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Arab Spring affects Christians in the region, Russian diplomat notes

The situation in Iraq, for instance, still sparks concern

MOSCOW, March 1. /TASS/. The aftermath of the Arab Spring (revolutionary rallies at the end of 2010, which resulted in the regime change in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen, as well as triggered a conflict in Syria) continue to affect Christians in the region, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov told a roundtable at the Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society on Thursday.

"The reality is that the consequences of the Arab Spring developments continue to negatively tell on the fate of the Christians," said Bogdanov, who is also Russian president’s envoy for the Middle East and Africa.

He said the most difficult situation is seen in Syria and Iraq, where Islamic State (outlawed in Russia) terrorists have killed tens of thousands of Christians, plundering and destroying numerous monasteries.

"The situation in Iraq still sparks concern, as well as the situation facing Coptic Christians in Egypt," he stressed. "The religious factor is very important in the region, it is necessary to see all peoples and confessions living in peace," Bogdanov added.

He reiterated that the problem of protecting the Christians is constantly mentioned in international contacts of the Russian president, foreign minister and other representatives of the country’s leadership. "We continue advocating the rights of Christians at international platforms, including the UN Human Rights Council," the diplomat said.

Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society Chairman Sergey Stepashin said Christians and Muslims work in Syria together, "there is no inter-ethnic conflict that somebody is striving to stir up". "Fighting continues there against terrorism, against bandits who are hiding behind Islam," he noted. "A war in the Middle East region rallies the people for whom the main task is to ensure peace," Stepashin said.

He said the Society he chairs has taken on a new function, connected with the protection of Christianity in the Middle East and humanitarian assistance. "We will build a school on the outskirts of Damascus, our Syrian friends also propose to build a first Russian university," Stepashin added.