Russia’s Religious Patrols

In the wake of Pussy Riot’s performance/protest in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, members of the Orthodox church have begun organizing patrols to protect their faith from mockery. From Moscow News:

Orthodox activists are up in arms to protect their priests and sacred places with patrol squads scouring Moscow for the “enemies of faith.”

Ivan Otrakovsky, head of Orthodox Christian movement Holy Rus, said seven teams had already started operating in the Russian capital, BBC Russian service reported on Wednesday.

“The time has come to remind all apostates and theomachists that it is our land and we forbid blasphemous, offensive actions and statements against the Orthodox religion and our people,” Otrakovsky wrote in his call for volunteers at the end of last week.

The offensive actions can take various forms, but they can be “a kind of ‘art’, marches, lectures or anything else that comes laden with blasphemy, heresy, defilement and lechery,” it has to be stopped, according to Otrakovsky.

My impression is that the Russian government will frown on vigilantes like this. The consensus is that Putin has steered the government in a more authoritarian direction, and such governments don’t take kindly to people who claim authority without being under government control.

Still, it’s a frightening development. The idea of religious vigilantes makes me think of groups like Saudi Arabia’s mutaween, or Repent Amarillo in Texas. Sure, the orthodox patrols say they’re simply protecting their faith from disrespect – which is bad enough – but what if certain members decide that other religions are disrespecting their church, or that certain forms of immorality are an insult to their faith?

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