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Religious Freedom Abuses Must Be Countered - Russian Orthodox Church

MOSCOW. Nov 30 (Interfax) - The Moscow Patriarchate has perceived the criticism of Russia contained in the U.S. Department of State's 2009 Report on International Religious Freedom as an attempt to limit the country's efforts to fight extremism.

"It is precisely the extremism, with its abuse of the innate religious feeling, that underlies international terrorism, which claimed lives of many Russian and U.S. servicemen who fought against it," head of the Department of External Church Relations Archbishop Ilarion of Volokolam said in his letter to the U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Beyrle, posted on the Department's website on Monday.

The Inter-religious Council of Russia "spoke against extremism on many occasions, condemning the abuse of religious freedom and freedom of speech, be it anti-Semitism, or publication of cartoons depicting Mohammed or the anti-Christian exhibition in Moscow," Rev. Ilarion said.

"In this context, the report's authors seem to have ambiguous concerns about the rights of the Satanists whose cult is related with the profanation of sacred places of religions, the review of which is given in the report by the U.S. Department of State," the letter said.

Regrettably, the report condemns "the restrictions imposed on certain "new religious movements," Rev. Ilarion said.

At the same time, the report says nothing "about the instances that led to such restrictions," he said.

"Many former followers of the said movements, who were psychologically and morally traumatized after becoming victims of fraud, go to Church. The religious and secular rehabilitation centers spend a lot of effort to get these people back to normal life, to deal with their suicidal inclinations, to restore their ruined family happiness," the letter said.

This is why "most often behind many restrictive measures imposed by the state on minority religious groups there is a concern about its citizens' rights and the demands from citizens themselves," the clergyman said.

The 2009 Report on International Religious Freedom was published by the U.S. Department of State on October 26. The report's section about Russia says that although the religious freedom is fixed in the Russian Constitution and the government generally respects this right, the authorities impose restrictions on a number of groups in certain cases.

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