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Russian Muslim Leaders Condemn Priest's Killing

Orthodox priest and missionary Daniil Sysoyev

Orthodox priest and missionary Daniil Sysoyev

MOSCOW -- A spokesman for the Spiritual Directorate of Muslims in Russia's European Territories has condemned the killing of Orthodox Priest Daniil Sysoyev in Moscow, RFE/RL's Russian Service reports.

Speaking to journalists in Moscow, Damir Gizatullin said that "a genuine believer of whatever confession could not commit such a horrendous crime."

Sysoyev was shot dead on November 19 by a masked individual in Moscow's St. Thomas Church.

Investigators say Sysoyev's death could be connected to his missionary activities.

Sysoyev actively propagated Orthodox Christianity among ethnic Tatars and other Muslim minorities in Russia.

One of his websites, "Orthodox Tatars," was devoted to propagating Orthodox Christianity among Tatars.

Some of his colleagues acknowledge that Sysoyev actively worked to convert Muslims to Orthodoxy.

Father Ioann, who worked with Sysoyev at his church, told RFE/RL that Sysoyev was working with Muslims and non-Orthodox Christians, "trying to bring them to Orthodox Christianity," and that he was not the only priest at the church doing such work.

A catechist at the church who identified herself only as Tatyana told RFE/RL that Sysoyev had converted many Muslims and baptized them in the church.

"He baptized Wahhabis. Some people suspect that maybe this [killing] was revenge for that, but no one knows yet. We won't talk about that," she said.

She said Sysoyev had received numerous e-mail threats and that he had reported the threats to the police.

Father Ioann also cautioned against jumping to the conclusion that the shooting was connected with Sysoyev's conversion of Muslims.

"We don't have the right to put forward any versions right now because we do not know who did this," he said.

Sysoyev himself came from a family of Christianized Tatars, and recently published a book titled "Marriage To A Muslim," in which he argued that Orthodox women should not marry Muslims.