Russian archbishop’s letter demonizing Hindu god earns widespread protests

Published 03 January 2006  |  
Moscow, Russia – A letter addressed by the Archbishop of the Russian Orthodox Church to the Mayor of Moscow that purportedly demonizes Krishna, a Hindu god, has earned the ire of millions of Hindus worldwide.

On November 30, Archbishop Nikon of the Russian Orthodox Church wired a letter to the Mayor of Moscow, Yuri Luzhkov, urging the ban of a construction of a proposed Hindu temple in Moscow and calling Hindu god, Krishna, “an evil demon, the personified power of hell opposing God”, and “a livid lascivious youth.”

The archbishop had requested the mayor to disallow the construction as it would otherwise become “an idolatrous disgrace erected for the glory of wicked and malicious ‘god’ Krishna.”

“Construction of the temple to Krishna offends our religious feelings and insults the thousand–year religious culture of Russia,” Russia’s Interfax news agency quoted Archbishop Nikon as saying.

The archbishop’s provocative statements have earned the ire of Hindu communities worldwide.

“We cannot believe that in this age of respect and multi–cultural co–existence, a leader of the Russian Church chooses to make statements that are intolerant and disrespectful to one billion Hindus in the world,” said Kishore Ruparelia, speaking on behalf of the Defend Russian Hindus Campaign launched in London, UK, recently.

“The motives for spreading such hatred are clear – it is an attempt to discriminate and harass the Hindu community in Russia and stop them from building a temple,” exclaimed Ramesh Kallidai, secretary general of the Hindu Forum of Britain. “It is unbelievable that a leader of such a powerful Church can make such disgraceful and dogmatic attempts to instigate tension between different religions. This is completely against all principles of multi–faith co–existence and cooperation that ancient and inclusive religious traditions like Hinduism stand for.”

“The statement by Archbishop Nikon of the Russian Orthodox Church has hurt the sentiments of millions of Hindus worldwide,” remarked O.P. Sharma, President of the National Council of Hindu Temples UK. “It is an insult to the tradition of tolerance, peace and inclusivity that Hinduism stands for, and highlights the resentment that dogmatic and exclusive views on religion can generate.”

“For centuries faith in Lord Krishna has been the very foundation of the Indian tradition of tolerance and respect for all religions and for all life. Therefore the shower of offences that Archbishop Nikon decided to publicly pour on Lord Krishna caused us intolerable pain and evoked bitterness and indignation in our hearts,” said President of the Association of Indians in Russia, Sanjeet K. Jha.

According to Mr. Jha, in January 2004, the Mayor of Moscow, Mr.Luzhkov, signed a decree allocating land in northwest Moscow for construction of a new temple in place of the demolished one. This was followed by mass protests orchestrated by the Russian Orthodox Church against the building of the temple. In October 2005 the Mayor repealed the decree and gave the order to remove a temporary Hindu shrine that devotees had erected from the allocated land.

“Now, the Russian Hindu community in Moscow have no place to house the consecrated Deities they had worshipped for the last decade,” claimed Dr. Mihir Meghani, President of the Hindu American Foundation. “This is a pity because this was the only Hindu temple in Moscow serving the spiritual and cultural needs of thousands of Hindus in Russia, and now they are left without any place to worship.”

According to Mr. Jha, the statement by Archbishop Nikon just adds to the exasperation felt by Indian community in Moscow in regard to the razed temple. “With the old temple demolished and the new temple project thwarted at the very root, thousands of Indians living in Moscow feel utterly disappointed,” he added.

“I strongly condemn the outrageous and shameful behaviour of the Archbishop of the Russian Orthodox Church in denigrating the oldest religion in the world and depriving the peace–loving Hindus of Russia their right to practice their religion. Hindus have always respected all religions. India, which has a majority Hindu population, has always been a friendly country to Russia. It is only proper that the sentiments of a trusted friend and ally are respected. We appeal to the Russian President Putin to intervene and stop this kind of outrageous behaviour against the peace–loving Hindus of Russia. The international communities are monitoring the situation closely,” said Dr. Balasubramaniam, the Chair of the Hindu Council of Australia.

According to several Moscow–based Indians, the discriminatory move by the Moscow government, the harassment of Indians by Russian ultra–nationalistic groups, inspired by open hostility of some Church leaders towards Hinduism, is making Russia a less than appealing place for Indians to live.

The Indian Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, had discussed this matter with President Vladimir Putin on December 6 during his recent visit to Moscow. Putin has agreed to meet the Mayor of Moscow to find out more about the issue.


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