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Russia Buries Murdered Priest, As Attention Focuses On Fragile Religious Ties

Patriarch Kirill blesses the body of slain priest Daniil Sysoyev.
Patriarch Kirill blesses the body of slain priest Daniil Sysoyev.
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(RFE/RL) -- Thousands of mourners gathered at a suburban Moscow church today for funeral services for a Russian Orthodox priest shot dead by a masked gunman last week.

Investigators said Daniil Sysoyev had received death threats for converting Muslims and criticizing Islam. His death is drawing attention to tense relations between the Russian Orthodox Church and other faiths in a country with Europe's largest Muslim population.

The Russian Orthodox Church leader, Patriarch Kirill, who took part in today's services, praised Sysoyev for having done much to "defend the word of God."

Daniil Sysoyev
"If a person is killed for spreading God's truth, that means the truth is affecting people who don’t accept it, and that it contains great force," Kirill said.

Investigators said Sysoyev was shot in the head and neck after the gunman entered his small wooden church in southern Moscow on November 19 and asked his name. The priest died on the way to the hospital. The church's choirmaster was injured in the attack.

Vladimir Markin, spokesman for the Prosecutor-General's Investigative Committee, said Sysoyev was probably killed because of "religious hatred."

"During the preliminary investigation, witnesses testified he had long received threats for his religious activity," Markin said. "Criminal investigators are now examining the hard drives of the priest's computers."

In addition to Muslims, Sysoyev worked to convert Jehovah's Witnesses and members of other small groups the Orthodox Church criticizes as "totalitarian sects." In a videotaped lecture posted on YouTube, the bearded 35-year-old preached that Islam is not a religion "according to our traditional understanding."

Sysoyev's widow, Yulia, at his funeral
"That's very important to remember, because our conversations are often like those between two deaf people. They talk about one thing and we another, and we can’t understand each other because we attach different meanings to the same words," he says in the video.

The Russian Orthodox Church has seen a massive revival in the two decades since the end of its suppression under communism. Patriarch Kirill, who took his post earlier this year and is often seen in public with Russia's leaders, has overseen a growing political role for what many believe to be Russia's official state church in all but name.

But human rights activists criticize the church for marginalizing other religions and violating the official separation between church and state. The church has railed against foreign missionaries and campaigned against reconciling with the Catholic Church.

That's helped cause tensions with Russia's Muslim population, which largely lives in the volatile southern Caucasus regions and Siberia.

Before becoming patriarch, Kirill criticized the idea of "human rights" as "a cover for lies and insults to religious and ethnic values."
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by: Sergey from: Chicago, Illinois, USA
November 23, 2009 16:35
Instead of writing yet another politically correct article that tries implicitly to put some blame for the death of the Russian Orthodox priest on Russian Orthodox Church (and perhaps, even the victim itself), it is time to take a hard look on Islam. If it were Islamists that shot to death the priest, it is time to acknowledge that too much terror and violence in the world is committed in the name of Islam. Fort Hood shooting by of US soldiers by US Army Muslim major and numerous other crimes committed by Islamic extremists since 9-11 requires every responsible government to reevaluate its attitude toward Islam as just another religion. If Islam defenders are going to claim that every religion may inspire both violence and good deeds, than tell me why I don't see Catholic, Orthodox Christian or Buddhists suicide bombers. Don't tell me about Crusades, Witch Hunts or Inquisition--Christianity got over it centuries ago.

The point is that it must be up to Islam to reform itself and reject its violent, totalitarian and jihadist aspects. Until that happens, Islam should be treated not as religion, but as dangerous imperialist and totalitarian politico-religious systems with all the necessary security arrangements to handle the threat. Regret if I offend anyone, but safety and security of people should come first and foremost--not political or religious sensibilities.

by: Hamik C Gregory from: Reno,Nevada USA
November 23, 2009 20:30
Converting by proselytizing or saying mean things about someone’s religion is not exactly a compassionate Christian behavior knowing that each person in the future will be judged by the Devine according to his personal faith and according to his or her Book.
Live and let live is a Judaic principle that all of us Christians should internalize and practice. It will make our world a better place to live!


