Russian-Orthodox Bishop Metropolit Hilarion recently stated a strikingly valid point, as cited by “Observatory of Intolerance Against Christians”: “We often hear about anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, and very little is said about Christianophobia, which is gaining strength in many European countries.”
The growing tendency to persecute Christians in the West worries many. In an interview after the 2016 meetings between the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill and Pope Francis in Cuba, the patriarch stated: “I strongly believe that we should work together in order to save our society from de-Christianization – because, facing increasing atheistic pressure, which has become quite aggressive in some countries, Christians are being squeezed out of public life. In a sense, we may say that Christians are uncomfortable in many developed countries today. Christians are under pressure. All this indicates that we are dealing with a dangerous, critical situation, with regard to Christian reality and Christian presence.”
Many would be amazed, reading these words. It is indeed, to a Westerner, surprising to see that a country such as Russia, which before used to be an atheist state, now is leading the fight for the Christian faith internationally. It illustrates quite well that some of the information given to the public through the mainstream media is not exactly balanced. We hardly ever hear about Russia’s defense of Christianity. In fact, it is hard to find any positive comments about this large nation at all. Yet, it is noticeable that six companies now own over 90 percent of the American media, according to Business Insider. It is, so to speak, in the hands of the few to paint foreign countries as either good or bad.
The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Reports have commented on recent attacks on Christian communities in Europe and have highlighted the necessity to address the problem of intolerance against Christians with a specific focus on hate crimes. According to the International Society for Human Rights, 80 percent of all acts of religious discrimination in the world today are directed at Christians. The Pew Forum states that between 2006 and 2010, Christians faced some form of discrimination in 139 nations, which is almost three-quarters of all the countries on earth – constituting an unreported catastrophe of our time.
Furthermore, 100 years ago, 80 percent of the world’s Christians lived in the West, while today the number has dropped to around 40 percent, according to Freedom Outpost.
Patriarch Kirill is among those who seem deeply worried about the growing Christophobia in Europe. He repeatedly highlights that the rise of euthanasia and self-killing, the cult of sensual pleasures, the rise of non-Christian values and the development of a sense of permissiveness make up a serious step away from the original values of Europe, according to Pravmir.
The speech of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, held at the 28th session of the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, 2015, stands out as a relevant illustration. Lavrov is among the non-Western leaders who voices, on a regular basis, concern about the aggressive secularism in the West and the persecution of Christians, as morality and traditional national, cultural and religious identity is eroding in Europe. At the Council, he noted: “Christianity is the world’s largest religion in terms of both the number of its supporters and its worldwide presence. After all, every country has at least one Christian community. … I also have to mention the problems experienced by Christians in a number of Western European states, where for some reason it has become politically incorrect to identify oneself as a Christian, and where people are even starting to become uncomfortable with Christian values that form the foundation of the European civilization.”
History may explain part of the reason for this new Russian approach. After the fall of the Soviet Union, most Russians were weary of the anti-traditionalist, atheist, Communist society they felt had limited them for so long. Many welcomed the new freedoms of religion, and today around 70 percent of the Russian people are Christians. This implies massive movements within society to return to the old, cultural greatness of the Russian state.
How strange it is to see a Russian speak like this, while our own progressive political leaders steadily make the point of omitting references to our religious heritage when they speak. The world is truly changing when one has to look to Russia to find support for Christianity in the West.