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People in Mariupol have received aid from rel…

People in Mariupol have received aid from religious communities in Russia

DECR Communication Service, 15.04.2022. 

On April 15, 2022, in the left bank part of Mariupol, the distribution of the humanitarian aid collected by believers in Russia took place as part of the work of the Interreligious Working Group for Protecting the Rights of Believers against Discrimination and Xenophobia under the Presidential Council for Cooperation with Religious Associations. 

As a result of the joint efforts, about 15 tons of humanitarian supply consisting of, among other things, a thousand of food packages was collected in a short term and delivered to people in Mariupol. Each kit includes over ten kilograms of the most essential foodstuffs: macaroni, canned high-quality fish and vegetables, pastry, sweets, tea, sugar and other foodstuffs. The aid is targeted: beforehand a list of those in the greatest need was compiled locally and already today the food packages have been distributed to concrete families. Another part of the supply includes children hygienic essentials, as well as aids for nursing bed-ridden patients and the elderly.

On the same day, a press conference was held at the International Multimedia Center “Russia Today” on the organization of the humanitarian aid given to Donbass by traditional confessions and religious communities in Russia.

Journalists had an opportunity to ask questions of secretary for inter-Christian relations of the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate and leader of the Interreligious Working Group for Protecting the Rights of Believers against Discrimination and Xenophobia, Hieromonk Stephen (Igumnov), adviser of the Presidential Office for Domestic Policy Pavel Kostylev; head of the legal service of the Diocese of Russia and Novo-Nakhichevan of the Armenian Apostolic Church Deacon Michael Parsadanian; representative of the Buddhist Traditional Sangha in Russia Bato-Lama Dugarov; head of the Administration of the Presiding Bishop of the Russian Church of the Evangelical Faith Ivan Borichevsky; representative of the Russian Union of the Christians of Evangelical Faith (Pentecostals), Rev. Pavel Renner; fist vice-chairman of the Euro-Asian Division of the General Conference of the Church of the Seventh Day’s Christians Oleg Goncharov; and representative of the Russian Orthodox Old Belief Church Roman Atorin. The press conference was moderated by Ms. Olga Lipich, editor-in-chief of the Religions and World View section of the International News Agency “Russia Today”.

As Father Stephan (Igumnov) noted, “Today, in these very hours, in Mariupol in Donbass a unique action is carried out to distribute humanitarian aid collected by the traditional confessions in Russia for our brothers and sisters who need it so much”.

The aid is rendered as part of the work of the Interreligious Working Group for Protecting the Rights of Believers against Discrimination and Xenophobia under the Presidential Council for Cooperation with Religious Associations. Father Stephan pointed to the unique nature of this mode of work both for Russian and for the whole world. “It all began with an initiative of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, when five years ago we, Christians and Muslims in Russia, began helping Syria together. On the instruction of the Patriarch, this work has been supervised by the head of the Commission for International Cooperation under the Presidential Council for Cooperation with Religious Associations, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk.

This work was been successfully developed as we managed to deliver to the country several bulk supplies of humanitarian aid. We even managed to implement such a project as the restoration of a school in Damascus, which was almost fully destroyed during the hostilities”, Father Stephan said stressing that in today’s tragic situation, representatives of traditional religions in Russia could not but responded to the disaster experienced by people.

“Today our work has been joined by other traditional confessions in Russia, in particular, the Buddhist Traditional Sangha”, said the head of the Interreligious Working Group, “It is to say that all the believers in our country, following the teaching of each of the traditional religions, have unanimously responded to the pain of those who suffer. Indeed, each of believers takes it in as his or her own. Today, each confession in Russia implements its humanitarian projects in Donbass and Ukraine. But we have united our efforts within the Interreligious Working Group to give aid and show that we are in solidarity with our brothers and sisters who are suffering today”.

Hieromonk Stephan thanked the public organization of veterans “Combat Brotherhood” for its participation in the charitable action as precisely this organization is now distributing the aid brought to Mariupol.

“We thank the Presidential Administration for its assistance in coordinating our work, the Russian Federation Ministry of Defence which helped to deliver the supply, the Emergency Ministry which transported our supply to Donbass”, the Hieromonk said also mentioning that the Russian public organization “Arab Diaspora” helped to collect and form the humanitarian aid. “Arabs living in Russia have responded to the pain of Ukrainians and people in Donbass and helped us in our work with fully opened hearts”, he said.