by: Political Dissident
November 23, 2009 21:26
474319As someone communicated to me:

This priest was doing very dangerous work by reaching out to "guest workers" that are often out in the streets these days and a breeding ground for crime. His main effort was to explain that Islam should not be a reason to indiscriminately commit crimes against the "unfaithful", and showed comparisons between the stated teachings of Christianity and Islam in the Bible and Koran. This resulted in at least 80 conversions of Muslims into Orthodox Christianity. But only one agreed to discuss this openly, since to covert from Islam is death, as is widely known. BTW, the priest, himself, was an ethnic Tartar, coming from an Islamic background.


****

I gather that many in the ROC are sensitive to the idea of seeking to bring in people of other faiths. A good portion of the OC at large have a historical experience of having been coerced if not suppressed (in some instances) into some other faiths.

As a comparative point, when was the last time that RFE/RL had a critical piece dealing with the Vatican or Vatican affiliated people?

by: Abdul Majid
November 24, 2009 16:37
Sergey the declared enemy of all Muslims is at it again. OK, he does concede that Islam must reform from within and that reform can only be the expressed will of the people. Yes, that's right but it does not seem to me that he believes it, rather he thinks all Muslims are backwards barbarians who must be subdued, and of couerse, safety and security of Muslim people such as the Bosniaks, that is, freedom from persecution and genocide by Orthodox Christian Serbs is secondary to him. Besides that, not too many Muslims convert from Islam to Orthodoxy. So I think that, like the bombings which caused the second Chechen war this seems to me like a false-flag attack. And what sergey says about Christians not being aggressive is a LIE! True, there is no more Inquisition and witch-burning, but sergey here still talks like Cardinal Cisneros (of the Catholic King's time): "Convert or slay those who believe in the false Mahometan sect!" Sergey, if somebody deserves to be blown up, it is those of your ilk for your inflammatory rhetoric which others take as a call to murder or persecute people like myself. But your life is not worth that of one of us. Your life is not worth mine. Even if you think that all Muslims are suicide bombers, wife beaters and sell their daughters into unwanted marriage I can tell you speak for yourself: I do value my life, I love my wife and daughter and would not dream of beating or selling them, and so do most Muslims, but to you it's all the same, I am a Muslim and therefore I must be treated under security policy aspects or be put under police right. Why not just send me to Guantanamo right away? No matter that I have never done anything to anybody, the notion that I am Muslim is enough.
So the Christians gave up violence "centuries ago", right, And what was the Algerian War? What is "Operation Iraqi Freedom" ? What was Bosnia (ah, but for you Bosnia does not count, it was only Orthodox Christian Serbs defending themselves blah blah blah)? And who invented the suicide bombers? Were the first ones not the kamikaze: Some Muslim nation, the Japanese! I think most of them are Buddhists! And did not the Vietnamese use some similar tactics? Some Muslims, the Vietnamese! What do you think makes people commit suicide attacks? Is it Islam? OK, there were the Assassins in the Middle Ages, but they were only a tiny sect, their example was not widely followed, and their descendants the Ismailis are the most peaceful people on Earth. To you all that does not count. I'l tell you why there are suicide bombers: not because somebody has told them they would have 72 virgins in Paradise, but because they have nothing to lose! Live in Gaza or on the West Bank for a while. See your people being trampled, stepped on, trod upon, brought to their knees, spit in their faces for centuries! Pray that I never feel I have nothing left to to lose!
And before becoming patriarch , Kirill criticized the idea of "human rights" as "a cover for lies and insults to religious and ethnic values." So, who is inhuman here? The Orthodox priests in Bosnia blessed the killers of Muslims! So, who is inhuman here? And that priest was a renegade from Islam? then he got what was coming at him, because he wanted to coerce the people to accept the religion of their oppressors! Like in the times of Ivan IV! But who say that it wasn't all a false-flag attack? I would not put it past the Putinists to do something like that! And as for your attitude towards Muslims I can tell you, I am not like you, I don't hate all Christians, or Jews, or Serbs, or Hindus! but you, fellow, you are beyond good and evil. You ought to change your name to Baruch Goldstein. You are one hateful, vengeful, malicious, mendacious, negative, destructive individual. You think you are better than the Taliban or than Bin Laden, but you are not. I wonder what any Muslims have done you personally that you pursue them with such a pathological hate.

