Hundreds of experts have signed a declaration renouncing the religious ideology driving Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
In particular, Eastern Orthodox Christian scholars from around the world have supported the statement to express their horror at the suffering in Ukraine and the weaponization of Christianity in Russia.
The declaration, which is now available in over 10 languages, has been signed by over a 1,000 people so far.
Vladimir Putin has repeatedly stated his wish for a Russia and Ukraine (together with Belarus and other Eastern European states) to form a single “Russian world” with a common language (Russian), political centre (Moscow), spiritual centre (Kyiv), church administration (the Russian Orthodox Church), all united under one leader (Putin).
The declaration, organised by Dr Brandon Gallaher from the University of Exeter and Dr Pantelis Kalaitzidis, from Volos Academy, is designed to raise awareness and protest about how – rather than condemning the Russian aggression against Ukraine, the Russian Orthodox Church continually repeats Kremlin propaganda about the invasion of Ukraine as a “special military operation” intended to protect the break-away Donbas region of Ukraine against Ukrainian aggression and Western ideas, such as gay rights.
Scholars and others have signed the declaration because they want to uphold the original teachings of Jesus in the New Testament.
Among other things, their declaration affirms:
- That the church should not subject itself to the state, or become an agent of the state for the promotion of geopolitical goals, dictated by personal ambition or the assertion of superiority of one group over another, such as Russians over Ukrainians.
- That love is the core of the Christian message and that the making of war is the ultimate failure of Jesus’s law of love.
- That Christians are called to be peacemakers, not warmongers, to stand up for justice and to condemn injustice.
- The declaration also condemns “false news” or disinformation, such as calling the war of aggression against Ukraine a “special military operation,” as contrary to Christian principle of truth.
Dr Gallaher said:
“The “Russian world” ideology pits itself against a supposedly corrupt and degenerate West, with Ukraine as the principal front line. As a result, both the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, Kirill, and President Vladimir Putin routinely justify the invasion of Ukraine on the basis of bringing it back into the fold of the “Russian world.”
“The reality is that the “Russian world” ideology reinforces Vladimir Putin’s personal and geopolitical ambitions. Putin wants to create a greater Russia by restoring the boundaries of the former Soviet Union under his dictatorship.
“We hope as many people as possible will sign the declaration to draw attention to how Putin is abusing religion to serve as his propaganda instrument. This is wrong.”
A Declaration on the “Russian World” (Russkii Mir) Teaching
Cover letter by the Coordinators of the Drafting Committee (Revd Dr Brandon Gallaher (University of Exeter) and Dr Pantelis Kalaitzidis (Volos Academy):
In the wake of Vladimir Putin’s unconscionable and horrendously destructive invasion of Ukraine, Orthodox Christians across the globe must face a difficult question: how can a nation whose majority embraces Orthodox Christianity possibly justify attacking and killing the people of a sibling nation, who almost all share the same faith?
How, at the beginning of Great Lent, when our tradition calls us to forgiveness, fasting, and prayer, can Orthodox Christians unleash violence and bloodshed against their brothers and sisters in Christ?
The painful truth, but one that we need to confront in this time of repentance, is that our own leadership, and specifically, the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church, has developed and promoted a false teaching known as “Russkii Mir” or “Russian World,” providing Mr. Putin with the religious “blank cheque” that underwrites his heinous invasion and annexation of Russia’s peaceful, democratic neighbors: Ukraine.
During this sacred season, Orthodox Christians throughout the world need to declare in no uncertain terms that the “Russian World” ideology is both false and destructive, feeding violence and bloodshed, causing scandal and division in the Church. Nor can we fool ourselves that this ideology is an exception in the history of Orthodoxy: we must condemn all Orthodox ethno-phyletist ideologies akin to the false teaching of the “Russian world” in every age, nation and culture.
Orthodox scholars and theologians have drafted a powerful Declaration (attached) concerning the theologically condemnable “Russian World” ideology. We urge you to read this Declaration, sign it, and share it with those around you.
We urge you to pray for repentance for those who propagate this evil teaching, which continues to feed the megalomaniacal ambitions of Vladimir Putin. Pray also for the repentance of every Orthodox Christian, for our own complicity in this evil through silence, obfuscation, and denial.
Only if we confront this evil, which thrives both within and outside us, bowing low in repentance with the simple words of the Canon of St. Andrew of Crete—“Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me!”—can we truly reaffirm our divided, bloodied community as the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church, united only by our broken and contrite hearts in the person of Jesus Christ, who alone is with us in adversity.
The Coordinators on Behalf of the Drafting Committee
Revd. Dr. Brandon Gallaher
Dr. Pantelis Kalaitzidis
To sign and support this Declaration, please add your name here.