V. 1. From old times till today the Orthodox Church has been engaged in intercession to the authorities for those who are unjustly convicted, humiliated, deprived or exploited. The Church extends her merciful intercession also to those who are justly punished for their crimes. The Church has repeatedly called to stop violence and mitigate morals during conflicts that flared up when the human rights to life, healthcare, freedom and property were trampled down. Finally, in the years of the godless persecution, Orthodox bishops, clergy and laity appealed to the authorities and society seeking to defend the freedom of religious confession and advocating the right of religious communities to broad participation in the life of the people.
V. 2. Today just as before, we are called to show concern, not only in word but also in deed, for the protection of human rights and dignity. At the same time, we are aware that human rights are often violated in the modern world and human dignity is trampled down not only by the state authorities but also transnational structures, economic actors, pseudo-religious groups, terrorist and other criminal communities. More and more often, human rights and dignity have to be defended against the destructive aggression of the media.
The following areas are singled out for our human rights efforts today:
– Defending human rights to the free confession of faith, prayer and worship (?), preservation of religious and cultural traditions, observance of religious principles in both private life and public action;
– Opposing crimes on the grounds of national and religious enmity;
– Safeguarding the individual against the arbitrary actions of those in power and employers and against violence and humiliation in his family and collective;
– Protecting life, the free choice and property of people during international, political, economic and social conflicts;
– Taking pastoral care for soldiers and protecting their rights and dignity in situations of hostilities and military service in peace time;
– Concern for the respect of the dignity and rights of those who are placed in social institutions and penitentiaries with special attention given to the disabled, orphans, the elderly and other powerless people;
– Protecting the rights of nations and ethnic groups to their own religion, language and culture;
– Concern for those whose rights, freedom and health suffer because of the actions of destructive cults;
– Supporting the family in its traditional understanding as well as fatherhood, motherhood and childhood;
– Opposing attempts to involve people in corruption and other crimes as well as in prostitution, drug addiction and gambling;
– Concern for a just economic and social order of society;
– Preventing efforts to use modern technologies and political manipulation for total control over the individual, his choice of a worldview and his private life;
– Promoting respect for law, propagating the positive experience of implementing and protecting human rights;
– Expertise of legal acts, legislative initiatives and actions by the authorities in order to prevent encroachments on human rights and dignity and aggravation of social morals.
– Participating in the public control over the law enforcement, especially in part regulating church-state relations, and over the execution of fair court judgments.
V. 3. The human rights work of the Russian Orthodox faithful can be carried out on both the church-wide level with the blessing of the Supreme Church Authority and the level of public associations founded by lay people, as many of them are working successfully in the field of human rights already now. In her work for the protection of human rights and dignity, the Church seeks to cooperate with the state and public forces. Choosing her partners in society, the Church remembers the words that Christ the Saviour said to the apostles: ‘Whoever is not against us is for us’ (Mk. 9:40).
V. 4. Motivated by the church teaching on human dignity, freedom and rights, Christians are called to take ethically guided social action. It can be expressed in diverse forms, such as witness before the authorities, intellectual studies, campaigns in defense of particular groups of people and their rights. Without seeking a revolutionary reconstruction of the world and acknowledging the rights of other social groups to participate in social transformations on the basis of their own worldview, the Orthodox Christians reserve the right to participate in building public life in a way that does not contradict their faith and moral principles. The Russian Orthodox Church is ready to defend the same principles in dialogue with the world community and in cooperation with people of other traditional confessions and religions.
This document is adopted by the Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church as a follow-up to her basic Social Concept. The canonical structures, clergy and laity of our Church are to be guided by this document in their socially significant statements and actions. It is to be studied in the theological schools of the Moscow Patriarchate. The document is offered to the fraternal attention of Local Orthodox Churches in the hope that it will help our Churches to grow in unity and coordinate our practical actions. Other Christian Churches and associations as well as religious communities, governmental bodies and public circles in various countries and international organizations are also invited to study and discuss it.