Patriarch Alexy says Christian-Muslim dialogue is a priority for Russian Orthodox Church

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Kazan, July 21 (RIA Novosti) - Fostering a Christian-Muslim dialogue is one of the Russian Orthodox Church's main priorities, Patriarch Alexy II said Thursday in Kazan, the capital of the Russian constituent republic of Tatarstan.

"Our cooperation with followers of Islam is carried out within [the framework] of Russia's interfaith council and at the level of individual communities," the patriarch said today after a service at Kazan's Annunciation Cathedral. "Thanks to this, we are able to sustain peace in society, to cooperate in preventing moral foundations from being ruined, and to uphold traditional cultural values."

"Kazan has always been regarded, and deservedly so, as the center of spiritual life for all Russian Muslims," the patriarch said. "Followers of Islam and Christianity have lived in that land together in peace and harmony for centuries, trying to help each other; there has been no religious strife between them."

One recent result of such mutually beneficial relations between Christianity and Islam in Russia is the widely-supported idea to establish a National Unity holiday on November 4th, the day the Russian Christian Church honors the Icon of Our Lady of Kazan, which is believed to have helped the Russians drive Polish invaders out of the country in 1612, Alexy II said.

An interfaith dialogue in Tatarstan does produce tangible results. Thus, for instance, fundamentals of Orthodox and Islamic culture may soon become part of the curricula at all of the local secondary schools, the patriarch said. He stressed this was the only way for the nation to ensure that the younger generation upholds traditions and moral values and to be able to effectively confront extremism, hatred, and intolerance.

The Russian Orthodox Church believes it is only fair that in terms of government support, priority should be given to the Moslem community in Tatarstan because Moslems constitute the bulk of the republic's population. But assistance must be provided for the local Christian Orthodox community, as well, the patriarch said.

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