Orthodox Holiday Stirs Controversy

Orthodox052810.jpgRussia celebrates a new official holiday today,  commemorating the country’s convesion to Christianity. According to a Reuters report published in the Washington Post, this is another sign of the growing influence of the Orthodox Church in post-Soviet Russia. Secularists are not the only ones not amused.

Rights groups have criticized the new holiday, approved by President Dmitry Medvedev in June, as undermining Russia’s secular constitution and members of the country’s large Muslim minority have complained that it excludes them.

Marking the anniversary, Patriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church, told state-run television: “Abandoning the historical significance of the baptism of Rus means discarding the supporting pillar of our entire civilization”…

…Since Medvedev’s law, Muslim lawmakers have asked for a national holiday to mark the arrival of Islam in modern-day Russia, which Arabs brought through the southern gateway city of Derbent on the Caspian Sea more than 1,000 years ago.

(AP Photo/Sergei Chuzavkov)