparing the new curriculum, according to Fursenko, consideration
will be given, first, to the secular nature of education and, second, to
the fact that "all materials must be acceptable to representatives of
all confessions, as well as atheists."

"We must create conditions under which the children will be able
themselves to formulate their own world views; these are not religion
courses and we must not offend or embarrass anyone," the minister

He said that the instruction must not be conducted from a position that
all religions are a myth. "This would be offensive to representatives of
one or another confession," Fursenko emphasized.

At the same time the minister stressed that the government does not have
the right to rush into anything since this is a very complex subject and
the main principle is to do no harm.  He added, too, that the system of
evaluation will be the same as for any other subject.

"Even if it is a textbook on Orthodoxy that is prepared, representatives
of all confessions will express their impressions," Fursenko said.  (tr.
by PDS, posted 15 August 2009)

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