|Putin (LaPresse/AP Photo)|
Russian President Vladimir Putin has just eclipsed America's Marxist president on the Forbes list of The World's Most Powerful People, and how telling it is also that the world's most persecuted Christians increasingly look to the Russian leader for protection, peace and justice.
Vatican Insider reports that "defending Middle Eastern Christians has become a strategic asset for Putin and is in perfect harmony with the Patriarchate of Moscow's mission."
For a half century during Soviet-American summit meetings, American presidents raised the issue of the persecution of Christians and Jews in the Soviet Union. Can the day be far off when the persecution of believers in the United States is raised by Russian leaders?
Read more at Vatican Insider >>The Kremlin is about to consider granting citizenship to about 50 thousand Syrian Christians in the region of Qualamun after they issued a collective request to Moscow’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In statements issued in the past few days, the spokesmen for President Putin and the Ministry confirmed that the request is being examined by the highest Russian authorities. “This is the first time since Christ’s birth that we, the Christians of Saidnaya and Maara Saidnaya, Maalula and Maarun are being threatened with expulsion from our land.”The letter was full of praise for Putin’s Russia, which was described as a “powerful factor for global peace and stability”. But its remarks about western countries were less flattering: “the aim of the terrorists who are being supported by the West, is to eliminate our presence in our homeland. They use the most abhorrent methods to achieve this, murdering ordinary people for example.”The fact that the Christian cause has caught the attention of the highest levels of Russia’s government seems to imply that the Kremlin sees their case as important in terms of geopolitics. Indeed this may be the main reason Russia has been defending their cause. The Patriarchate of Moscow’s spokesman said that the letter from the 50 thousand was proof of the “great authority” Russia has at the moment in the Middle East, “particularly among the Christian minorities living in that area.” Middle Eastern Christians “have known for centuries that no other country would look after their interests in the same way Russia would,” said Archpriest Nikolaj Balashov, the number two man of the Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations. “To reaffirm the ties between Russia and the Churches in Syria, on 14 October the Moscow Spiritual Academy decided to erect a sculpture ensemble with a statue of Jesus at its centre, on a mountain in Syria which is also home to the Marian shrine of Saidnaya. Arab Christian pilgrims come to this shrine from all over the Middle East. The sculpture ensemble was intended as a symbol of peace in a country ravaged by war. This goes hand in hand with the Patriarchate of Moscow’s active efforts to champion the Middle Eastern Christian cause in the face of Islamist violence.