09/02/2004, 00.00
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Aleksij II: "United against terrorism, a threat to the world"

Hundreds of people demonstrate against terrorism in Grozny.

Moscow (AsiaNews) – Russian Orthodox Patriarch Aleksij II was quoted by Russian news agency RIA Novosti saying that "the whole of Russia and the entire world must unite to fight terrorism. No political or economic interest should stop joint action against this common threat. Terrorism is now international. It respects neither political nor geographic boundaries. No one can feel safe." Speaking about the hostage taking incident in Beslan, North Ossetia (Russia), the Patriarch said: "I pray and hope that all the children and all the hostages will be freed and safe." Armed militants are holding over 300 people hostage, most of them children, inside a booby-trapped a school in this Russian Republic in the Caucasus.

The Russian Orthodox Church further denounced the attack by Chechen terrorists through Fr Vsevolod Chaplin, Vice-President of the department of external church relations of the Moscow Patriarchate. "It is terrible that human life is treated like a bargaining chip," he told Moscow Echo Radio. "This is a danger Russia must face once again."

Father Chaplin called on God to keep the country united, so as "to avoid what happened in the Balkans and Nagorno-Karabakh", and urged Russians to "help each other keep safe in these trying times and remain tolerant towards one another irrespective of religion or nationality."

To the captors, Fr Chaplin said: "The best thing you can do for the good of Chechnya and Islam is to free the children. What you are doing serves no one's interest. It will not help you in any of your plans, be they political or otherwise."

This afternoon hundreds of people marched in Grozny against the terrorists holed up in the Beslan school. According RIA Novosti sources, around 500 students demonstrated near Grozny University. They marched carrying banners calling for the children's liberation and expressing support for the people of North Ossetia. Speaker after speaker expressed solidarity and support for the hostages, their parents and families. At the end, the demonstrators approved a resolution condemning terrorism in all its forms.

In Gudermes, Chechnya's second largest city, another mass rally against the Beslan terrorist attack took place. RIA Novosti reported that many children were present at this demonstration in solidarity with their fellow children now in terrorist hands. Demonstrators in Gudermes also condemned the mass kidnapping. (MA - LF)

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Small number of hostages released in Ossetia
Orthodox bishop proposes building church in place of Beslan school
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