In the 21st century, the need for a conflict-free society, strengthening of cooperation between people and peaceful coexistence of the adherents of different cultures and religions is high on the agenda. The Russian Orthodox Church is striving for inter-religious harmony and understanding.
One of the most important clerical documents of the present time, “Basis of Social Concept of the Russian Orthodox Church,” says, “The ministry of the salvation of man and the world cannot be limited by national or religious limits, as clearly says the Lord Himself in the parable of the Good Samaritan. Moreover, members of the Church get close to Jesus Christ, who suffered all the sins and suffering of the world, welcoming each one of us – the hungry, homeless, sick or prisoner. Help for those who suffer is a true help to Christ and the execution of this commandment determines the eternal destiny of every human being.” (Matthew. 25.31-46) (p. I, 2)
In his report to the Bishops Council as of Feb. 2, 2011, His Holiness Cyril, Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia said, “Many of the challenges of our time related to the processes of globalisation, the rise of extremism and terrorism and environment require a joint response of people, which can be found through inter-religious dialogue. Our Church is actively involved in it.”
According to His Holiness, the basis of inter-religious dialogue should be not a “mixture of religions,” not a questionable theological compromise, not a syncretic ritual, but a respect for the integrity of beliefs, traditions, history and lifestyle of each other.
The Russian Orthodox Church clearly understands and sees that believers of different traditional religions can stand together against social evils, immorality and injustice. People of different religions and nationalities are called together to overcome national and social conflicts.
The Ruling Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church of 2011, “On the Issues of Inner Life and External Activities of the Russian Orthodox Church,” says, “An important aspect of the Christian appeal to the world is inter-religious dialogue. Participation of our Church in the dialogue is based on the idea of Orthodox reality, excluding mixture or artificial combination of various religious traditions. The aim of this dialogue is to search for an answer to common challenges, ensuring peace and cooperation of people with different religious views, ethnicities and cultures, a joint opposition to extremism and terrorism, as well as attempts to supersede religious outlook on social life.”
Moral concepts of traditional religions have a lot in common, which allow religious leaders to jointly face the challenges of immorality, aggressive atheism and ethnic, political and social strife. We may see that the religious leaders of the conflicting countries can find a compromise more easily than politicians. In discussions with the government, participants of interreligious dialogue repeatedly condemn terrorism, express their support for the traditional family, advocate the return of morality in society, criticise the vicious policy of some of the media representatives and defend the interests of the religious communities.
We are glad that Kazakhstan regularly becomes a centre of the world inter-religious dialogue. Leaders and representatives of completely different traditional religious views have a unique opportunity to meet and exchange experiences on the hospitable Kazakh land. I am sure that future meetings of respected religious leaders within the Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions will also serve for the common good, promoting harmony and peace in the world.
The author is Deacon of the Russian Orthodox Church of St. Nicholas of Myra on Three Mountains, Moscow, Russia.