The meeting was attended by Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, Head of the Buddhist Traditional Sangha of Russia Pandito Khambo Lama Damba Ayusheev, Chairman of the North Caucasus Muslim Coordinating Centre Ismail Berdiyev, Archbishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Russia Dietrich Brauer, Chairman of the Council of Muftis of Russia, Chairman of Religious Board of Muslims of Russia Ravil Gaynutdin, First Deputy Chairman of the Euro-Asian Division of the General Conference of the Church of Christians of Seventh Day Adventists Oleg Goncharov, Head of the Russian and Novo-Nakhichevan Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church Archbishop Ezras, Metropolitan Kornily of Moscow and All Russia of the Old-Rite Russian Orthodox Church, Chief Rabbi of Russia, Chairman of the Centralised Religious Organisation of the Orthodox Judaism Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia Berel Lazar, Chief Bishop of Russia's Union of Evangelical Faith Christians (Pentecostals) Sergei Ryakhovsky, and Chairman of the Central Spiritual Directorate of Muslims of Russia Talgat Tadzhuddin.
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Russian President Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, friends,
I am pleased to welcome you to our meeting; greetings to all representatives of traditional religions of Russia!
And first of all, I would like to congratulate you and all citizens of Russia, our big, multinational country, on National Unity Day!
This state holiday has been timed to coincide with the heroic events of the early 17th century when the Russian people put an end to the tragedy of the Time of Troubles.
People from several different ethnicities and confessions were among those who rose up against the internal strife and humiliation of their country. They were united in the struggle against foreign invaders, treachery and betrayal and they won; they restored the integrity of the state and its power, and saved the Fatherland.
We know that such great civil acts are performed by those who are devoted to the Fatherland, who are convinced that their unity is a powerful, unstoppable force.
There have been many examples of our people standing up for their country. It happened in 1812 and again in the unprecedented trials of the Great Patriotic War. The courage of the defenders of the Fatherland did not know national distinctions. They were inspired by the love for their families, children, home, and the feeling of brotherly camaraderie – the moral values that underlie the culture and tradition of all our peoples, our traditional religions.
Patriotism and unity of our citizens, common moral ideals continue to unite our society, our huge, multinational, multi-confessional country.
All of our people have experienced hardships and joys, achieved great victories, passed the harshest tests, and have historically proven their choice to live peacefully together.
The traditions of kind, respectful attitude between people of different ethnicities and religious beliefs have been left to us by our ancestors. But being proud of this living spiritual heritage, experiencing the creation of a unique civilization is not enough. Of course, we have the right to be proud and we should be. But this is not enough. These values need to be protected, strengthened and nurtured. This is our common duty, for this generation and future generations.
It is important to understand that the world is going through deep changes. Traditional values face serious challenges. Unfortunately, many difficult and sensitive issues in interethnic and interreligious relations become the subject of speculation and unscrupulous geopolitical games. Extremists and radicals grab onto this and incite mutual hatred and animosity.
I would like to repeat that interethnic and interreligious peace is the keystone for our huge country. It needs constant attention from the authorities, from society, and from the media. The work here needs to be delicate, meticulous and comprehensive. And this is how we are trying to act – in the most delicate and constructive manner.
Moreover, the situation in a number of countries, as we have seen, is difficult; we see what the actions of some provocateurs have led to; those who, under the guise of freedom of speech, offend the feelings of believers, and those who use it as a reason to justify violence and intolerance. There is only one result: conflicts grow within society like a snowball and can fester for years and decades.
Together we must do everything we can to prevent developments like this in our country.
The spiritual leaders of Russia have a special role to harmonise interethnic and interreligious relations and prevent extremism and terrorism. People listen to your opinions, your words, and when you voice your position of solidarity, your clear commitment to the values of peace, kindness and mercy – this is extremely important.
I would like to point out the great potential of religious organisations in community service. Representatives of all religions are contributing to our common struggle against the spread of the dangerous virus.
You unite caring people around you, who, together with the clergy, become involved in voluntary work, sometimes risking their own lives to support those who need help and care, regardless of their ethnicity or religion.
I will say it again that the clergy works in close proximity to individuals infected with the coronavirus and they sometimes risk their own lives to support their close ones. Unfortunately, tragedies can happen when they themselves die while selflessly carrying out their pastoral duty, selflessly and not for money.
I have stressed many times that the most important thing for us is the absolute value of every human life. And this choice is dictated, to a large extent, by those values that underlie the traditional religions of Russia: Orthodox Christianity, other Christian confessions, Islam, Buddhism, Judaism.
It is no coincidence that there are four sacred texts – the Bible, the Quran, the Torah and Kangyur – lying here on the table to the left of me. Enduring values are found in each of them, and the key, the defining value in each is love for other people, for your neighbour, regardless of race, ethnicity or tradition. And when the scriptures speak of neighbours or brothers, we understand this to mean not only fellow religionists but all people in general, because all people are equal before God in all world religions.
And today I would like to refer to a few words from these books. Allow me to quote a few.
The Bible. “Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friend.” Or: “Whosoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother or sister whom he sees, how can he love God, whom he does not see?”
And the Quran. “Say, Muhammad: I ask of you no reward for proclaiming God’s faith, only affection among the near of kin.” “Whosoever does a good deed, we will increase its goodness by two times.” “Surely Allah is with those who fear Good and who do good deeds.”
The Torah. “You shall not hate your brother in your heart. You shall rebuke your neighbour, and not bear sin because of him. You shall neither take revenge from nor bear a grudge; you shall love your neighbour as yourself.”
And finally, Buddha’s words. “Hatred does not cease by hatred; hatred ceases by love. This is the eternal rule. Should a person do good, let him do it again and again. Let him find pleasure therein, for blissful is the accumulation of good.”
Friends, once again, I would like to congratulate you on National Unity Day. It is highly symbolic that this holiday was constituted on the initiative of Russia’s Interreligious Council. This is further evidence that Russia’s historical path as a great power has been defined by peaceful, fruitful cooperation between different peoples and religions.
I would like to wish you success on the path of a spiritual service.