Voices from Russia

Thursday, 26 December 2013

Persecution of Christians: No Room at the Inn

00 The face of the Syrian opposition. 27.10.13

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Editor’s Note:

When the right thing’s said, it doesn’t matter who says it. The Guardian has this one right, and that’s that. Was Ma’loula the last straw? Assad’s no choirboy, but Foreign Minister Lavrov is right to point up that if he didn’t have wide support, he’d be dogmeat. Russia and China stood against Western intervention… and they were right. Now, even Establishment voices like The Guardian are getting hip. The West (primarily, American interventionists on both sides of the political aisle) reached its zenith in the so-called Orange Revolution, where it staged a coup against the rightfully-elected President. South Ossetia in ’08 was “a bridge too far”… and Syria merely confirmed the trend. God willing, we can muzzle the godless warmongers in the West. Reflect on this… the most godless are those who use religious rhetoric… the Evangelicals and their fellow travellers aren’t Christian, and the sooner that we realise it, the better we’re off we’ll be.

BMD

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Last week, Prince Ghazi of Jordan joined the Prince of Wales on a visit to an Egyptian Coptic parish in Stevenage and the Syriac Orthodox Cathedral in west London, where he heard from a number of Christian families who’ve had first-hand experience of the rising tide of persecution. He said, “We can’t ignore the fact that Christians in the Middle East are, increasingly, being deliberately attacked by fundamentalist Islamist militants”. Author William Dalrymple said on the BBC last week, “The Arab spring [is] rapidly turning into a Christian winter”.

Clearly, this is a sensitive subject. The perceived support that Christians allegedly gave to President Assad in Syria and to the Egyptian army in deposing President Morsi in Egypt made them increasingly the target of violence, with churches assaulted, priests abducted, individuals targeted, and homes looted. In Egypt alone, Amnesty International reported that during this past year, there have been 207 attacks on churches and 43 Orthodox churches destroyed. The situation for Christians in Syria deteriorates rapidly as foreign jihadist militants increasingly influence the Free Syrian Army. Today, many thousands of Syrian Christians flee over the border to Turkey. One man who made the journey from Syria claimed, “Where we live, 10 churches have been burned down. They started to threaten Christians in the town we live. When the local priest was executed, we decided to leave”.

All this is a part of a wider picture, which sees Christians increasingly forced out of the biblical homelands. Indeed, across a vast swath of the world between Morocco and Pakistan, the persecution of Christians continues to gather pace, often with barely an eyebrow raised in the secular West. Perhaps, this is beginning to change. Last month Baroness Warsi warned, “A mass exodus is taking place, on a biblical scale. In some places, there’s a real danger that Christianity will become extinct”. On Saturday, the Shadow Foreign SecretaryDouglas Alexander, spoke up against the “political correctness, or some sense of embarrassment at ‘doing God'” that makes this a taboo subject.

This reluctance to speak out partly comes from a peculiar sense that there’s a hierarchy of victimhood, with Christians less deserving of concern. No doubt, the historical association of Christianity with persecution of other beliefs… the Crusades, the Inquisition, and so on… is also working away somewhere in the background, as is the idea that Christianity is essentially a Western faith. This links to the worry that supporting persecuted Christians is somehow taking sides in a clash of civilisations. This thought looks especially foolish when written down, which is precisely why it’s worth stating so baldly. One does not have to “do God” to recognise that protecting the rights of religious minorities, as enshrined in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is the human rights equivalent of the canary in a coalmine. It doesn’t help that some Evangelical Christians, not least the former archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey, take every opportunity to speak of Christians persecuted for their faith in Britain. This is nonsense. Furthermore, it’s offensive nonsense, to millions of genuine victims. Douglas Alexander was right, “Across the world, there’ll be Christians this week for whom attending a church service this Christmas isn’t an act of faithful witness, but an act of life-risking bravery”.

Of course, it’s not just in the Middle East that Christians are targets. In addition, other religious groups are clearly subject to persecution. However, as billions of Christians gather for Christmas, with their attention focused on a troubled town in the West Bank… one from which Christians have also been fleeing for several years… it’s worth recalling that the message of peace and goodwill is hardly a political reality for a significant minority of the world’s Christians. This should concern religious and non-religious alike.

