dated 23 December 2009.
murder of a Russian priest in as many months has prompted a
call by the Orthodox Church for Russians to think about
their country's spiritual and moral condition. The killings
follow more violence this year directed against Muslim
clerics in Russia's troubled Caucasus region.
Tuesday's shooting death of 39-year-old priest Alexander
Filippov is alleged to be the act of two intoxicated men in
the village of Satino-Russkoye near Moscow. His widow is
quoted as saying Filippov had reproached the suspects for
relieving themselves at the entrance of their apartment
The head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill,
called Filippov a bright and clean-living individual who
leaves behind three daughters.
Kirill says the priest was killed because he was not
indifferent to disgusting human behavior and took a
principled stand against it in accordance with his calling.
The Interfax News Agency says a total of 26 Orthodox priests
have been murdered in Russia since 1990. Many others have
been assaulted. They include Vitaly Zubkov, who was kicked
and beaten last month, just days after the murder of his
friend, Father Daniil Sysoyev in Moscow. Sysoyev had
received death threats for his outspoken criticism of Islam
and attempts to convert Muslims to Christianity.
News reports quote Orthodox Church Spokesman Vladimir
Legoida as saying that recent events show Russians must
think of the spiritual and moral situation they live in.
The head of the Religion and Law Institute at the Russian
Academy of Sciences, Roman Lunkin, told VOA many Russians
call themselves Orthodox Christians but have no idea about
the obligations required by organized religion. He says
Russian spiritual leaders themselves often set the wrong
example by mixing church-state relations.
Lunkin says church leaders send a signal that to call
oneself an Orthodox, it is enough to maintain close ties
with the state or government officials and to participate in
official ceremonies. He says this reveals an absence of
true faith, adding that priests often begin with the
construction of a church building, instead of first
organizing a community of believers.
Lunkin says communism stripped many Russians of religious
faith, and with it any respect for priests and churches.
Lunkin recalls an incident several years ago when a priest
began building a church in the Ivanovo region north of
Moscow and arrived one morning to find that local residents
had dismantled the structure for its bricks because there
was no organized community in that village and no one knew
what Orthodoxy was. He adds that local hooligans who killed
the priest considered themselves to be Orthodox.
Russia's Islamic community has also been rocked this year by
several high-profile killings of Muslim clerics in the
Caucasus. They include Akhmed Tagayev, deputy mufti of
Dagestan, and Ismail Bostanov, rector of the Islamic
Institute in the southern Karachai-Cherkessia region.
Some observers link those murders to Islamic militants who
are fighting pro-Kremlin authorities. The deputy head of
Russia's Mufti Council, Damir Khazrat Gizatullin rejects any
connection. He told VOA he attributes the violence to
incivility throughout Russia stemming from 70 years of
Gizatullin says people in Russia do not know how to listen
to one another, to give others the right away on the road,
or to understand the foundations of spirituality and
religion. This, he concludes, leads to current situation,
which follows 70 years of alienation from the spiritual
roots and traditions of Russia. He says people now fail to
realize that members of the clergy and all others are
protected by the Almighty and by the law.
He says Communists also made the mistake of focusing on the
construction of buildings at the expense of community.
Gizatullin says Soviet authorities wanted to construct more
living space for people, but toilets and other communal
structures were forgotten. He says there was no time, no
energy, and no resources for such things, and now Russia is
reaping those elements of Soviet life.
Murders of prominent Russians are not limited to the clergy.
Investigative journalists and political activists have also
been victims. Most of the killers remain at large.