The Russian Orthodox Church’s department for foreign affairs has provided the Director of the International Institute for Religious Freedom and moderator for intrafaith (ecumenical) relationships for the World Evangelical Alliance, together with the General Secretary of the Asian Evangelical Alliance, Richard Howell, (New Delhi) with information on the results of a discussion between the Pope and the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church. The meeting between the Pope and the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church climaxed in a joint statement – including the topic of the persecution of Christians. Archimandrite Philaret Bulekov, Vice President of the Russian Orthodox Church Department of External Church Relations, welcomed that large churches and Christian associations were coming closer to each other in matters relating to Christian persecution.
Howell and Schirrmacher were in Moscow for executive sessions of the Global Christian Forum, both acting as representatives of the World Evangelical Alliance. For 20 years, the Global Christian Forum has been a discussion forum for the Vatican, the World Council of Churches, the World Evangelical Alliance, and the Pentecostal World Fellowship.
Additionally, Schirrmacher visited the Russian Evangelical Alliance and conducted discussions with the General Secretary, Sergey Vdovin, and with the presidents of both of the largest member churches, the Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists and the Pentecostal Churches of Evangelical Faith. In the course of the Global Christian Forum, the head of the baptists, Pentecostals, and Lutherans met representatives of the Russian Orthodox church at the patriarchate. During the meeting, Schirrmacher and Howell thanked the Russian churches for having upheld faith in Jesus Christ during 70 years of communist rule and the most brutal Christian persecution and commemorated the martyrs. However, he also called upon churches to learn from history and advocate religious freedom in Russia and stand up for the persecuted church around the world.
In addition, Schirrmacher met with the board and the youth board of the Russian Section of the International Society for Human Rights (ISHR; German name: Internationalen Gesellschaft für Menschenrechte, or IGFM). Thomas Schirrmacher is the International President of the ISHR. The Russian Section of the ISHR is one of the largest human rights organizations in Russia. As the chairman, Vladimir Novitski stated, the organization has a multitude of followers among young people. The preparations for the ISHR’s next international council meeting in Bonn in April were among other matters covered in the discussions. Schirrmacher will stand for reelection at the time of the next international council meeting.
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