Moscow, May 14, Interfax - The organizers of a protest against building a church in Yekaterinburg are seeking to aggravate, not resolve, the conflict situation, the Russian Orthodox Church said.
"There exist many legal ways to express dissent, but it seems to me the attackers on the construction site were intent not on resolving the dispute but creating a conflict on religious grounds, which is especially sad on the Yekaterinburg land which not so long ago, by historical measure, witnessed mass anti-religious persecutions and the murder of Emperor Nicholas II and his young children," deputy chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate's Synodal Department for Church's Relations with Society and Mass Media Vakhtang Kipshidze said Interfax on Tuesday.
"Only people driven by anti-religious motives could organize" the protest during which the fence had been removed, he said.
Regional governor Yevgeny Kuivashev was right to have invited the supporters and opponents of the church construction for a conversation to work out a compromise, the spokesman said. "Any initiative aimed at resolving this situation in dialogue is right. We expect it to be supported by the Yekaterinburg archdiocese," Kipshidze said
The latter conducted a massive awareness campaign that left no doubt that the new church would threaten no one, embellish the city and help implement many local social initiatives for the public good, he said.
"We are all for dialogue but we believe that such dialogue should involve people who simply cannot tolerate anything that has to do with religion. Our society is based on the principle of protecting human rights, and one such human right is religious freedom. Religious freedom involves believers' right to the construction of prayer-houses," Kipshidze said, reminding that Russia recognizes this right just as other human rights-respecting countries.
Last September members of the city architectural council voted for the construction of a Cathedral of The Great Martyr Saint Catherine in the city's Oktyabrskaya Square.
Some residents opposed the project. A pressure group's application for a referendum on the issue was turned down by the city authorities.
Media reported that on May 13 a fence was built along the perimeter of the future construction site only to be smashed by a group of protestors who broke into its grounds later that night. The protest continued until this morning.