Russian Orthodox Church Backs ‘Holy Battle’ Against ISIS

Russia’s powerful Orthodox Church on Wednesday voiced support for Moscow’s decision to carry out air strikes in Syria against the Islamic State group (ISIS), calling it a “holy battle.”

“The fight with terrorism is a holy battle and today our country is perhaps the most active force in the world fighting it,” said the head of the Church’s public affairs department, Vsevolod Chaplin, quoted by Interfax news agency.

Chaplin explicitly said the Church backs Russia’s decision to deploy its airforce in Syria to attack ISIS.

“This decision corresponds with international law, the mentality of our people and the special role that our country has always played in the Middle East,” Chaplin said.

Chaplin said a council representing Russia’s main religions – OrthodoxChristianity, Islam, Judaism and Buddhism – would release a joint statement on Russia’s role in Syria.

“In this statement, we will support the decision that was taken by our government,” Chaplin said.

Russia’s Orthodox Church, after years of repression under the Soviets, has regained much of its influence and built up close ties with the government despite a formal separation of Church and state. President Vladimir Putin is regularly depicted attending services.

The Russian air force launched its first airstrikes in Syria earlier Wednesday – although the strikes do not appear to have targeted ISIS, instead focusing on rebels fighting to overthrow dictator Bashar al-Assad.