As an American who has been completely ignorant to foreign relations in ex-Soviet states, I have no idea what to make of the current situation in Georgia. It seems as if both sides share at least some blame, and aren’t presenting the whole picture of what is going on. Listening to American commentary doesn’t help either, as our government has its own foreign policy agenda to look out for and cannot afford impartiality.
I did run into two interesting editorials on the issue, however: one from Georgia’s president and one from Russia’s minister of foreign affairs. Both have some valid arguments and both seem to skip over a few of the important historical issues. It wasn’t enough to sway me either way, but I feel like I have a better idea of what’s going on.
The only thing I know for sure is this: nobody is putting the concerns of the people of South Ossetia first. Russia claims that their current actions were made to prevent genocide, but they are accused of covertly running the separatist movement for a long time prior. Georgia seems like they are most concerned with national sovereignty and not the human rights of the separatists. In all, it’s a mess and everybody in power is worried most about politics and power, and not the people of the war-devastated region. How disappointing.
Today’s New York Times has a saddening article about diminishing religious freedoms in Russia. While the constitution provides for freedom of religion, the Russian Orthodox Church has overwhelming power over Vladimir Putin’s government, which it is quietly using to persecute and eliminate other religious denominations, calling them “sects” in the derogatory.
Some protestants get random visits from the F.S.B. (think post-Soviet K.G.B.) and can no longer rent spaces of their own or express their beliefs in public- many have moved into hiding, meeting in private homes.
There are definitely much worse places in the world as far as freedom of religion is concerned – Turkey and China especially come to mind. But it’s disappointing to see a country take a step backwards when it comes to freedom. I hate to think of what life for followers of non-Christian faiths must be like in Russia.
Any religion can fall into the self-righteous trap of believing it is the only true one and all others are false, making this decision by faith alone. But even then, this does not give that group a free pass to do wrong to those with other beliefs. As Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”
I surely hope that I will never make the mistake that the Russian government and Orthodox Church has made.