01/26/2010, 00.00
RUSSIA
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Teaching religion in school distances Russians from Orthodoxy

A poll published by the Ministry of Education shows that more than 58% of parents chose secular ethics for their children, while only 19.1% opt for the foundations of Orthodox culture. Unprepared teachers and unsuitable texts root cause of problem.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - The compulsory teaching of religion in Russian schools is not bringing the results expected from the Patriarchate of Moscow. Many, instead of choosing a course of "Fundamentals of Orthodox culture" have chosen the more generic "religious cultures" and "secular ethics". Orthodox courses are also assigned to novice teachers and textbooks written too fast to be valid, thus, Russian observers note, instead of bringing children and their families to religion, the effect is to distance them.

 

According to a poll made public by the Ministry of Education of the Krasnoyarsk region, 14,646 households, that is 58.2% of the total included in the experimental program of religious instruction, chose secular ethic lessons for their children. However, 5,417 (27%) parents chose the foundations of religious culture and a little less opted for the foundations of Orthodox culture (4,804, 19.1%). Only 1% of respondents instead spoke in favour of the remaining three modules: 231 families (0.9%) for the foundations of Islamic culture, 26 families (0.1%) for the foundations of Buddhist culture and 22 families (0 , 08%) for the foundations of Jewish culture.

Krasnoyarsk is the third territory of the Federation, after Stavropol and Sverdlovsk, to confirm this trend in society. Analysts note that while maintaining a stable position, the Orthodox religion (which the Moscow Patriarchate claims to be the faith of about 80% of the Russian population) is still viewed with distrust after 70 years of state atheism.  

According to observers interviewed by the internet site portal-credo.ru,, these figures are proof that "instead of attracting people to religion, teaching at school pushes them away." For Lyudmila Aleksey, head of the Moscow Helsinki Group, "There's no better way to turn people off than classes taught by unprepared teachers and unfit to texts”.  

While both the Orthodox faith and the others that are considered "traditional" in Russia (Judaism, Buddhism and Islam) had a basis of texts written in the past on which to structure the new school textbooks, "religious cultures" and "secular ethics" started from zero and the books were written in a quick and summary way by unprepared people, complains Svetlana Solodovnik on Ezhednevniy Zhurnal. In a recent article she speaks of  the "intrusion" of the Russian Orthodox Church in the drafting of these texts. "The Patriarchate of Moscow – she recalls - has always argued that the foundations of secular ethics reflect the value system of religious ethics" (ie, Christian Orthodox values).

Andrei Sebentsov, who has long worked in the government committee for religious affairs, explains the fact that the Russian Orthodox Church was the only promoter of teaching religion in school, it claimed to lead".   And there are now those who complain that the secular nature of this type of lesson is being lost in favour of a real catechism in schools. "It seems - says Marianna Shakhovic, head of the department of philosophy and religion at the University of St. Petersburg - that instead of teaching fundamentals of religion, religion itself is being taught: it is one thing to explain who Christ was or what his Gospel was, it is another thing to make children learn prayers which is what has already been suggested by the Patriarchate of Moscow to do. " (MA)

 

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