Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 216

The Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, Aleksy II, has completed a week-long visit to Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan in connection with the 125th anniversary of the founding of the Russian Orthodox Church’s archbishopric for Central Asia. The head of the Russian Orthodox Church met with Presidents Islam Karimov and Askar Akayev, with senior Muslim clergymen in those countries, and with local Russian Orthodox clergy and believers. Aleksy also conducted services in recently restored Russian Orthodox cathedrals in Tashkent and Bishkek and visited newly built churches in the two countries. Aleksy expressed approval of state policies toward the Russian Orthodox Church, the "equal treatment" accorded its believers, and the "interethnic consensus and mutual respect among religious denominations" he claimed to have observed in those countries.

On the same anniversary, Aleksy awarded the Dmitry Donskoy order to Kazakhstani president Nursultan Nazarbayev for supporting the restitution of church buildings in Kazakhstan to the Russian Orthodox diocese. Statements issued on the same occasion by Nazarbayev, Karimov, and Akayev described the coexistence of Muslim and Christian faiths in the region as an illustration of religious tolerance and a factor of stability in interethnic relations. The presidents said that Russian Orthodoxy has become a constitutive element in the social life of these countries. (Itar-Tass, Interfax, November 9-15) The Central Asian leaders are interested in promoting religious pluralism as part of their strategy of containing Islamic radicalism.

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