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Moscow Patriarchate in Singapore

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An oblique view of Holy Dormition Parish in Singapore.

The Modern Russian and His Religion: Yen Feng learns why Russians in Singapore want their children to have faith.

Nov. 27, 2009

THE limited popularity of Singapore’s Russian Orthodox Church calls to attention the uneasy relationship modern Russians have with religion.

Since it was set up two years ago, Russian Orthodox Church members have increased from 10 to 100, but that is still only a small fraction of the 3,000 Russians who live here.

Most churchgoers are professionals in their 30s or 40s, with young families. Last Sunday, a quarter of the 40 devotees in church were under 12-years-old.

History, from 1922 to 1991, gives an insight into why Russians remain tentative about practising their faith.

For 70 years in the Soviet Union, the Party regarded religion as an ideological rival to Communism. Churches were flattened, or converted into prisons and warehouses.

Historians estimate as many as 20 million Christians killed or thrown into labour camps and mental hospitals. Many fled. Those who stayed were re-baptised as Communists. Lenin became their new god.

Mr Evgeny Shmelev, born in 1975, had not stepped into a church until 2006. A newborn converted the born-again Christian.

The recent father, who now goes to church weekly with his three-year-old son, said: “I want my boy to know religion. It will be a good guide for his life.”

To church member Sergeui Zagriatski, it was both paternal and romantic love that opened his heart to the holy connection.

The self-professed Christian confessed it was not until he met his Singaporean wife (who converted to Russian Orthodox) that he became religious.

The Holy Spirit, he said, has helped him become more grounded, and he wishes the same for his two young daughters.

“When the Soviet Union was dissolved in 1991, it was a time of maximum spiritual emptiness,” said the 34-year-old, who moved to Singapore two years ago.

“It was complete devastation, a collapse of all references. After going through such a vacuum, I would like my daughters to have some moral and religious reference points they can use later in their lives.”

On Sunday, the children obediently took turns to offer their sacrifice of lit candles – no easy feat for those who were shorter than the candle-stand.

Even though the service was conducted in Church Slavonic, an old language used nowhere else besides in Orthodox prayers, Sasha, Mr Zagriatski’s five-year-old Eurasian daughter, took to the syllables easily, with practice.

Bishop Sergiy of Solnechnogorsk, Russia, who founded the Church here in 2007, described it earlier this month as fundamental to the modern man.

“For many Russians today, religion is like bread and love – it is basic.”

But if the young families of the Orthodox Church are representative of their generation, the modern Russian’s re-introduction to religion will require first filial love as a matchmaker.

Those who were parents and grandparents in the Soviet Empire remember giving up their faith to protect their young.

It makes sense that generations later, when parents themselves, modern Russians will recover what was lost to do the same.

Source: The Straits Times

Hat Tip to ROCOR Unity

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Written by Stephen

December 1, 2009 at 12:15 pm

Posted in Russia, Singapore

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