Religion used as instrument in geopolitical games - MP

Activists of the Ukrainian feminist group Femen use a chainsaw to cut down a cross, erected to the memory of victims of the political repression in Kiev on August 17, 2012 in support of Russian punk group Pussy Riot. (AFP Photo/Genya Savilov)
Artificial incitement of religious hatred - including hatred towards he Orthodox Church - is aimed at the destabilization of the situation in Russia, states Liberal-Democratic Party (LDPR) Deputy Yaroslav Nilov.

“Religion is used in geopolitical battles, in fighting against the government and to push for certain decisions. Or, on the contrary, it is used to distract attention from some problems,” Nilov stated in an interview with RIA Novosti.

The lawmaker – who heads the State Duma Committee on Public Unity and Religious Organizations – believes that an information war plays a huge role in today’s politics when top world powers compete with each other. Opponents push buttons – such as religious, national, social issues and people’s dissatisfaction with the government – to rock the boat in Russia, Nilov stated.

“No matter what one thinks about the president, the government, deputies, ministers or the Church’s leadership, sacred things must not be touched: crosses mustn’t be cut, icons mustn’t be desecrated, [Nazi swastika] mustn’t be painted on a synagogue’s walls,” the MP stressed.

A similar stance was voiced earlier by the head of the Russian Church, Patriarch Kirill, who believes that the recent aggression against the Church was “certainly not accidental.” It was masterminded by those who oppose its post-Soviet revival and aimed at undermining Russians’ moral grounds.

Vandalism against sacred sites has lately been on the rise in Russia. It specifically intensified following the trial of infamous punk band Pussy Riot, three members of which were convicted of “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred” after their protest action in Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral. The court’s decision to send the young women to jail prompted a massive international outcry.

The case was portrayed as a government crackdown on dissenters and freedom of speech. The Russian Orthodox Church also came under fire in the media for “an unchristian-like” reaction to the offense and not turning the other cheek.Some Orthodox clerics were also accused of enjoying luxurious lifestyles and of inappropriate statements and behavior. The Church, in response, accused the media of launching an information war against it.

According to LDPR Deputy Nilov, if everything was quiet on Russia’s “information field,” the country would possibly react in a completely different way to global events. Moscow’s foreign partners always want to have some kind of an argument to use during negotiations – such, for instance, Russia’s problems with justice, he noted.

“An information wave is raising then and no one cares that it is done artificially, that price-lists are published on the internet for chopping down a cross or desecrating an icon,” the parliamentarian noted.

In a move to tackle the problem and protect people’s religious sentiment, Russian MPs have come up with a bill that introduces criminal liability for desecration. The initiative was supported by 80 per cent of the population and all the Russian traditional religious confessions, Nilov observed. Today’s fine of up to 1000 rubles (about US$31) for such offences “is ridiculous” and will not stop anyone from new “performances,” he stressed.