Christian-Muslim Tensions Feared in Russia after Train Blast and Killing Priest

Sunday, November 29, 2009

By Worthy News Europe Bureau in Budapest

MOSCOW/BUDAPEST (Worthy News)-- There were fears Sunday, November 29, of more tensions between Christians and Muslims in Russia after suspected Islamist rebels bombed a train that killed 25 people and a gunmen murdered a missionary priest.

The attack late Friday, November 27, on a high speed train between Moscow and Russia's city of St. Petersburg followed the killing of Orthodox priest Daniil Sysoyev  who was critical of Islam, Worthy News monitored.

Priest Daniil Sysoyev, a well known figure who appeared on television talk shows and published a blog, had received threats over his extensive missionary work among Muslims in what was a highly unusual activity for a Russian priest.

He was shot and killed by a masked man who burst into his Saint Thomas's church in southern Moscow last week Thursday, November 19, investigators said.

"An unknown man in a mask walked in and fired no less than four shots at the priest of the church," the investigative committee of prosecutors added.  The killer also wounded the choirmaster, named as Vladimir Strelbitsky. The priest died of his wounds in the ambulance after the shooting, the investigative committee said.


Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill in a statement warned against placing the blame on any group while the investigation continues. Kirill described Sysoyev as "a zealous pastor who worked hard in the field of enlightenment and devoted himself to the end to serving God and people."

Sysoyev received several threats from Muslims, said a statement on the web site of the missionary training centre he founded.

"Father Daniil said several times that he received threats from Muslims, but the word of Christ was more important to him," the statement added.

Investigators say they are examining religious hatred as the main motive for the killing of Sysoyev, who was laid to rest at a funeral service earlier this week.


Friday's attack on a train suggested however that suspected Islamic militants are expanding their activities from targeting a church to attacking public locations outside the Caucasus region, where they have fought for independence.

The head of Russia's Orthodox Church urged authorities to quickly take action against those responsible for the violence. "We believe the reply will be effective and powerful enough to show these shameful, terrible people that ... when the hand of an enemy is lifted against our lives, we are able to defend our citizens," Patriarch Kirill said at a memorial service in Moscow.

The comments were the strongest statement of anger against the perpetrators by a senior public figure. President Dmitry Medvedev has called for calm and ordered officials to do everything to help the victims of the attack.

No one has claimed responsibility for the train blast, but security analysts said militant groups from Russia's mainly Muslim North Caucasus were the most likely culprits.