MOSCOW, Jan. 5 (JTA) — Representatives of Russia’s major faiths have created an interfaith body aimed at bringing the country’s religious groups closer together. At a meeting in Moscow last month, representatives of the Russian Orthodox, Muslim, Jewish and Buddhist communities agreed to set up the Permanent Interfaith Council, which is believed to be the first such group in Russia. The council’s aim is to “ensure contacts and avoid conflicts between believers of various denominations,” said Vsevolod Chaplin, secretary of the Department for External Relations of the Russian Orthodox Church’s Moscow branch. Zinovy Kogan, executive director of the Congress of Jewish Religious Organizations and Communities, who represents Jews on the council, said that, among other things, the council will serve as a unified voice of Russia to react to anti-Semitic incidents. Representatives of the major faiths said the body will also seek to curb extremist trends among believers. After the council is registered as an official organization, it is expected to issue an appeal to Russia’s religious communities to deplore the current surge in anti-Semitism, according to Kogan. According to Farid Asadullin, deputy chairman of the Muslim Spiritual Directorate for East European Russia, the council’s work will be based on the “principle of equality” of all faiths. Representatives of Russia’s Roman Catholic and Lutheran faiths are expected to join the council soon.
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