Asia and Eurasia
Religious Polyphony in the World

Russian model of fraternal coexistence between Orthodox Christians and Muslims has proved to be more successful, and this certainly has its basis in the spiritual and geographical closeness of Orthodox Christians and Muslims, in the entire area where our two civilizations touch. Such a symbiosis in Russia guarantees success both domestically and internationally, especially in the light of the current special military operation, writes Aleksandar Raković, Chief Researcher at the Institute of Contemporary History of Serbia in Belgrade.

On November 24, 2022 in Kazan, we had a fruitful interfaith dialogue at the session “Religious Polyphony and Political Stability”, within the Valdai Discussion Club conference titled “Religious Polyphony and National Unity”. 

At the session “Religious Polyphony and Political Stability” it was stressed that there is a huge potential for religious diversity to give society more political stability. Thus, religion must be very important in strengthening the sovereignty of the state. However, it should be an interaction in both directions: from the state towards churches and religious communities and from churches and religious communities towards the state. 

In democratic societies, state laws provide for freedom of religion. Freedom of belief means that human beings are free. Free people, who are devoted to their religious believes — should react towards the state with an expression of loyalty to the statehood. This is the only positive way. So, churches and religious communities should not be built as states within a state or behave without any responsibility towards the state. 

In the case of the Russian Federation, it is very important to underline that there is a strong relationship between the state and traditional churches and religious communities. It is so strong, that is truly correct to speak about Russian Orthodox Christianity and equally legitimate to speak about Russian Islam, Russian Buddhism, etc. 

It is now widely accepted in Russia to consider traditional churches and religious communities “ours”. They are not “foreign cultures” or “alien cultures”. They are “respected cultures” and “different cultures” that should be incorporated and considered part of the united Russian culture. Such integration is an example of successful religious polyphony, of the way towards political stability, which strengths the Russian state.
Another conclusion at the session “Religious Polyphony and Political Stability” is that it is completely unacceptable to consider Islam as extremist religion, despite the extent of this sentiment among Western societies. Such stigmatization is just a political tool. 

In the late 20th century, new Western conquests started with “Serbophobia”, then at the beginning of 21st century continued with “Islamophobia” and nowadays it is “Russophobia”. Stigmatization is always used for political, economic and military conquests.

In this regard, the positive aspects of the relationship between Orthodox Christians and Muslims should be especially emphasized because it is the basis for the defence of both of them from the imperialism of Western civilization.
Nowadays, many consider Western civilization post-Christian.

Of course, it should be kept in mind that the historical difference between Western civilization and Orthodox Christian civilization is foggy in many aspects. The peoples of Western Europe (or of Western European descent) and Orthodox Christian Europe often share the same or very similar genetics, and their cultures overlap to a great extent. However, this is where the danger of easy conversion lies. It is a fantasy that Orthodox Christians will not lose anything of their identity by entering Western civilization or by merging with it into a greater European civilization.

Professor of the University of Athens Fr. Georgios Metallinos said in February 1995 at the Theological Conference in Pirgos: “Western individualism (individual domination at the expense of others) is completely different from that of the East, which has a socio-communal character... Western man lives within an environment which motivates him to sacrifice others for his own benefit, not to sacrifice himself for others”. Thus, Westerners sacrifice others for themselves, while Orthodox Christians sacrifice themselves for others.
Asia and Eurasia
Symphony of Harmony and Peace by All Religions in Valdai
Nourhan ElSheikh
Faith is power, and it is necessary to use this force for good. The politicization of religion is very destructive. Our will to move together toward prosperity and development can bring about peace, stability and national unity, writes Nourhan ElSheikh, Professor of Political Science at Cairo University. The article follows up on the Valdai Club’s conference Religious Polyphony and National Unity.

In terms of how they regard self-sacrifice for others, Muslims closely resemble Orthodox Christians. Therefore, it should not be surprising that the Orthodox Christian Archbishop of Albania Anastasios Yannoulatos wrote: “Of all living religions, Islam is closest to Eastern Christianity both in spiritual and geographic terms. For all our profound theological differences and dramatic clashes in the past, we stand largely on common cultural and religious ground; a more thorough understanding of the spiritual wealth of our respective worlds is our mutual duty — and one full of promise”

The Greek experience of coexistence with Roman Catholics (Westerners) and Muslims is very important. Namely, at the time of the Great Schism and division into the Western Church and the Eastern Church (1054), Sicily and southern Italy remained within the Eastern Church. By the end of the 11th century, Byzantine spiritual identity was dominant among Christians in Sicily and southern Italy, despite Arab rule. However, when the Normans took control of this area at the end of the 11th century, the Catholicization and Latinization of both the Orthodox Christians and the Muslim population began. In the following centuries, Orthodox Christianity and the Greek language were totally wiped out from Sicily and southern Italy through identity conversion.

Unlike the assimilation of Orthodox Christian Greeks in Italy, during which none retained their identity, after five centuries of Turkish rule over the Greeks, almost one and a half million Greeks from Asia Minor were exchanged and transferred to Greece in 1923 — after Greece lost the Asia Minor War (1919–1922). This was an explicit testimony that it was easier to preserve Orthodox Christian identity under Muslims. The Greeks from Asia Minor survived for centuries and continued life in Greece. But they continued, because they had the right to keep their religion under the Muslim rulers. Greeks from Sicily and southern Italy did not survive in their identity because they were not allowed to keep their faith. The Russians, like the Greeks, are a European people whose geographic expanse occupies the Eurasian space.
At the same time, the modern Russian example shows that the relations between Orthodox Christians and Muslims are even deeper and that their cooperation can be raised to much higher levels.

Namely, there is Serbian Orthodoxy and Greek Orthodoxy, but there is no “Serbian Islam” and “Greek Islam”. In Russia, however, in addition to Russian Orthodoxy, there is — as has already been explained — Russian Islam.

Therefore, the Russian model of fraternal coexistence between Orthodox Christians and Muslims has proved to be more successful, and this certainly has its basis in the spiritual and geographical closeness of Orthodox Christians and Muslims, in the entire area where our two civilizations touch. Such a symbiosis in Russia guarantees success both domestically and internationally, especially in the light of the current special military operation.

Speaking from the Serbian point of view, I believe that Russians no longer have any illusion that a unified Europe can be created from Iceland to Kamchatka. That certainly wonʼt happen. The post-Christian West sees neither cooperation nor brotherhood with Orthodox Christians or Muslims.
Asia and Eurasia
Religious Polyphony and Political Stability
Muhammad Athar Javed
The religious diversity significant influences social constructs, politics, and hence global societies face challenges of cohesiveness and legislation to contain any type of social conflict. A general assessment refers to almost 84% of the world population is associated with their respective religious groups.
Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.