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On 2-nd June 2017 we had a very interesting meeting with the Rev. Victor H. Kazanjian during his short visit to Russia. Summer is a very bad time for organizing meetings because most students are busy with their exams and those who are free try to leave Moscow, but in spite of this the audience was full of students. There were also teachers representing different Departments of our Institute of Asian and African Studies (IAAS): those of economics, history, political science, literature and linguistics. IAAS is one of the faculties of Moscow State University.

 

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All students and teachers were very much impressed by Victor’s manner of speaking and by his perfect knowledge of the situation in different regions, namely, in South Asia, in Near and Far East, etc.  Our Indologists were happy to know that he had spent much time in India and knows the country’s problems very well.

Victor started a very lively discussion in which most teachers and students actively expressed their own views on the corresponding subjects. The main idea present in many speakers’ talks was that when people know more about each other’s religious philosophy and practice, they start understanding each other better and it helps to avoid all kinds of misunderstanding between different communities and ethnic groups.

 

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Following this main idea Dr. Guzel Strelkova was speaking about Muslims in Moscow. She showed that ethnic background is much more important for many of them then confessional self-identification.Before 1990 the majority of Muslims in Moscow were Tatars from Kasimov (on Oka River bank) and from other  cities situated on Volga river banks (Kazan, Simbirsk, Nizhniy Novgorod), less Muslims came from Azerbaijan. These people were peaceful, tolerant and peacefully co-existed with the majority of Christian population. Starting from the beginning of ‘perestroyka’ (end of 1980-ies and the beginning of 1990-ies) there came many Muslims from Caucasus, some of them were following traditions of orthodox Islam. Certain cases of misunderstanding happening between them and the aborigines of  Moscow still may be explained rather by cultural, but not by religious differences.

Maria Didenko was speaking about economic and political background of religious clashes in India and in Russia.

One of the students said that religious tolerance should not mean “I do not like you, but I am tolerable towards you”, as tolerance should be based on mutual understanding and sympathy.

 

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Some students asked Victor difficult questions like: ‘If one tries to be friendly and tolerant, but does not get sympathy and understanding from the other side, what he is supposed to do?’ Victor proposed very good answers to them.

Liudmila Khokhlova suggested organizing a discussion in Internet between different Universities. The theme might be something like ‘How religious studies, being the part of higher education, might be aimed at practical purposes, that is, at explaining to the people that terrorist attacks have nothing to do with any religious philosophy, that crime, aggressiveness, ignorance or bad behavior of any person are never based on any religious background, etc’.

After the meeting the student surrounded Victor and continued to ask questions and discuss various problems. We hope to see him once again at our University. 

 

Prof. Liudmila Khokhlova (Religions for Humanity CC, Moscow, Russia)

"We need to be the change we wish to see in the world" - Mahatma Gandhi

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