by: Anonymous
November 24, 2009 16:59
"Live and let live is a Judaic principle that all of us Christians should internalize and practice. "

Hamik, this is my principle too. However, what happens if there are people who don't want to live according to this principle ? Islamists are the kind of people who want to force the rest of the world to be submitted to Islam and its brutal laws. The murdered priest Daniil Sysoev was standing up to Islamists and loudly criticized violent and totalitarian aspects of Islam and he certainly deserves respect for that. There are plenty of reasons to criticize official Russian Orthodox Church, but this priest deserves respect for highlighting the brutality of many Islamic laws and practices. So I think it's important to honor him by supporting those public figures around the world who risk their necks to criticize violent aspects of Islam and its adherents.

by: Sergey from: Chicago, Illinois, USA
November 24, 2009 17:07
"As a comparative point, when was the last time that RFE/RL had a critical piece dealing with the Vatican or Vatican affiliated people?"

Good observation. I would also add the question when was the last time RFE/RL criticized Islam, Sharia Law and other Islamist practices ? When was the last time RFE/RL made connection between certain teachings of Islam and Islamic terrorism ? It seems to me RFE/RL is either afraid or reluctant of criticizing Islam and I wonder why. If any of RFE/RL staff would like to explain RFE/RL position on Islam, I would appreciate it.

Sergey

by: Abdul Majid
November 25, 2009 21:36
And because if Jesus died on the Cross to atone for the sins of all Mankind then why should one be held accountable for any wrong he has done on Judgment Day? Isn't it rather so that we can do anything we want because the price for it has already been paid? And "love thy neighbor as thou lovest thyself" Yes, the Serbs have demonstrated wonderfully how they loved their neighbors, and before that the French showed it to the Algerians, and the Spanish to the Incas! Priests have blessed the weapons and the warriors who went out to slay Bosniaks, Algerians, Incas etc! So who is waging a holy war here? "Live and let live" yes, a wonderful proposal but all Muslims ever get to hear is "You may not live among us as Muslims, you may not live as Muslims, you may not live!" And of course nobody will go out and blow himself up because he believes he will get 72 virgins in Paradise but because he feels he has nothing left to lose!

by: Political Dissident
November 25, 2009 21:38
Sergey

As has been noted elsewhere, Orthodox Christian activism doesn't include 9/11 like behavior.

Of recent note, I don't recall RFE/RL posting anything against the insensitive remarks made by a Croat Catholic official at Jasenovac. BTW, thye Vatican has yet to fully release all of its documents on its ties with the Croat Ustasha.

I don't make these points to slur any given faith. Rather, I'm highlighting the prejudice of RFE/RL.

by: ethan from: USA
November 25, 2009 21:48
Sergy,

You are 100% correct that we need to analyse Isam, and the wests attempts to militarily endorse democracy in the Middle East. You know Iraqi Christrians suffer as second class citizens under sharia norms. Our Muslim friend up there mentions Bosnia, perhaps by looking at the plight of minorities in the Isamic world today, we in the west can come to understand the Serbian position in the Balkans. Even today the Serbs are resisting western pressure to unify with Bosnian Muslims, and who can blame them. Islam itself has become the enemy of western society. The sooner America, and Russia starts working together on this issue the better for all of us. Time to put east/west follies of the cold war behind us ... and as an American I admit my country has A LOT of blame in regards to this.

by: Ethan from: USA
November 26, 2009 00:15
Amir

We in the west are sick and tired of Muslims complaining about how they are treated here, because the persecution of minorities in the Islamic world is just attrocious. Pakistan, Egypt, Saudi, Morocco everywhere Muslims rule there is religious persecution based on modern interpretations of Islamic jurisprudence. Your opinions mean less than nothing, actually. Go to the Islamic world and request that they start treating others better before you harp on us, or just get the hell out all together. We can see why Bosnian Serbs needed to seperate themselves from you to be honest.
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