Staunton, January 18 – Islam is closer to Russian Orthodoxy than are either Catholicism or Protestantism, an expansion of Vladimir Putin’s observation about Orthodoxy and Catholicism last year and an indication that for many in Moscow, the real clash of civilizations is not between Christianity and Islam but rather between Orthodoxy and Western Christendom.
In a comment to “Russkaya narodnaya liniya” yesterday, Archpriest Igor Dronov, the secretary of the Bishkek eparchate administration of the Russian Orthodox Church, says that those who made fun of Putin’s observation are wrong, that the prime minister’s words correspond to reality, and that they can be extended to include Protestantism as well
Dronov’s observation comes in the course of his survey of Orthodox developments in Kyrgyzstan during 2010. He notes that in that country, “there still live not a few Russian people, although gradually we are being called a diaspora,” despite our “memory that Russia and Kyrgyzia were a single country, a single empire.”
Obviously, the archpriest continues, the worst development of the past year were the communal clashes in the southern Kyrgyz cities of Osh and Jalalabad, clashes that Dronov says “produced the same shocking impression on [him] that the bombing of Yugoslavia did at one time” in the past.
But the most positive development of the past year was that a conference on “Different Religious – Common Values – Joint Actions” organized by the country’s State Commission on Religious Affairs and the European Council of Religious leaders allowed Kyrgyzstan to avoid creating an inter-religious council.
It had been proposed that such a council include Orthodox, Muslims and Protestants, but Dronov insists that “the presence of the Protestants in this council would have been inappropriate bcause they advance their own goals, covering them with the authority of the religious majority of Kyrgyzstan.”
Such a conclusion may strike some in Russia as strange, Dronov says, but Orthodox Russians in Kyrgyzstan are situated in “somewhat different circumstances than Orthodox in Russia” and thus must act differently because Kyrgyzstan is 80 percent Muslim while Russia is 80 percent Orthodox.
“However strange it may seem,” Dronov continues, “Muslims are closer to the Orthodox living in Kyrgyzstan than are Christian-Protestants -- closer, of course, not in the area of faith and dogma … but in the area of practice” on such questions as HIV/AIDS and juvenile justice where Protestants promote “’Western values’” while Orthodox and Muslims share other values.
Among the Western values Protestants seek to advance is “liberalism which destroys everything, including both the family and the state.” Moreover, Dronov says, “Protestants, especially the newly formed sects is distinguished by aggressive proselytism,” something that he says creates “serious tension and dissatisfaction with Christianity in general.”
“Simple people did not very clearly distinguish the differences between denominations and dissatisfaction [with representatives of one denomination within a particular faith] sooner or later can lead to extreme and aggressive actions,” such as Muslims attacking Orthodox because they are angry at Protestants.
About two years ago, Dronov says, Muslims in one Kyrgyz town decided to attack an Orthodox church there, but “it turned out that they had come by mistake.” They were angry because one of their relatives had been recruited by the neo-Pentecostals. “This case,” Dronov argues, “is very indicative” of the problem.
And he writes: “If we were to give complete freedom to our Western ‘brothers in Christ,’ then such situations would be much more frequent. More than that, it is possible that inter-religious clashes would appear in comparison with which the inter-ethnic clashes which took place in the south of Kyrgyzstan would be child’s play.”