23 November 2010, 10:17
Moscow rejects U.S. allegations about religious inequality
Moscow, November 23, Interfax - Russia's Foreign Ministry rejected allegations by the U.S. State Department that there exists inequality between religious communities representing different faiths in Russia.
The State Department made its allegations in the 2010 Report on International Religious Freedom.
"The authors of the State Department report were unable to ignore positive trends in our country relating to religious freedoms," the ministry spokesman said in a statement.
However, "the American experts tried to dilute this impression by listing hackneyed complaints about the 'persecution' of totalitarian religious sects and the allegedly privileged status of the Russian Orthodox Church," he said.
If the Orthodox Church enjoys a privileged status in Russia, "one should speak about the same status of the Catholic Church in Italy or Poland, the Muslim [community] in Turkey or Jordan, or the Buddhist [community] in India or Japan," the spokesman said.
"The crux of the matter is apparently not privileges but social status. Such status above all depends on what proportion of the population wants to join a specific church. The Orthodox Church in Russia has traditionally commanded the largest flock, and the State Department report mentions it, by the way," he said.
"The Muslim denomination is second in our country in terms of the number of believers, etc.," the spokesman said.
"Consequently, different denominations and religions may have different representation in civil society institutions. But that is a human factor," he said.
"Legally, the various denominations are equal in status in our country. The growth of the number of registered religious communities, of which there already are 23,500 in Russia, is evidence of this," the spokesman said.
"Interdenominational peace and harmony is an invaluable asset of Russia, something that we treat very carefully, making all necessary efforts to preserve it," he said.