The Orthodox Christian Church, which is reclaiming its traditional role in post-Soviet Russia, has just described its government’s fight against the Islamic State and other jihadi groups in Syria as a “holy war.”
According to Vsevolod Chaplin, head of the Church’s Public Affairs Department,
The fight with terrorism is a holy battle and today our country is perhaps the most active force in the world fighting it. The Russian Federation has made a responsible decision on the use of armed forces to defend the People of Syria from the sorrows caused by the arbitrariness of terrorists. Christians are suffering in the region with the kidnapping of clerics and the destruction of churches. Muslims are suffering no less.
This is not a pretext to justify intervention in Syria. For years, Russia’s Orthodox leaders have been voicing their concern for persecuted Christians. Back in February 2012, the Russian church described to Vladimir Putin the horrific treatment Christians are experiencing around the world, especially under Islam:
The head of External Church Relations, Metropolitan Illarion, said that every five minutes one Christian was dying for his or her faith in some part of the world, specifying that he was talking about such countries as Iraq, Egypt, Pakistan and India. The cleric asked Putin to make the protection of Christians one of the foreign policy directions in future.
“This is how it will be, have no doubt,” Putin answered.
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