29 October 2008, 17:30
A Russian priest visits Saudi Arabia for the first time
Jeddah, October 29, Interfax - Deputy Head of the Moscow Patriarchate Department for External Church Relations Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin became the first priest of the Russian Orthodox Church in history to visit Saudi Arabia.
He attended the fourth forum of the Russia-Islamic World strategic vision group held in Jeddah, October 27-29.
"Russia and the Islamic world have a lot in common. We are intermingled: Russia is inseparable from the Islamic world, as many millions of Moslems live there, and the Islamic world is inseparable from the Russian and Orthodox world which members live in so many Moslem countries," the priest said addressing the forum.
According to him, the most important thing is that "we share a lot in common in our views on the family and society, as well as the place of religion and good morals in their lives."
Fr. Vsevolod noted that the Russian model of inter-religious relations involved respect to the traditions of different religions, their intrinsic way of life, and social norms related to them.
"Today, this model is in demand in the world which increasingly understands that it is necessary to respect different civilizations with their religious or secular roots, their laws, rules, social models and political systems," the priest said.
Fr. Vsevolod called for mutual support of inter-religious peacemaking initiatives, in particular, the Russian proposal to organize a consultative interreligious council under the auspices of UN, and the initiative of Saudi Arabia's King to develop the interreligious dialogue, as well as measures to prevent hurting believers' feelings proposed by the Organization of the Islamic Conference.
According to Fr. Vsevolod, Russia and the Islamic world as well share common challenges. This is, in particular, an attempt to use religious feelings to unleash national and political extremism and radicalism, to justify terror, and reach vile mundane goals.
The other strong challenge is an attempt to induce believers, including by means of some models of "interreligious dialogue", to refuse their identity and traditions, introduce liberal reforms into their beliefs, "privatize" religion and recognize the monopoly of secular values in the social sphere, Fr. Vsevolod said.
"Recently, both Orthodox and Moslems, are being taught and tutored too often: abandon your "superstitions", recognize the supremacy of the secular right and secular values, and you will be a promoted student of the Western society," Fr. Vsevolod said.
Today, however, he said "consistent believers understand more and more that their world outlook, way of life, laws and rules, and the model of society have no less right in the context of the world structure than the Western social and worldly model."
"If we together are able to stand up for such position, we will be much stronger," Fr. Vsevolod is convinced.