ENGLISH VERSION: We urge you to support three young women! Letter of the Russian public to the World Council of Churches
Dear members of the World Council of Churches,
We urge you to support three young women Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Mariya Alekhina, andEkatrina Samutzevitch, who, in violation of Russian law, have been kept in custody in Moscow for nearly four months now. They are facing seven years in jail for allegedly kindling religious animosity. Their actions, however, have not been qualified as criminal offense either by independent experts, or by numerous believers who support the women.
The three are members of a protest Pussy Riot punk group, whichperformed a punk-prayer at Christ the Saviour Cathedral in Moscow on 21 February, 2012. The group prayed to the Mother of God to drive Putin from the Kremlin, urged the Patriarch to believe in God, and not in Putin, and protested against state violence. Apparently, President Putin interpreted this action as personal offense, and, as in the case of Mikhail Khodorkovski, pursues a vendetta against the three young women, of whom two have little children. The aggressive campaign, unleashed by the church and the authorities in mass media and ROC parishes, accuse the group of blasphemy, anti-church activity and extremism.
In defiance of Christian mercifulness and patience, Russian Orthodox Church officials insist on punishment for the women, while the state administration tends to carry out their demand with utmost zeal, using against the group the entire repressive arsenal of the criminal law.
Meanwhile, it is quite obvious that the protest action of the Pussy Riot band pursues the ancient Eastern Christian tradition of Folly for Christ’s sake. The feminist band claimed that they were Christians, and as such voiced their discontent with the commercialization of the Church and its total submission to the state policy. Imitating the style of protest punk rock, they in fact followed the tradition of Byzantine and Russian Holy Fools, who would wear the mask of insanity and burst into churches, where they would blame the clergy and the laymen for their sins. In their letters from prison Nadezhda and Mariya forgive their persecutors and pray for them.
The most famous Cathedral in Russia is named after St. Basil, the most famous Russian Holy Fool, who used to walk naked in Moscow and break icons in the Kremlin. Today his well-educated and courageous followers are kept behind bars. Supporters of the Pussy Riot band have set up a camp outside the court building, organize meetings and picket lines, write open letters to Patriarch Kirill and the Court, which collect thousands of signatures, and hold conferences. But all the authorities turn a deaf ear. They prefer to ignore the protest actions inside the country.
It is crucial at this point to gain the support of Christians abroad. That could hopefully help to tip the balance in favour of justice and mercy.
Ludmila Alekseeva,Chairman of Moscow Helsinki Group
Priest Gleb Yakunin, Member of Moscow HelsinkiGroup,
Chairman of Committeefor Defense of Freedom ofConscience
Sergey Buryanov, Co-Chairman of the Institute for Freedom of Conscience
Lev Levinson, Expert of Human Rights Institute
Vyacheslav Vinnikov, Priest
Yakov Krotov, Priest
Aleksandr Soldatov, Chief Editor of Portal-Credo.Ru
Artur Aristakisyan, Film director, writer
Dr. Elena Golovina, Literature and Psychology Scholar
Natalya Stefanova, Radio journalist (‘Voice of Russia’)
Irina Karatzuba, Associate Professor of Saint Philaret’s Orthodox Christian Institute, Radio journalist
Oksana Kiyanskaya, Professor of Russian State University for Humanities
David Feldman, Professor of Russian State University for Humanities
Elena Kaluzhskaya, Executive of Andrey Sakharov’s Centre, Chief Editor of Gogol.tv
Ilya Morozov, Journalist
Valentina Konstantinova, Feminist activist
Katerina Khmelnitzkaya, Literature and Psychology Scholar
Elena Volkova, Professor of Comparative Literature and Culture
Tatyana Bazzhina, Professor of Russian State University for Humanities
Varvara Faer, stage director
Maria Kotova, singer, teacher
Anno Komarov, feminist activist
Dr. Dmitry Kanibolotsky, biophysicist
Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv, Ukraine
Sergey Knyazev, poet, journalist
Moscow, June 29, 2012