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    PATRIARCH ALEXIS II HIGHLIGHTS UNIQUE CO-EXISTENCE OF RELIGIONS AND CULTURES IN CIS

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    MOSCOW, March 2, 2004 (RIA Novosti) - Cooperation between church leaders will promote the rapprochement of the peoples of the Commonwealth of Independent States, His Holiness Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, Alexis II, said at a ceremony of opening the second interfaith forum of CIS countries in Moscow on Tuesday.

    "I believe our cooperation will promote the rapprochement of our peoples and the establishment of peace and accord. CIS countries are often blamed for the lack of freedom and democracy. However, the CIS, unlike other regions of the world, has not seen religious wars. Moreover, the Commonwealth has unique experience of the peaceful co-existence of different religions and cultures," said the Russian Orthodox Church leader.

    Moreover, cooperation between the CIS religious leaders is to a great extent promoted by secular authorities, which is not the case in other countries, noted the patriarch. "We are helping to find an appropriate system of relations between religion, secular power and society, promoting the moral revival of our nations, countering present-day challenges," said Alexis II.

    The experience of interfaith cooperation between Russia and other CIS countries should be studied by the rest of the world if it wants to prevent global confrontation.

    The Moscow forum is being attended by the spiritual leaders of all CIS countries, i.e. Orthodox and Armenian Gregorian Church officials, and Islamic, Judaic and Buddhist leaders.

    Apart from that, the forum is involving acting Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and the president's envoy to the Central Federal District Georgy Poltavchenko.

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