29 February 2012, 15:09
Russian Orthodox Church losing flock in Syria
Damascus, February 29, Interfax - Archimandrite Alexander (Yelisov), the Russian Orthodox Church's representative in Damascus, is concerned about the fast exodus of Russian-speaking parishioners from Syria.
"Russian citizens' position in Syria deteriorated sharply after Russia vetoed the UN Security Council resolution on Syria. The so-called liberation army and radical religious groups intimidate them, blame them for the Syrians' and their children's deaths, and want them to leave," Father Alexander said in an interview with the Interfax-Religion.
This sentiment has reached down to every-day contacts between people, he said.
"Our women are insulted out loud in some districts of Damascus. Sometimes taxi drivers deny a ride to Russian-speaking people. Even children can throw stones at people speaking the Russian language," the priest said.
Conducting church services involves risks, he said.
Father Alexander said the curtailment of the broad Russian presence is becoming a trend. "The general educational school at the Russian Embassy has been closed down and its personnel have left Syria. Women and children from the families of Russian citizens who work in Syria are leaving for home. Women and children from mixed families are leaving, too," he said.
The limits of Damascus are guarded by the military, so the situation in the city is relatively calm, which cannot be said about the suburbs, "where shots are often fired and security forces' sorties are common."
"The situation is about the same in Aleppo, Latakia and Tartus. But the border towns of Homs, Hama, Idleb and Daraa "have drowned in absolute chaos." Russian employees of the Stroyrtransgaz office have left Syria and so have other Russian-speaking citizens, he said.
The Russian Church's representative office is not guarded. A metal fence was put up around the church after repairs in 2004, "but it will be a poor shield should the crowd become aggressive or looting begin," Father Alexander said.
"Traveling has been impossible since April 2011, when the main north-bound motorways found themselves in the zone of military confrontation. I am afraid regular church services will have to be cut short in the turmoil I have described. Russian diplomats, too, insist that church services be stopped," he said.
The St. Ignatius parish in Damascus "has virtually dissolved," as most of its members were the families of Russian citizens working in Syria, as well as fully Orthodox families. They, too, have left the country. Just a dozen members have stayed, he said.
On the pastoral care for Russian servicemen in Syria, he said they and their families have always been actively involved in the church life. There was a Sunday school, mostly attended by their children. Only men have remained today and they try to attend services as often as they can, Father Alexander said.
- Yanukovich invites reps of all political forces, clergy to have dialog 12 December 2013, 10:00
- Minsk administration bans public events organized by sexual minorities 11 December 2013, 10:05
- Russia arrests presumed Hizb ut-Tahrir envoy 11 December 2013, 10:02
- Believers have right to influence public processes, state - Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin 11 December 2013, 10:00
- Russia to oppose inclusion of sections on sexual orientation in intl documents 10 December 2013, 10:02
- Amnesty could apply to Pussy Riot members - newspaper 10 December 2013, 10:01
- Elton John performs in Moscow, protests homophobia 09 December 2013, 10:01
- It is unacceptable for constitution to give preference to any one faith - Russian premier 06 December 2013, 16:09
- Deputy Milonov proposes easing receipt of Russian citizenship for "spiritually insulted" Europeans 04 December 2013, 15:49
- Moscow, Antioch Patriarchates call for release of kidnapped Syrian nuns 04 December 2013, 15:47
- Catholic priest suspected of high treason released from Belarusian KGB cell pending trial - Apostolic Nunciature 04 December 2013, 14:23
- Russia wants terror attacks stopped against religious figures, worship sites in Syria 04 December 2013, 12:16
- Lawyer: Russian priest accused of pedophilia remains in Israel 04 December 2013, 10:10
- Russians still trust president, Church the most - poll 04 December 2013, 10:09
- Conflicts on former Soviet soil should be settled peacefully - Russian Church 03 December 2013, 15:28
- Muslim organization leader appointed head of new Kazakh movement 03 December 2013, 14:39
- Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin calls for fight against destructive sects 02 December 2013, 17:43
- Reward pledged in Tatarstan for info on church arsonists 02 December 2013, 17:24
- Orthodox Christians to hold sacred procession in Kiev 02 December 2013, 13:51
- Religious organization in Taganrog illegally treated drug-dependent people 02 December 2013, 10:18
- The Bible will be translated into modern Russian language 02 December 2013, 10:17
- Head of Ukrainian Orthodox Church condemn Maidan dispersal 02 December 2013, 10:11
- FEMEN activist strips near Kiev Laura of the Caves against dictatorship 02 December 2013, 10:09
- Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin advises Orthodox countries not to adopt Western democracy models 29 November 2013, 10:05
- Minaret built in Georgian village at night 29 November 2013, 10:03
- Hizb ut-Tahrir recruiter detained in Kyrgyzstan 28 November 2013, 12:03
- Too early to discuss time, place of meeting of Patriarch Kirill, Pope Francis - Russian Church 28 November 2013, 10:13
- Patriarch Kirill expressed concerns about exodus by Christians from Iraq 27 November 2013, 14:29
- 15 At Takfir Wal-Hijra members detained in Moscow - Interior Ministry 27 November 2013, 10:24
- Putin: Russia, Vatican have similar positions on many issues 27 November 2013, 10:22