23 December 2013

The Guardian

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/dec/23/persecution-christians-religion-editorial

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Do Traditional Values Have a Future?

tatiana-mikhedova-my-family-from-age-to-age

My Family from Age to Age

Tatiana Mikhedova

2000s

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On 27 September 2012, the UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution submitted by Russia on “Promoting Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms through a Better Understanding of Traditional Values of Mankind: Best Practises”. More than 60 states sponsored this initiative, including, collectively, members of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and the League of Arab States. The resolution reiterates the idea that understanding of and respect for traditional values both encourage and facilitate the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

We strongly believe that all cultures and civilisations, in their traditions, religions, and beliefs, share a common set of values that belong to mankind in its entirety, and that those values have made an important contribution to the development of human rights, norms, and standards. The family, society, and educational institutions all play key roles in asserting these values. In a broader sense, traditions underpin national identity. It’s widely-recognised that manifestations and symbols of national identity unite people and underpin their sense of national pride, community, and continuity. It’d be no exaggeration to say that traditional values are the backbone of every society and define its existence. By protecting traditional values, we protect our societies from destabilisation, the erosion of fundamental moral principles, loss of national identity, and basic cultural codes. It’s clear that safeguarding human rights goes hand in hand with preserving traditional values.

The resolution that Russia initiated calls on UN member states to recognise and reaffirm the vital role of traditional values in promoting human rights. This is the third resolution in this vein adopted by the Human Rights Council since 2009. However, a few states, namely the USA and some EU members, voted against it. Their position is quite clear… they see traditional values as a way of justifying human rights abuses, particularly against those considered the most vulnerable members of society. Such arguments and unwillingness to collaborate on the draft are regrettable. Russia is open to dialogue and cooperation in this sphere, but we think that no state or group of states has the right to speak on human rights in the name of the entire international community. After all, we have universal instruments, such as the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, amongst others. However, in some regions, the concept of human rights evolved considerably beyond that common denominator. Imposing that outcome on others isn’t an option. What, then, can we do?

I’m convinced that human rights issues should draw nations together, and that the Human Rights Council should focus on finding ways to accentuate the fact that human rights don’t exist in a societal vacuum. They didn’t emerge from nowhere. If traditional values crumble, so will human rights, since that would destroy the moral fabric that holds society together. It isn’t about which come first. There’s a real need to promote the understanding that human rights and traditional values are interconnected. To this end, it’s important to take into account the cultural, civilisational, historical, and religious heritage of all communities and nations. The concept of traditional values will only benefit from absorbing elements of different cultures. This is even more important now, when this period of global economic crisis puts the very foundations of social cohesion to the test.

17 January 2013

Aleksandr Yakovenko

RIA-Novosti

http://en.rian.ru/blogs/20130117/178839002/Ambassadors_Notebook_Do_Traditional_Values_Have_a_Future.html

Editor’s Note:

Let’s keep it simple and focused. The thesis of this essay is that the USA has no right to impose its idiosyncratic notions on the rest of the world under the guise of “human rights” and “traditional values”. This is especially true considering that the USA believes that it has the “right” to “impose” such notions using military force and violence against leaders and/or countries that it doesn’t care for (in addition, “traditional values” is used by the same lot to justify brutality and discrimination against individuals and groups that they don’t like). We, as Orthodox believers, follow the moral ethos and civilisational values of the Orthosphere… not the depraved moneygrubbing “values” and the twisted “morals” of the American élite (we have nothing in common with the crackbrained “Evangelicalsectarianism that cheerleads such rubbish). Note well that some of our clergy and laity have sold out to the American apparat… these people are Sergianists of the worst possible sort. Remember the definition of a “Sergianist”:

One who sells out to the godless powers-that-be for personal power and/or personal gain.

