Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks at a gala reception on the occasion of the Orthodox Easter, Moscow, April 17, 2018
Ladies and gentlemen,
Allow me to cordially welcome the clergymen of the Russian Orthodox Church, representatives of other religions, government authorities, civil society, and heads of diplomatic missions accredited in Moscow to the annual Easter meeting at the Foreign Ministry. The great holiday of Easter symbolising the triumph of life and the good reinforces the belief in the truth and justice in our hearts and encourages us to do good deeds.
The Russian Orthodox Church has been with its flock at all times and shared the fate of Russia, inspired the people to perform heroic acts in the name of defending the Fatherland, and helped them stand tall during years of severe trials. Today, the Church is making a significant contribution to identifying the best solutions to important matters on the national agenda, maintaining civil peace and consent, and consolidating society around enduring spiritual and moral values; it is building up useful social and educational work, and is doing much to strengthen the institution of the family, and to educate younger generations in the spirit of Christian ideals.
Diplomats particularly value the efforts of the Russian Orthodox Church aimed at deepening ties with our compatriots living abroad, consolidating the Orthodox world, upholding the historical truth, and advancing the positions of the Russian language and our culture. Your Holiness’ foreign missions contribute to promoting these areas of focus. Your recent trip to Bulgaria to participate in the celebrations of the 140th anniversary of that country’s liberation from the Ottoman yoke is one such mission.
Such selfless work is all the more important today, as the international situation is becoming increasingly chaotic and less predictable. A dangerous and at the same time shameful trend to move away from their own spiritual and civilisational roots is on the rise in a number of Western countries. As you, Your Holiness, noted in your Easter Message, comfort and success are declared the main criteria of human existence. Fundamental principles of morality are being questioned. Such a policy is not only vicious, but also anti-democratic, as it is being imposed by an aggressive minority against the will of the overwhelming majority of citizens.
The forcible “export” of pseudo-liberal values in conjunction with flirting with radicals and dividing terrorists into “good” and “bad” has led to chaos and anarchy in the vast expanses of the Middle East which is the cradle of Christianity. Clearly, it is impossible to reliably protect Christians, or representatives of other religions, for that matter, without defeating terrorist groups and achieving a lasting political settlement of numerous conflicts and crises.
Of particular concern, of course, is the situation around Syria. Thanks to the efforts of a number of countries, including Russia, Syrian statehood has been preserved, and the necessary prerequisites for a national dialogue were created. The fact of US-led coalition’s missile strikes at Syria, delivered under an absolutely falsified pretext, is a gross violation of international law and the UN Charter. Such aggressive actions exacerbate the humanitarian situation, play into the hands of extremists, and put off the prospects for peace on the long-suffering Syrian land. The escalation of the situation around Syria negatively affects the entire system of international relations. Russia will continue to work to instil respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria and all countries of that and other regions.
In these difficult circumstances, Your Holiness’s peacekeeping activities, including your recent contacts with Pope Francis, as well as the heads of the Constantinople, Antiochian, Alexandrian and Jerusalem Orthodox Churches, are widely recognised.
Of course, it is important to continue to help stabilise the situation in other parts of the region, including Iraq, Yemen and Libya. It is imperative to focus more on an old hotbed of tension, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. A fair solution to this problem will have a beneficial effect on the situation across the Middle East.
The situation in neighbouring Ukraine cannot help but concern us. The ultranationalists, who came to power there in February 2014, are striving to destroy the centuries-old comprehensive ties between our two truly brotherly peoples at any cost. The opposition to the Russian language which is used by a significant portion of the population of that country is intensifying. The Ukrainian law On Education directly violates Kiev’s international obligations. With the connivance, and occasionally the open support of the Kiev authorities, temples of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church continue to be seized alongside aggressive actions against priests and parishioners.
We are confident that full and consistent implementation of the Minsk Package of Measures, which was the result of the talks between the presidents of Russia, France, Germany and Ukraine, is the only way to overcome internal strife and prevent further division of Ukrainian society. We expect that the people of Ukraine will show wisdom and that national consent will be restored. I would like to take this opportunity to note once again the role of Your Holiness in resolving serious humanitarian issues related to the troubles that have affected this country that is close to us.
Russian diplomacy continues to do its utmost to uphold the rights of Christians and other traditional religions. In December 2017, we organised an event dedicated to the situation of Christians in the OSCE countries and neighbouring regions on the sidelines of the OSCE Ministerial Council in conjunction with our Hungarian partners. Representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church are taking an active part in these events. The agenda includes compliance with the OSCE Ministerial Council meeting’s directive, which was adopted in Basel in December 2014, on drafting (along with the already approved OSCE documents on the unacceptability of anti-Semitism) individual declarations to combat intolerance and discrimination against Christians and Muslims. We will focus on this. We expect the matter to get off the ground this year. So far, we have not seen much enthusiasm for such declarations on the part of some of our Western partners.
We are willing to continue to build up a multi-faceted partnership with the Russian Orthodox Church, and closely interact with other traditional religions in Russia to promote an honest, harmonious and future-oriented international agenda.
In closing, I would like to congratulate you, Your Holiness, and all the distinguished guests on this bright Easter holiday. I wish you well, good health, peace and prosperity.
Christ Is Risen!