“Russian Orthodox Church flexing muscles” (article, Faith, Feb. 27) undermined its cautions by reaching for an alarmist note.

Russia has been a primarily Christian nation since A.D. 988 and hosts the largest church of the 300 million-member Orthodox Christian faith. It was shackled by communism for less than a century, yet emerged from its communist slavery and now returns to what it has been for most of a millennium.

The Russian Church is slowly reclaiming the nation’s Christian heritage from a legacy of oppression. Missions are not a threat, but a restoration. Yet “missions” mean a different thing in Orthodoxy than in western Christianity. Orthodox churches are limited by set regions and expand outside those boundaries only with the permission or cooperation of the Orthodox churches in those other lands. Russian Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, Serbian Orthodox, etc., are all the same church in different, discrete territories.

As an Orthodox Christian chaplain, for me, the detail that embodies the article’s lack of balance is [mentioned in the last paragraph] − as if the church receiving back a convent likely seized by the state in the first place was controversial. The church is still in the process of gaining back its own stolen property, just as Russia is in the process of reclaiming an essential aspect of its identity.

All this is not to say that religious freedoms don’t need to be guarded, lest we forget that democracy and freedom are not the same thing.

People of any nation or faith will abuse power without checks and balances in place. Russia is no exception, and its hands have not always been clean in this regard; the same could be said for most modern nations. However, the religious rights of the majority are just as important as those of religious minorities.

Chaplain (Capt.) Matthew J. StreettJoint Base Balad, Iraq

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