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Newsletter, January 2018

Round Table on Social Service of Religious Communities - Inter-confessional Exchange

A round-table conference on Social Service of Religious communities - Inter-Confessional Exchange took place on January 26, 2018, at the Moscow Patriarchate department for external church relations (DECR) as part of the XXVI International Educational Christmas Readings. It was attended by some 40 clergy and laity from various dioceses of the Russian Orthodox Church, representatives of Catholic and Protestant religious communities, governmental organizations and Church related NGOs.

The Round Table was chaired by Hieromonk Stefan (Igumnov), secretary for Inter-Christian Relations of DECR. Opening the meeting, he noted the importance of round tables on issues of interfaith cooperation, which take place every year at DECR during the Christmas readings, because practical interaction in the social sphere is an important topic in inter-Christian relations. This is proved by the declaration, signed during the meeting between Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and all Russia and Pope Francis in Havana, by the work of the Christian interdenominational coordinating committee, and some areas of Orthodox-Protestant cooperation. "It is symbolic that such meetings take place at the beginning of the year - they set the tone for our cooperation for the coming year," stated Hieromonk Stefan (Igumnov).

Margarita B. Nelyubova, DECR staff member informed the meeting about the about a working group set up to coordinate the interaction of Orthodox and Catholics in the spirit of the Havana Declaration. The group, which includes representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church, the Roman Catholic Church and the charitable foundation "Kirche in Not", works in two priority areas: the implementation of joint projects to help Christians in the Middle East and the issues of family and family values.

As for the second area, much attention is paid to help for "pregnant women in crisis situation" and women with children who are in trouble. In 2016-2017, a Humanitarian Aid Center was built in Moscow, where from June to December 2017, about 1,000 families with children received humanitarian support of various kinds. In August 2017 a Center for help to mothers and children "Solnyshko" was opened in Stavropol at the Savior's Transfiguration Cathedral, to assist women who found themselves in a crisis situation. In Nizhny Novgorod region, support was also provided to the "Be a Mom" Family Support Center, where women and children live. In November 2017 in Nizhny Novgorod a round table "Protection of motherhood and childhood: concept, practical approaches, cooperation based on common Christian values" was held, headed by Metropolitan Georgy of Nizhny Novgorod and Arzamas. Among the speakers were representatives of Italian Christian organizations who spoke about the experience of the "Host families" association and the help to survivors of domestic violence.

An important experience of interconfessional cooperation was a training seminar on anti-abortion counseling in January 2017 in Moscow. Specialists from the Center for Life Support at the Mangiagalli Clinic (Italy, Milan), who conducted the seminar, shared their methodology of counseling with Russian psychologists - Orthodox and Catholics from different cities. A series of trainings on value-oriented programs for the prevention of risky behavior, socially dangerous diseases, spiritual and moral education "Ladya", "Living Water" and "Road to Home" was held in 2017 in Arkhangelsk, Stavropol, Magadan and other cities of Russia. Both Orthodox and Catholics were invited to participate in these trainings.

The theological seminar in St. Petersburg on September 1, 2017 in the higher Catholic seminary Maria the Queen of Apostles, was devoted to the theological interpretation of the problems of dependency from the perspective of the Orthodox and Catholic Churches. The meeting was attended by representatives of the St. Petersburg Metropoly of the Russian Orthodox Church, teachers and students of the St. Petersburg Theological Academy, specialists in rehabilitation of drug users from Italy and Portugal. As a result of the seminar, an interconfessional expert group was established to develop a program for Orthodox and Catholic theological schools on work with drug users.

Representative of the "Kirche in Not" Foundation Peter Gumenyuk recalled the long-standing traditions of the charity's cooperation with the Russian Orthodox Church, which was started by the founder of the foundation - the Catholic monk Fr. Werenfried van Straaten. "Over the past 25 years, forms of cooperation have changed many times, but at the same time, mutual trust has grown and strengthened; a lot has been done. This work contributed to a dialogue between our churches. In this sense, the historic meeting in Havana marked the beginning of new forms of cooperation. "

Giovanna Parravichini, representative of the "Christian Russia" Foundation (Italy), continuing the theme of Orthodox-Catholic cooperation in the spirit of the Havana Declaration, and spoke about initiatives aimed at joint discussion of the most urgent contemporary problems and the exchange of social work experience. In October 2016 in Milan, the International Conference "An unexpected gift of mercy. Migration processes: the risk of fundamentalism or indifference?" took place. The second part of the conference was held in Moscow in the framework of the "Pokrovskie meetings". "The Italian participants learned with great interest about the charitable work in the Russian Orthodox Church," G. Parravichini said, and Orthodox participants learned about the examples of diaconal ministry in Italy, which in recent years has faced a large flow of refugees from different nationalities and religions. In November 2017, a delegations of Catholics and Orthodox participated in a conference on Thanksgiving in Vladimir. The speaker noted that the interdenominational meeting was held at Vladimir State University, and the students also were able to participate in the discussion. Among the speakers were guests from Italy - the Bonaiti couple, representing the Catholic Association "Host Families", which accompanies foster parents and families who provide shelter to people in a difficult life situation.

Margarita Nelyubova spoke about the preparation of the VI International Conference on HIV / AIDS in Eastern Europe and Central Asia (EECAAC), which will be held on April 18-20, 2018 in Moscow. A representative interreligious delegation of the countries of the region will participate in the conference. The delegation members will make presentations at different sessions. The speaker drew attention to the fact that during the time since the first EECAAC conference in 2006, the representation of religious organizations in this important forum is steadily growing. In 2016, the delegation included about 80 representatives of Christian, Muslim and Jewish religious communities from Russia, Belarus, Moldova, Ukraine and Armenia. They organized three seminars within the conference program: "Experience of religious organizations in HIV/AIDS prevention", "Spiritual formation and professional programs in rehabilitation centers of religious communities", "Mapping the activities of religious organizations in the field of HIV response and drug addicts' rehabilitation". Through the efforts of Protestant religious organizations, a film was made about the participation of an interreligious delegation in the conference. At the end of the forum, a final document was adopted, which notes the important role of religious communities in the progress achieved in overcoming the HIV / AIDS epidemic.

During the round table discussion, practical developments in the sphere of church social service were also presented. A series of four methodological manuals "Care for the patients after a stroke" was presented by Olga Egorova, senior nurse of the home care service of St. Dimitry sisterhood, head of the Resource Center for Palliative Care. She noted that the manual is intended for both medical personnel and relatives who provide care for patients after a stroke.

Maria Ilchenko ("Live Now" Foundation), introduced the roundtable participants in an interactive mode to the basics of music therapy and told about its practical application in medical and social institutions. She presented a new methodological guide "Musician as a volunteer", written by musical therapist Alisa Apreleva, a specialist in the clinical use of music in medical, rehabilitation, social and educational institutions.

Nadezhda Ivanova, representing the Seventh-day Adventist Church, presented a series of 24 one-minute video clips "Facts and Hope" calling for a healthy lifestyle. The videos are devoted to such topics as "Physical Activity", "Water Advantages", "Sleep", "Teens and the Internet", "Mental Health ", "Gratitude", etc. These videos can be useful for church and social workers in their activities.

DECR Communication Service

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