“Nowhere in the world will we see an example of so different religious communities uniting in such a large-scale project for the sake of joint works of charity to give aid to the needy”, the speaker resumed.

The adviser of the Presidential Office for Domestic Policy, Pavel Kostylev, thanked the participants of the Interreligious Working Group stating, “It is a unique example of interreligious accord and interaction not only in words but also in deeds” 

“There are many logistic problems, minutest details and complexities involved in the process of humanitarian aid delivery. It is a whole array of actions to be taken on every stage of the decision-making so that they should work in a certain way. Here we as the Presidential Council and the Presidential Office for Domestic Policy give all possible help we can. And we will certainly continue giving it”, Pavel Kostylev stressed.

The representative of the Church of the Seventh Day’s Christians-Adventists, Oleg Goncharov, described this mode of humanitarian cooperation as “an example for true dialogue between different confessions and religions in our country”. “The disaster endured by our brothers and sisters has united us today as religious communities in various regions of our country are collecting donations, belongings, foodstuffs”, he said.

“The most important message sent by all the participants in the Working Group is that we are united not only within our confession but united by common human principles and the awareness that if one is in trouble, one should be reached because faith without works is dead. The humanitarian aid collected by this group is a direct proof and realization of this New Testament thought”, stressed the head of the legal service of the Diocese of Russia and Novo-Nakhichevan of the Armenian Apostolic Church, Deacon Michael Parsadanian. He reminded the journalists that the aid is given to the needy regardless of their confession: “Foodstuff packages that people have received today is a small ray of light in the pitch darkness they are in now. If you do not extend a helping hand to a person who has fallen, you betray your ideals and what you preach”. 

“We were glad to become participants in his action”, said the head of the Administration of the Presiding Bishop of the Russian Church of Christians of the Evangelical Faith, Ivan Borichevsky, “The faithful of our communities very actively participate in fund-raising campaigns and the collection of humanitarian aid”.

The Rev. Pavel Renner described the charitable project as an example of constructive cooperation of religious leaders in giving concrete help to people and participating in their life. 

The importance of united efforts in tragic moments was also mentioned by the representative of the Russian Orthodox Old Belief Church, Roman Atorin, who said, “It is desirable that in the future when this disaster is over we would be brought closer together by moments of joy and positive”.

Bato-Lama Dugarov, speaking about the help given by the Buddhist Traditional Sangha in Russia, stressed, “People responded and did everything in all sincerity, with kindness”. 

Then the participants in the press conference answered questions concerning particular aspects of the collection process, organization and delivery of the humanitarian aid to Donbass.

Hieromonk Stephen (Igumnov), in particular, introduced the journalists to the unique peculiarities of the ongoing humanitarian action.

“I would like to stress once again that we always try to collect and deliver our supply so that it should reach concrete people and include what they need at a given moment”, he said citing as an example the fact that on the very eve of the humanitarian aid delivery to Mariupol, a message came from organizers of distribution on the spot that they discovered an abandoned geriatric home with over 90 elderly people most of whom were bedridden. There was almost no personnel left in it except for one matron. “I received a call yesterday and I conferred with colleagues about a possibility for giving a part of our supply to these elderly people”. Father Stephan said, “Diapers we have collected for the elderly proved to be useful there (we knew that, on the whole, diapers would be needed) as well as the hygienic things that we thought were needed only by children, such as powders and cremes. With great eagerness we conveyed a part of these things to the abandoned elderly”. 

Summing up the press conference, Father Stephen thanked all the religious communities who have taken part in the common cause of help to those who suffer. “For any believer, words about charity are not something extraneous but what comprises the core of his or her faith, of his or her soul. By works of charity we show our love of God and become closer to Him. In this particular case, by uniting our works of charity we stress our unity in the love of the neighbour and of each other. In this sense, Russia is an example for the whole world. We wish that this example be seen”. 

The head of the Interreligious Working Group also thanked all those who helped to carry out this good initiative - state officials, pubic organizations and mass media.

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