Zelensky's War Against Christianity - Spokesman of Russian Church in Wide-Ranging Interview (Legoyda)

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Persecution of Christians in Ukraine resembles what the Bolsheviks did 100 years ago, the role of military priests, how to reach young people in Russia.

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(Link to Russian original)

It is painful to look at what is happening now to the Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine: the Ukraine parliament is going to ban the Russian Orthodox Church (80% of Ukraine's believers) and all those associated with us, searches have been conducted in the Kiev Pechersk Lavra, the main monastery in Kiev, in monasteries - male and female.

Why is Zelensky at war with Orthodoxy?, How can a soldier remain a human being at the front? and should we condemn Russian men who fled mobilization?

We talked about this on the air of Radio "Komsomolskaya Pravda" with Vladimir Legoyda, spokesman for the Russian Orthodox Church.

The following are excerpts from the interview. Here is the full interview (in Russian)


- Mr. Legoyda, is this a new round of religious warfare?

- I would not use the term "religious war." Rather, the Ukrainian government is playing the religious card. For quite a long time now, but very actively. Since the time of former President Poroshenko, in a super-active phase.

- In other words, religion returns to the center of social and political life.

- Ukraine is a classic example when politicians use faith as an argument to maintain their power. Remember Poroshenko's "Tomos Tour." He tried to get reelected on the wave of creating a national church, in reality greatly aggravating the already dire religious situation in Ukraine.

-  Some time ago the Ukrainian government shifted the pressure on the canonical Ukrainian Church to the local level. At the state level, a pause was taken. Seizures of churches, raids on priests took place locally. It seems that recent searches by the SBU in Kyiv Cave Monastery and other monasteries under far-fetched pretexts have returned the topic of oppression of the church to the national agenda.

- Is the goal of the Ukrainian authorities to alienate their people even more from Russia?

- Despite the tragedy that we are experiencing, of course, the Church is actually the last bridge that connects us. The Church prays not only for the establishment of a just peace, but also to preserve the unity associated with our common history, culture, and faith.

- Right now in Ukraine, the lives of thousands of people are at risk. In the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate there are 12,069 parishes. More than 12,000 people serve in them. The flock is 80% of the country's population (more than 35 million people). How will the Church react to what is happening now?

- The main reaction of the Church is prayer. We believe that God's prayers are not unanswered.

-  As for more earthly activities, of course we work through international organizations, but we have to admit that they are rather useless. And this time, I am afraid, again they will not notice the lawlessness of the Ukrainian authorities. They will pretend that it has nothing to do with the violation of human rights or with the clamping of religious freedom. But we will continue to raise these issues.


- The current persecution in Ukraine is similar to what the Church experienced 100 years ago during the formation of the Soviet Union. Can such analogies be made?

- All historical analogies are very tentative. Even if one is tempted to make them, all events are new. Times are different, people are different, society is different.

- The church was suppressed for 70 years in the Soviet Union, but it survived and thrives.

- Believers believe that the Church stands by the power of Christ, not by human efforts, prohibitions or permissions. If it were up to us, everything would have fallen apart long ago. I once asked a wonderful historian about the experience of Soviet persecution: "When was it easier for a believer?" He replied, "It was easier when it was harder." It's such a paradox - a lot of things happen under pressure, but the people who resist that pressure are what define the life of the Church.


- Church and the war. What is the church's relationship to Russia's military operation?

- What is happening now in Ukraine is a tragedy. This is said not only by representatives of the Church, but it is a general assessment, including that of our president. It should be understood that this tragedy did not begin at the beginning of the special operation. It has been going on for years. Of course, it's a most difficult situation, and we all pray that there will be a just peace. That is, that the suffering and oppression of people would cease.

- What does the Church do?

- It is a humanitarian direction. We've been helping refugees among other things. I was struck by a story told by our Bishop Panteleimon, head of the Synodal Department for Charity and Social Ministry. When he met the first refugees, there was a girl among them, they gave her presents, she took some doll, thanked her. But quietly she said: "I don't need dolls, I need friends." It seems to me that the task of the Church is to warm souls and hearts. And the Church does that.

- Including the military?

- Although many churches also collect medicines and other things, the main thing is the people who are sent to places of combat. They may lose their lives, they may take lives... My friend, the commander of the Vostok battalion, Alexander Sergeevich Khodakovsky, once told me about what can happen to a man in the trenches: not just brutalization, but dehumanization. Therefore, says Khodakovsky, a priest is very necessary. He can stop this dehumanization.


