Fr Daniil Sysoev (1974-2009)
The Council of Muftis of Russia gave their condolences in connection with the murder of Fr Daniil Sysoev and asked the public not to blame this crime on the Muslim community. “On my own behalf and on behalf of my colleagues, I offer my condolences. This is a nasty and offensive crime. If a priest asks us questions, we must answer him in a civilised manner, not through murder”, Damir Gizatullin, the first deputy chairman of the Spiritual Administration of Muslims of European Russia told Interfax-Religion on Friday. “We engage many people in debate. Perhaps, we may not always agree, but, you can’t take someone’s life! Life is a gift of the Almighty!” he said. Mufti Gizatullin expressed his confidence that “this crime couldn’t have been committed by a believer of any possible religion. All religions, but, in particular, Islam, forbids us to murder another man. If you kill one person, it’s the same as if you killed all of mankind. Moreover, Muslims and Orthodox Christians share the common heritage of the Abrahamic belief. Such closely-related people shouldn’t raise their hands against their brothers”. Mufti Gizatullin believes that the murderer of Fr Daniil “is likely to be some sort of sectarian”.
Roman Silantyev, Orthodox human rights advocate, Islamicist, and Director of the Human Rights Centre of the World Russian Peoples’ Council, said that those who murdered Fr Daniel Sysoev meant to undermine inter-religious peace in Russia. “This murder committed in the courtyard of an Orthodox church on the eve of the birthday of ruling patriarch of the MP was the most serious challenge to interfaith peace in Russia in recent years”, he told Interfax-Religion. Professor Silantyev expressed his deep condolences to the family of “his fellow Islamicist Fr Daniil Sysoev”. He went on to say, “I’m confident that the same people who killed Fr Daniil are the same ones who kill Muslim imams on a regular basis in the North Caucasus, and they killed him for the same purpose, to create antagonism between Orthodox Christians and Muslims”. In his view, “The brazen murders of spiritual leaders that bedevilled our country in recent years are some of the worst manifestations of terrorism, and the authorities must ruthlessly destroy the terrorists along with their accomplices, most of whom, unfortunately, are concentrated in Moscow. The investigators should make every effort to expedite their efforts to find out the facts of the case so that we can punish the criminals“.
On Friday, at a meeting of the RF Gosduma, the murder of Fr Daniil Sysoev in one of Moscow’s churches prompted Deputy Vera Lekareva from the United Russia faction to ask the government to enact measures to frustrate the spread of illegal religious organisations and sects. “The Council of Europe is often contradictory towards us. At the same time, countries that belong to the Council of Europe constantly accuse us of harassing sectarians from various religions”, Ms Lekareva said. She suggested that the RF Gosduma Committee on Religious Affairs and Relations with Civil Organisations should seek relevant information in this regard for the government.
For his part, LDPR leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the Vice-Speaker of the RF Gosduma, suggested that his colleagues consider this murder of a priest from a different angle. [Fr Daniil’s] murder is the answer to yesterday’s extension of the moratorium on the death penalty by the Constitutional Court. This court had no right to declare such a moratorium. Their ruling was merely recommendatory in nature”, he said.
Chief Rabbi of Russia Berel Lazar urged the authorities to take measures to ensure that the murder of well-known missionary priest Fr Daniel Sysoev would be the last of a series of similar crimes. “The heinous murder of Moscow priest Fr Daniil Sysoev shocked not only his fellow Orthodox Christians. I’m sure that all religious people in Russia are deeply shocked by this crime”, said a statement that Rav Lazar sent to Interfax-Religion on Friday. Rav Lazar noted with regret that the police “are still not able to provide reliable security for the ministers of God. Indeed, this murder of a priest in Moscow is far from the first in the list of crimes committed against our religious leaders. In recent years, there have been more than a dozen such attacks, and the victims were Orthodox, Muslims, and Jews”. He demanded that the state should “take the most stringent measures” and expressed the hope that “the investigation of the massacre will be taken under special command, so that the perpetrators will be arrested and suffer their deserved punishment. The state must do its utmost to see that the murder of Daniil Sysoev is the last [terror-killing of a clergyman], so that nobody would dare to shed the blood of a priest”, Rav Lazar’s statement said. He noted that the Jewish community of Russia “mourns today, along with Orthodox Christians. We have no doubt that those who are the enemies of God and man carried out this murder… even if they hide behind a religious facade. After all, truly religious people will never raise a hand against anyone who has faith in the one God”. In his opinion, those who killed the Fr Daniil Sysoev and seriously wounded his assistant “did so hoping that it would intimidate our religious leaders and society in general. However, they will never reach this goal. We will continue to encourage the growth of religious spirituality in society, and we will even more actively encourage people to follow the law where God commanded us to love our neighbour, to help him, serve our motherland, and strive for peace”.
Mufti Talgat Tazhduddin, President of the Central Spiritual Administration of Muslims of Russia (TsDUMR) hopes that the murder of Fr Daniil Sysoev would not incite sectarian strife. “We pray to God that this tragic event… the violent death of one of the servants of God… does not become a pretext to foment sectarian strife and hatred, and that missionary work would not lead to risk to life”, according to the letter of condolences that Mufti Tazhduddin sent to Patriarch Kirill, which came to Interfax-Religion on Friday. Mufti Tazhduddin stressed, “There is nothing more ungodly than the murder of a priest in the temple, as there is no excuse for this crime, not in the eyes of the people, nor before the Almighty Creator. The fact that this premeditated murder occurred on a festival day, your birthday, indicates that it is a crime of provocation, a challenge for the Moscow Patriarchate, those who serve as priests, and all those who want to see the spiritual space of Russia free and who wish the recovery of the roots of its traditional beliefs”. Mufti Tazhduddin said that Muslims in Russia knew Fr Daniil Sysoev as the author of a number of polemical writings. However, he continued, whatever his theological views, “they should not have been a cause of disputes and conflict, leading to the perpetration of violence. Such manifestations of intolerance in such a heinous form must unite and direct our joint efforts to actively oppose such blatant acts of lawlessness, as well as contribute to our affirmation in society of the true values of life”.
On Saturday, around noon, the coffin of murder-victim Fr Daniel Sysoev shall be brought to St Thomas church, where he was rector. “For a day and a half, until Sunday evening, parishioners, friends, acquaintances, and everyone who knew, loved, and respected him, can come and pay their respects to Fr Daniil”, one of Fr Daniil’s assistants told our Interfax-Religion correspondent on Friday night. Reports indicate that one of the mourners who shall pay their respects at that time shall be Patriarch Kirill. Priests from many parishes in Moscow shall read prayers over the coffin continuously in rotation. Our source noted that during the course of the day many people came to the church to express their sympathy to the orphaned parish.