Voices from Russia

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Syria at Threshold of Religious War

00 Syrian Church 2012


A report recently published by the Open Doors international Christian human rights organisation says that, at present, Syria’s one of the most dangerous countries in the world for Christians to live in. The report says that many Christians in Syria are victims of violence and that many Christian churches and monasteries in the country lie in ruins. Every year, Open Doors publishes reports about violence against Christians in various parts of the world. In last year’s report, Syria was in 36th place on the list of countries where Christians face persecution. Now, it’s in 11th place. Open Doors collected information about Christians killed, kidnapped, or brutalised in those regions of Syria under opposition control, which, in essence, means Islamist rule. The Islamist insurgents have desecrated, damaged, or totally wrecked many Christian churches and monasteries in Syria.

In an interview with VOR, Russian expert in Eastern affairs Boris Dolgov said, “The appearance of this report is very important. I hope that this document helps the world to learn more about violence against Christians in Syria and to seek measures to stop this violence”. Recently, Mr Dolgov visited Syria and met with members of several Christian communities; in particular, with Mother Agnes-Mariam de la Croix, the prioress of St Jacques Roman Catholic Monastery, saying, “I had a long talk with Mother Agnes-Mariam. She’s very concerned that the rebels are now persecuting Christians in Syria. She knows of many cases when Islamists shelled Christian monasteries, kidnapped or killed Christian priests, and expelled Christians from cities now under opposition control… for example, from Homs. She showed photographs to me that depicted the consequences of these crimes. Mother Agnes-Mariam told me that many members of the Syrian opposition belong to al-Qaeda and other radical Islamist groups”.

The Open Doors report noted that if radical Islamists come to power in Syria, they might start to persecute Christians only because Christians didn’t interfere in the conflict between the opposition and the government out of a preference for a peaceful solution of the matter. This may either isolate Syrian Christians domestically or force many to flee Syria. Dolgov agreed with this, saying, “If the most radical Islamist faction within the Syrian opposition came to power, this would be a tragedy, not only for Syria, but also for the entire Middle East. Most likely, they’d start killing Christians, Alawites, Kurds, and members of other religious and national minorities”.

Alawites are a Muslim sect whose beliefs on some points differ from those of the Islamists. President Bashar al-Assad and his family are Alawites, and Alawites currently dominate the Syrian government and military. As a rule, Syrian Kurds either support President Assad or take no sides in the conflict between his régime and the opposition. Recently, the MP also expressed concern about persecution of Christians in Syria. Patriarch Kirill Gundyaev, the First Hierarch of the MP, is of the opinion that ethnic and religious tensions are the main causes of the conflict in Syria. His Holiness said that the MP is ready to render humanitarian aid to Syrian Christians who’ve lost their homes or suffered in some other way from Islamist actions.

10 January 2013

Konstantin Garibov

Aleksei Lyakhov

Voice of Russia World Service



NY State Passes Toughest American Gun Control Law

01 gun nut cartoon


 On Tuesday, the New York State Assembly passed the nation’s strictest gun control law in a lopsided vote, making New York State the first state to enact sweeping gun reform since the Newtown CT elementary school shooting massacre last month. Governor Andrew Cuomo told reporters after the New York State Senate passed the legislation Monday night, “It’s comprehensive. It’s sound. It addresses the multifaceted problem that we’re dealing with”. He unveiled the proposal earlier on Monday, after weeks of working behind the scenes to iron out the details, saying, “It protects, I believe, hunters and sportsmen. We’re not looking to demonise gun owners. Gun owners have done nothing wrong”.

The new law, known as the NY Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement (SAFE) Act, includes a ban on ammunition magazines that hold more than seven rounds, a ban on certain semi-automatic rifles and pistols, and a mandatory background check for all gun sales, including private sales. It provides for real-time tracking of ammunition sales and allows alerts on high volume buyers. It also requires therapists and other mental health professionals to notify state officials when they believe a patient represents a credible threat to harm themselves or others. In such cases law enforcement officers could confiscate any guns owned by the patient. Governor Cuomo noted, “People who have mental health issues shouldn’t have guns. They could hurt themselves; they could hurt other people”.

Not everyone was in favour of the increased gun control measure, or felt it would make New Yorkers any safer. State Assemblyman James Tedisco (RGlenville), who voted against the legislation argued, “In New York State last year there were 769 murders and homicides. Those committed by the guns you want to ban today, these assault weapons, these killers of people, could have been up to five. And you think you’re going to solve the problem?” The law goes into effect immediately, something Cuomo said was necessary to prevent swarms of people from rushing out to purchase large numbers of weapons before the ban went into effect. US President Barack Obama is expected to announce a national ban on assault weapons and other measures to increase gun control nationwide on Wednesday.

16 November 2013 (MSK)




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