That definition fits Paffhausen, Potapov, Alexander Webster, Lyonyo, Jillions, Dreher, Mattingly, Freddie M-G, and Reardon, amongst others (sorts such as Whiteford and Trenham are simply uninformed louts… they’re not sell-outs… neither are Lebedeff, Roman Krassovsky, Behr, and Bobby K… they’re just First Family apparatchiki). Have a care… there ARE “Chekists in riassas”… and you can find them all on the Right, sucking up to the most extreme and irrational elements in the Republican Party (for instance, Paffhausen, Dreher, Mattingly, and Webster have sold out to the K Street stink-tankers). The worm does turn, doesn’t it?

BMD 

Thursday, 16 February 2012

An Interview with Fazil Iskander: “Illusions about Democracy have vanished without a Trace”

Author Fazil Iskander (1929- ), originally from Abkhazia, now resident in Russia

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Recently, writer Fazil Iskander received two awards for his works, the literary prize “Yasnaya Polyana” in the “modern classics” category and a Russian state decoration for his cultural work. However, this patriarch of domestic and world literature, who’ll celebrate his 83rd birthday in March, isn’t resting on his laurels, but he continues to write; moreover, he still speaks quite bluntly on our Russian reality. Today, he said, “Illusions about democracy have vanished without a trace”. What should we expect from him in future? On this, and on other questions, the author of Детства Чика (Detstva Chika: A Chick’s Childhood), the epic novel Сандро из Чегема (Sandro iz Chegema: Sandro from Chegem), and the story-parable Кролики и удавы (Kroliki i Udavy: Rabbits and boas), spoke to Argumenty i Fakty.

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“’Shame’ is Obscene”

Maksim Volodin

Fazil Abdulovich, you said, “Democracy robbed us of something… the dream of democracy”. The dream of communism dissipated even earlier. What should we strive for? An allegiance to a brighter capitalist future?

Fazil Iskander

We should try to see to it that there’s no war. All sorts of people in our country dream of a peaceful future and, indeed, demand it. Today, the class struggle morphed into a struggle for money. Therefore, it’s better, but the blatant injustice towards the poor is glaring and striking. We moved from a Declaration of Human Rights to an imitation of human rights. In the end, most people hope that we can transform our country into a social system with a human face somehow. However, what would we call it? Is that important?

Maksim Volodin

They say that you’re very worried today because the freedom that Russia won in ’91, which you yourself advocated as a member of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, brought us not only the liberation of society from totalitarianism, but also a disgrace of conscience and morality…

Fazil Iskander

Yes, that’s so. Contemporary life is full of disturbing paradoxes. Today, the word “shame” is obscene, offensive, or a profanity, along with it the words “selflessness” and “conscience”. People give the “fish-eye” to anyone who speaks them. They think, “What do I expect from him?” I’ve long thought… what’s the deal? Then, I realised, the focal point of our human lives is a striving for the absolute. The quest for the absolute, our conscience, aroused the masterpieces of Russian literature. A desire for absolute freedom coupled itself with great savagery in society. However, what remains to be done? We see that the whole country acts boorishly to one another. Internally, many decent people no longer resist. One member of the intelligentsia told me recently, “I’m tired of honesty. This doesn’t mean that I’d become dishonest, but I could become indifferent…”

Maksim Volodin

Maybe, subconsciously, we want to “free” ourselves of morality? All the more, since I reached the top?

Fazil Iskander

You know, that’s a secret human wish. Our conscience prevents us from living the way we want. We try to restrain it; after all, look at what others do. Few people are satisfied with such “brakes” on our behaviour. It turns out, rather than trust our free will, we follow “the maddening crowd”…

Maksim Volodin

Doe this mean that freedom, after all, is just evil?

Fazil Iskander

If it takes off the restraints of morality and allows lawlessness… of course. A freedom that protects the natural rights of mankind is good. How do we distinguish one from the other? This is the “to be or not to be” of Russia’s future. In the USSR, it was easier to be honest; in those days, evil had clearly-defined boundaries. If someone violated them against his conscience, at least, they were aware of what they were doing. The present evil is vague and poorly-defined; therefore, it’s much worse…

Soviet power drove the people into a pit, thereby unwittingly protecting them from the abyss. Now, nothing’s withheld from us, but we balance on the edge of a moral abyss. We see noisy rallies, but people remain silent because they don’t know what to make of it all… “to be or not to be”… shame or conscience”? Is there light at the end of the tunnel? In any case, here’s some advice… “If out of pessimism, you find cynicism, turn back …” The changes in our country aren’t over yet. In the West, freedom came a century before it came to Russia. They’ve learnt to curb its excesses. As for us… no.

