Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks at the opening ceremony of the 26th International Educational Christmas Readings, Moscow, January 24, 2018
Colleagues and friends.
I would also like to extend my cordial greetings to the organisers, participants and guests of the 26th International Educational Christmas Readings.
It is a great honour for me to speak again at the opening of this forum that has become over the long years of its accomplishments a prestigious venue for discussing pressing issues on the Russian agenda, which are of concern to all of us. The initiatives and recommendations presented here are a useful contribution to Russia’s harmonious development and the consolidation of national civil, ethnic and religious peace and accord.
It is hard to overestimate the importance of the forum’s current theme (as was already mentioned). Speaking at the Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church on December 1, 2017, President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin emphasised that today we are witnessing the erosion of traditional values in many countries, which leads to the mutual alienation and depersonalization of people.
Obviously, the revision of basic standards of morality, a permissive environment and tolerance reduced to an absurdity are doing irreparable damage to the moral health of people and depriving them of their cultural and civilisational roots. Thus, a number of EU countries are banning religious paraphernalia and depriving parents of the right to bring up their children in the spirit of Christian morality. There are other examples that his Holiness quoted in his opening remarks. I would like to recall that at one time the EU refused to include in its charter documents the idea that European civilisation has Christian roots. I believe those who are ashamed of their moral roots cannot respect those of other religions. Likewise, the latter have no respect of the former. This is creating a breeding ground for xenophobia and intolerance and opening the way to society’s self-destruction. It is important to vigorously oppose this pseudo-liberal policy that encourages destructive models of behavior.
Aggressive attempts to impose alien values on other nations are a source of deep concern.
The example of the Middle East and North Africa shows the consequences of irresponsible “social engineering.” Western interference in the domestic affairs of sovereign states – Iraq, Libya and Syria – has created a political, legal and largely spiritual vacuum that has been filled by terrorists that challenge all of humanity. Representatives of all religions are being subjected to harassment and persecution. Christians are the hardest hit – being threatened with physical destruction, they have had to leave places of their historical residence on a massive scale. The situation in Syria appeared to be the most explosive.
Today, the situation in that much-suffering country is gradually improving. Owing to the support that the Russian armed forces rendered to the legitimate Government in Damascus and Moscow’s active diplomatic efforts, ISIS was routed in Syria, Syrian statehood was preserved and conditions were created for resolving humanitarian issues and reaching a real political settlement based on UN Security Council resolutions. At present we continue working on organising the Syrian National Dialogue Congress that is designed to help implement the agreements reached in the UN Security Council.
We will continue facilitating the settlement of other crises and conflicts that are, regrettably, so numerous in the Middle East. We believe that if they are overcome as soon as possible, people will be able to return home and destroyed churches will be restored. In cooperation with the Russian Orthodox Church, the Vatican and our partners from Armenia, Belarus and other countries we have organised a kind of movement for the defence of Christians in the Middle East by conducting special events under the auspices of the OSCE and the UN Human Rights Council.
I cannot avoid mentioning neighbouring Ukraine that has also become a victim of highly dangerous geopolitical maneuvering. Those that came to power as a result of the coup are trying to drive a wedge between our two fraternal nations. An open battle is being conducted against the Russian language – this is the goal of the Ukrainian Law on Education that is crudely violating Kiev’s international commitments. Connivance at the seizure of cathedrals of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church and violence against its clergy and believers continues. Attempts to restrict the activities of this major religion in Ukraine and split church communities are ongoing. We demanded that the OSCE, the Council of Europe, the UN and the EU come up with a specific response to these illegal activities. We have not seen an adequate response so far.
We submitted to the UN and the OSCE a proposal to put an end to such a shameful and immoral phenomenon as the war against monuments that has been launched in Ukraine, Poland and some Baltic countries.
I would like to recall that the full and consistent implementation of the Minsk Package of Measures as approved by the UN Security Council is the only way of settling the domestic Ukrainian crisis and overcoming the dividing lines in society. The main obstacle on this road is the Kiev party of war that wants to bury the Minsk Agreements and is following in the wake of extremists, having announced the blockade of Donbass and adopted the law justifying the resolution of the domestic crisis by force by the Verkhovna Rada.
Your Holiness, dear friends.
Our diplomacy continues to uphold the moral values of international life and promote the principles of honesty, truth, kindness and justice in international relations. Despite the resistance, this policy enjoys broad support in the international community. More and more people in the world, including in Europe, are looking at this country as a defender of traditional values.
Reliance on the ideals that are common to all world religions, respect for the cultural identity and civilisational diversity of the nations of the world and their right to choose their own path of development is a major loadstar in the search for efficient answers to the many challenges and threats of our time. The Russian Foreign Ministry is ready to consolidate our productive cooperation with the Russian Orthodox Church, its parishes abroad and other traditional religions of Russia.
I am sure that the Christmas Readings will make their contributions to the achievement of these and many other important tasks. I wish you productive work and interesting discussions.
Thank you for your attention.