Source: Asia News
by Nina Achmatova
The idea is to amend the Charter to enter Christianity as “the foundation of national identity and cultural heritage of Russia.” The Patriarchate supports the initiative , but calls will be addressed in a public debate . Defending human rights warns it is likely to raise a “civil war” in the minds of people.
Moscow (AsiaNews) – The proposal of some lawmakers to amend the Constitution to insert, in its preamble, the exclusive role of the Orthodox Church in Russia has generated heated debate in a multi-religious country where issues related to the coexistence of different ethnic groups and religions are increasingly sensitive. The idea belongs to the deputy of the opposition party A Just Russia , Elena Mizulina , known for her conservative positions . At a recent meeting of the parliamentary group for Christian values , she stressed the need to recognize in the Constitution that “Orthodox Christianity is the foundation of national identity and cultural heritage of Russia.”
The proposal has found support from other colleagues in the parliamentary group, mostly of the ruling party United Russia and the Communist party . And also the support of the Patriarchate, which has, however, requested that the theme be opened to a broader public debate. “These initiatives can and should be openly and publicaly discussed “, Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin , head of the Synodal Department for Relations between Church and society told Interfax news agency. “We need to know how our people really feel about them, not just how narrow expert or political groups feel about them,” he added, already envisaging a strong opposition to the proposed amendment. “Our country would not have become Russia without Orthodox faith, and it has no future without Orthodox faith,” said Chapli , saying he was convinced that “an atheist, pagan, non-Orthodox Russia cannot be called Russia ” .
Russian human rights commissioner Vladimir Lukin, is totally opposed to the initiative and has highlighted the risks of such a proposal . “The issue is very serious – he said – People behave irresponsibly. Don’t these people understand that they provoke a civil war in the minds? And you know well what a civil war in the minds can lead to”. The head of the Duma committee for public associations and religious organizations , Yaroslav Nilov, is of the same opinion . He says “We are a secular state and the secular approach should be preserved in any case.” ” Such an amendment – he warned – can destabilize the situation and cause certain provocations, bearing in mind that the religious issue is extremely emotionalized and politicized now.” Nilov has not denied the “special role” of Orthodoxy in the history of the country, but pointed out that this is already recognized in some national laws , such as the ones on religious freedom . “We should be aware of the fact that we are a secular state in which many religions and ethnicities are represented and we can assume a possible reaction from regions, which have the same rights as other regions,” he warned.
The Constitution describes Russia as a secular state and protects the freedom of conscience. Four religions (Christianity, Islam , Judaism and Buddhism) are considered “traditional” , although this is not a legal recognition. According to a survey conducted by the independent Levada Center in late October , more than 70 % of Russian citizens consider themselves orthodox 44% of respondents believe Orthodox Christianity the official religion of the country and 56 % agree with the fact that the Church has played a key role in Russian history.