Maksim Volodin

Nevertheless, some say that the price paid by ordinary people for freedom is disproportionately dear.

Fazil Iskander

One can’t begin to measure the price that they paid. However, still, it was necessary to free the country. Take yourself in hand, live in the present; in any case, a man must live an honest and full life. Here we are, nothing remains, yet, we obey this law. Of course, I‘d like it if everything were easier and more sensible, who wouldn’t want that? However, we’re stuck together in the Russia “that is”.

“’Non-Russianness’ didn’t Hinder Many People in Russia”

Maksim Volodin

Vakhtang Kikabidze explained why he refused the Order of Friendship awarded on his 70th birthday, after the Russian-Georgian conflict in 2008, which raged whilst he was on tour in Russia, by saying to Argumenty i Fakty, “Georgia, my motherland, is very dear to me. In the film Мимино (Mimino), one of the characters says, ‘A man must live in his homeland’”. What’s dearer to you… Russia or Abkhazia?

Fazil Iskander

I’ve never really given a thought about it. Although I sometimes ask myself, “Why did you choose to live in Moscow and not in your native Sukhumi?” What can I say to that? I’m a Russian writer. I write in Russian, but I sing of my Abkhazia. In Moscow, I don’t feel like an outsider. In fact, I didn’t “choose” my situation. Life chose it for me, even in my youth. I studied here; then, I worked here… for a very long time. Recently, my son Aleksandr asked me, “Dad, has the fact that you’re not Russian ever hurt you?” I thought about it, and I replied, “You know, Sasha… no, never!” That’s just not me, you see, “Non-Russianness” didn’t hinder many people in Russia. Only recently has it become a problem for some. However, this problem is alien to Russia’s essence. This means that everything will return to normal.

Maksim Volodin

The Georgians say about Abkhazia, “This is our internal affair! We’ll work it out; we’re neighbours, for the Abkhazians are next-door in the Caucasus, our close relatives. Even if we don’t climb together, we’re always one in mind with each other”. What do you think of that?

Fazil Iskander

Please, God, let that be so. If both sides would have a desire to make it possible, it’d do away with blood, war, and foreign interference. Can Abkhazians and Georgians live peacefully together in future? Why not? It depends on them. However, better still, I think it’d be best that they wouldn’t be in the same state, indeed, they’d be good neighbours. You must be able to forgive offences.

Maksim Volodin

What about the blood shed on both sides in the wars? Wouldn’t you need to forgive that too?

Fazil Iskander

Well, what do you suggest? Should we take revenge against each other? Then, what? That isn’t a solution; it’s a road to nowhere. Russia managed to avoid a civil war after the breakup of the Soviet Union… that’s a sign of its strength.

Maksim Volodin

To quote you, “Wisdom means that you come to terms with life, to go forth and cooperate with it”. What do you accept and what do you reject?

Fazil Iskander

I reject evil. I understand that evil is embedded in the human soul; so, we can’t cast it out from social life, we just can’t do it. Some evil will always remain. I, as I could, fought with it, but I never won complete victory. You can only contain evil; just try to do it yourself. At all times, society must develop in the direction of not tolerating darkness and chaos. Nevertheless, man’s always an unfinished project. He always thinks that if he just has a strong enough desire, he can take on anything and change it for the better. However, this is the business of many generations. We must have patience.

Maksim Volodin

Do you follow the same philosophy in your works?

Fazil Iskander

My books are another thing altogether. It’s necessary to spare people’s feelings, but we need to think ruthlessly. To write… it’s editing life so that one could live. That’s what I’m doing.

15 February 2012

Argumenty i Fakty

Quoted in Люди Peoples.ru (Lyudi Peoples.ru)

http://www.peoples.ru/art/literature/poetry/contemporary/iskander/interview2.html

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