World Religious Summit in Moscow

Promoting Religious Dialogue

More than 150 representatives of Christianity, Judaism, Islam and Buddhism took part in a three-day World Religious Summit in Moscow. The world's religious leaders exchanged views about the role of religions in dealing with conflicts. By Hermann Krause

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexy II (photo: AP)
The World Religious Summit, organized by the Russian Orthodox Church, brought together representatives of 49 countries with the aim of promoting religious dialogue

​​The world religious summit was definitely one of the biggest events of its kind that ever took place in Moscow. The unique meeting was initiated by the Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexi the Second.

Its main objective was however not really religious in nature, but rather political. The world's religious leaders worked out ideas about how their congregations can contribute to finding solutions to global political problems on the agenda of the G 8 summit in Saint Petersburg.

Denouncing attempts to justify extremism by religion

Metropolitan Kyrill is in charge of the Patriarchate's foreign policy. He explained that terrorism and extremism, xenophobia and tolerance had been the main topics in Moscow:

"What should the churches do in order to help defuse tensions? All religions have a common basis. That's why our message should be based on a moral and ethical approach. Even if we address political problems, we should stay away from political declarations."

It's not always easy to draw a clear line between politics and religion. And one cannot overlook the fact that the world religious summit in Moscow did have a political function after all: Before the start of the G8 summit in Saint Petersburg, it was to demonstrate to the world that the Russian President does attach great importance to the dialogue between the world's different religions.

Where as in the old days of the former Soviet Union, people were persecuted for their religious beliefs – things have now radically changed, and the new role of religion in Russia is to help establish peace and to contribute to the wellbeing of Russian society.

Building bridges between different religions

The world religious summit in Moscow was officially organised by an interreligious council consisting of representatives of various religions – among them Aser Allijew, one of the leading representatives of Islam in Russia.

"In Islam, there are clear rules governing the relations with other cultures," Allijew says. "For example, there is a rule spelling out how a Muslim should behave in a Christian or Buddhist monastery. And one of the main tasks concerning the education of young Muslims is to build bridges between different religions."

So far, Chechen rebels who justified some of their terrorist activities with the Koran, have not been able to convince Russian Muslims of their views. Approximately twenty million Muslims live in Russia. So it is not surprising that the Russian government tries to improve relations between Christians and Muslims, as well as between Russia and neighbouring Islamic states.

Definitely not on the agenda in Moscow were relations between various Christian denominations, in particular those between the Russian Orthodox and the Catholic Church which have been improving lately.

Yet another religious leader who was conspicuously absent from the Moscow summit was the Dalai Lama. The organisers of the summit were concerned that the Russian foreign ministry would refuse to issue a visa to the Dalai Lama out of consideration for China.

Hermann Krause

© 2006

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