- Are there many priests on the front line?

- The status priests have in the army does not allow them to be on the front lines. We are currently resolving this issue with the Ministry of Defense, there are working options. But in fact, there are several dozen priests. Four of them were killed. Everyone remembers, for example, Father Michael Vasilyev (they called him "Airborne Father," - ed.), an amazing military priest, who has been in all hot spots of the last years, he has dozens of parachute jumps ...

- Does the Church condemn those who fled mobilization?

- The Church always separates the person and the act. There is a fundamental Church attitude toward the sinner and toward sin. Sin (and cowardice, cowardice is sin) must always be called sin. But the sinner is a person who must be given a chance "while the earth is still turning," as Okudzhava sang. If we don't give him a chance, then why repent?

-  It is clear that the image of the traitor entered the culture through Judas, but Christ and the other apostles also betrayed. Peter denied three times, showing a little cowardice. But he repented and was forgiven. So the Church has a lot of experience with those who run away from all kinds of mobilization - spiritual and otherwise.


- How to overcome the cultural and spiritual crisis that is now revealed?

- This crisis was not brought to light by war times. They just made it impossible to deny. I think our culture has a chance for renewal. Some things have become so unacceptable that they are already rejected by society.

- But there is also something that worries me a little bit. What happens in the traditional patriotic environment. When people start to fight with each other to see who is the greater patriot, it is very sad. I hope that we'll take the chance for some kind of cultural renewal.

- The Duma has passed a whole package of laws related to LGBT propaganda. We understand that the Church supports such measures. But what is the right way to protect traditional values?

- We know the limits of the bans. For one thing, there can be no society or culture without them. Culture begins with flags. We say, "You can't come in here. Otherwise, everything falls apart, any culture ceases to exist. On the other hand, no less important, extremely important is the affirmation of good, positive content. And here we need to move as far as possible away from any kind of formalism and correct but meaningless words.

- We need to talk about living, right things. And if we work with young people, we have to answer the questions they have directly and honestly. We have to explain why it's important.

- That's what we say. But it seems the people don't understand it.

- I teach a course in cultural studies at MGIMO, and at my first lecture I always say: "Guys, let's agree with you that the phrase "this is my opinion" that is not supported by any argument cannot be uttered in this audience. If you say you have an opinion or a point of view, it has to be followed by an argument.

- This applies to any discussion at all. We're laughing today about couch experts. But there is nothing to laugh about, we have actually destroyed the border between expert, professional opinion and some kind of position of a person who "has the right to it" without imposing it on anyone. And on the basis of what does he have this position? And is it a position?

- I recently saw the results of a survey of Moscow schoolchildren, 500 kids said that they follow 487 or so bloggers. This is a complete disintegration of the information space that we used to have until recently. You and I have to realize that everything a student is interested in, he will learn from this blogger - about the war, about Ukraine, about the Russian Orthodox Church.

- And about LGBT?

- And about LGBT.


- As a teacher, you see 150-200 new students every year. How do students change from year to year?

- Compared to guys who were 15-20 years ago, today's freshmen are more open-minded. Including to the perception of unexpected things for themselves. They have a more pronounced, so it seems to me, thirst for new knowledge. That's one of the positive things. There are things that don't change. I am associated with the teaching of cultural and religious studies. So the interest in these things does not change.

- And here's the thing that worries me. The sense of responsibility to one's country, which perhaps the generation of Soviet children to which I belong had atrophied, I would like to see more of in today's children. I don't want it to be too much, but I want it to be there.

- Is the upbringing to blame?

- When we start talking about youth, especially critically, don't we realize that this is not a sentence against them, but against us? Any criticism by a generation of fathers of a generation of children is a criticism of ourselves. Because it is you (we) who have brought it to this point. We are the ones who communicate with our children in such a way that they stop believing us. We're the ones who didn't read books with them, we're the ones who told them on the music they listen to: you listen to some crap instead of listening to it with them. You listen to it. You at least justify why that's the case.

- I've read all of "Harry Potter" several times because I realized that I at least needed to have an idea of the world in which today's youth live. It's clear that "Harry Potter" isn't enough today to speak to our youth, especially when there are a bunch of bloggers. You have to have some idea about what these bloggers are saying to communicate with the youth.

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