Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s speech at a reception for Orthodox Easter, Moscow, April 18, 2017
Ladies and gentlemen, friends,
I am happy to greet all of you at the traditional Easter meeting at the Foreign Ministry, which is being held during Bright Week in 2017. Easter has always been a special holiday in Russia, which brings happiness and strengthens people’s faith in renewal.
Orthodox Christianity has never ceased to be the moral beacon for the people and a cementing basis of the Russian state. The selfless service of the Russian Orthodox Church is aimed at upholding the noble ideals of peace, accord, truth and mercy. It is making an invaluable contribution to Russia’s peaceful and steady development.
These efforts to consolidate society on the basis of enduring spiritual values are taken in close cooperation with the other religions in Russia. It is of particular importance now. We are gravely concerned about the continued efforts taken by a small group of messianically-minded countries to promote pseudo-liberal values such as hedonism and permissiveness. The promotion of tolerance has reached absurd dimensions. In some European countries, which have actually abandoned their Christian roots, official approval is given for the destruction or conversion of Christian churches, from which religious attributes are removed. These actions are doing colossal damage to the moral fabric of society. Those who scorn their religious roots are unlikely to respect the feelings of believers from other confessions.
This year we will mark 100 years of the Russian revolution, following which our nation went through so many trials and tribulations. We have drawn conclusions from our difficult history. President Vladimir Putin said in his Address to the Federal Assembly that we need history’s lessons primarily for reconciliation and for strengthening the civil concord that we have managed to achieve. Your Holiness, as you said at the International Educational Christmas Readings in January 2017, “transformation must be based on a desire for consolidation rather than disunity and strife for social, political or other reasons.”
Russia does not try to lecture or force its views on anyone. We strongly believe that there is no alternative to developing international relations on the basis of international law and respect for the cultural and civilisational diversity of the modern world. Regrettably, not everyone shares this view.
Continued attempts are being taken to hinder the rise of a polycentric world order, deny other nations the right to choose their future, export democracy and force alien development models on others. The results of this policy can be seen in the Middle East and North Africa. The region has been thrown into chaos and anarchy and has turned into the supplier of terror and a source of illegal migration and other elements of organised crime.
The destabilisation in the Middle East and North Africa hit the Christians living there, who are in fact subjected to genocide by extremists. The cynical crimes committed against Christian believers in Tanta and Alexandria in Egypt, especially on a church holiday, were aimed at inciting religious hatred. In this regard, the calls to take immediate steps to stop the mass exodus of Christians from the Middle Eastern countries, contained in the Joint Declaration of Your Holiness and Pope Francis, remain fully relevant. These issues were in the focus of attention of the high-level conference on the issue we organised at Russia’s initiative in cooperation with the Vatican, Lebanon and Armenia on March 7 as a side event of the 34th session of the UN Human Rights Council.
We will continue to make every effort to prevent attacks on Christians and any splits on intercivilisational and interreligious grounds. The joint statement of CIS foreign ministers adopted on April 7 in Tashkent on unacceptable discrimination and intolerance against Christians, Muslims or representatives of other religions is aimed at solving this problem. We hope that this decision will reinvigorate the efforts of the OSCE, which back in 2014 decided to draft separate declarations on combating Christianophobia and Islamophobia. So far, this plan has not been fulfilled.
Russian diplomacy invariably receives the support of the Russian Orthodox Church. We highly appreciate the ROC's contribution to strengthening the country’s moral authority, to creating an unbiased image of our country, to unifying the Russian world, and promoting the Russian language and culture. Of particular importance are the regular pastoral visits of Your Holiness to other states, including your recent visits to Great Britain, France and Switzerland, which have found a lively response among the Russian compatriots and the general public. Your tireless efforts aimed at ending the fratricidal feud in neighbouring Ukraine deserve profound respect. Obviously, the only way to achieve a sustainable settlement is the full and consistent implementation of the Minsk Agreements. Yesterday it was confirmed once again during the telephone conversation of the leaders of the Normandy format countries – Russia, Germany, France and Ukraine. It is important that our Ukrainian neighbours begin to practice what they preach.
We will continue to expand fruitful cooperation with the Russian Orthodox Church, to build constructive ties with other traditional religions of Russia. We are glad to welcome their representatives at today's function. This cooperation meets the interests of strengthening interethnic and interreligious peace and harmony in our country, of consolidating healthy principles in international relations and ensuring global and regional stability and security.
In conclusion, once again, I would like to sincerely congratulate all our dear guests on the Bright Resurrection of Christ, to wish everyone good health, peace and prosperity.
Christ is Risen!