At no time in history has the persecution of Christians been as intense and widespread as it is now.
Christians in the Middle East are in dire need of a champion, which, in today’s world can only be a great power, and it is Russia that has taken on that responsibility.
With its secular ideology, the West can no longer protect Christian interests in the world as it did for centuries. Although the USA has a higher percentage of church goers than other Western countries, it underestimates the importance of religion in the countries it targets for regime change. Turning a blind eye to beheadings, child rape and other atrocities, it has created a hell on earth for Christians all over the Middle East. And with the Arab Spring, things went from bad to worse, as ISIS’ success in Iraq inspired similar groups. The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Boko Haram in Nigeria and Al-Shabaab in Somalia are all committing atrocities against Christians.
Obsessed by its Constitution, the US assumes that it can impose the separation of church and state on a world where cultural and religious traditions run deep. Its failure to realize that these traditions contribute to a rejection of Western-style democracy, and similarly, to notice the spiritual dimension of Vladimir Putin’s foreign policy, including his standing among persecuted Christians, gives Russia a decisive advantage.
Vladimir Putin knows that modernity’s separation of politics from religion inspires many across the globe to return to their religious roots. In February 2012, he made a solemn vow to the Russian Orthodox Church to protect persecuted Christians all over the world, a commitment that has even caught the attention of America’s powerful Evangelicals.
Syrian Christians are thrilled and grateful for Russia’s decisive response to the slaughter they have endured for more than four years. But to understand the true significance of this initiative, you have to know that aside from Russia, Georgia and Armenia, there are Orthodox communities in fifteen European and near Eastern countries for whom Putin is increasingly looking like a 21st Century Constantine.
That 4th century Roman emperor converted to Christianity, put an end to the persecutions Christians had suffered under his predecessors. and granted the Church privileges that allowed it to become a worldwide power. Notwithstanding the electrifying presence of Pope Francis, in future we could see the Eastern Church replace Rome as the center of Christianity.
This will happen without the help of the media. Incapable of imagining the spiritual development that has taken place in Russia since the demise of Communism, it portrays Putin’s assertions of faith as geopolitical opportunism. Yet in his autobiography “First Person”, published in 2000, the Russian President declared that the first line in every Russian law should refer to moral values. He wants Russia to be as aware of its spiritual heritage as it is of its political and geographical position.
President Putin is convinced that spirituality has a profound effect on the way a culture develops, providing an indispensable moral compass that goes deeper than passing political expediency and secular “freedom”.
As increasing numbers of Christians across the spectrum turn toward Russia, its global influence can only grow.