Putin Promises Own Salary for “Museum of Tolerance”

News from Russia:

Russia’s Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar told President Putin about a plan to set up a Russian Jewish museum, a Museum of Tolerance.

…’For a few years we have discussed the establishment of a Russian Jewish museum, a Museum of Tolerance. Now the need has become ripe. The aim of this museum is to educate the younger generation for tolerance and respect for one another”, Rabbi Lazar said.

Putin was moved to put his hand in his pocket:

“This is a good idea”, Putin replied, “I promise to transfer my monthly salary to the fund for building this museum”.

The Russian president and Lazar are long-time allies, and back in 2005 they rather bizarrely awarded each other medals. Handing over one’s cash for the cause of interreligious understanding is quite the in thing among the wealthy elite of the CIS these days; just last month I noted how “the Kazakh Trio” of oil billionaires had organised a summit on “Peace and Tolerance”.

But how come Lazar has suddenly decided to extoll the virtue of “tolerance”? After all, this is the guy who complained, in April 2004, that

Reports available to us suggest that more than one million Russian citizens are members of various sects. This is a serious threat. We shouldn’t sit back and wait until something bad happens. We don’t need such sects.

Lazar also backed the ban on Jehovah’s Witnesses having even private meetings in Moscow, saying that

there are serious questions about the practice of the Jehovists in Russia; for example, it is completely impermissible that ministers of the faith to force children to cut off relations with their parents if they are not members of the same religious  society.

And, of course, he has also railed against “homosexual propaganda” in the form of gay pride marches:

‘One should see that the only object of this parade is to make a PR action, which is dirty, insulting and indecent,’ Lazar said in his interview to Interfax.

…’They say they hold their parade so that people can understand them. Yet it would be much better if they learn to understand the feelings of other people first and then demand understanding,’ the interviewee is convinced.

This fits in with the Orthodox Church’s new view of “human rights”, in which the human right of religious conservatives not to be offended by homosexuality trumps the right of homosexuals to free expression:

On April 6 [2006], the Tenth World Council of Russian People adopted a “Declaration of Human Dignity and Rights,” a document that appears to challenge the 1948 “Declaration of Human Rights” passed by the United Nations General Assembly. The new Orthodox manifesto openly questions the system of liberal values and effectively calls on Russian society to revise the universally accepted concept of human rights.

…This idea was bluntly expressed at this year’s gathering by none other than Patriarch Alexei II. “To what extent does this [Western] vision of human rights allow an Orthodox people to live in accordance with the faith it professes?” the Russian Church’s spiritual leader asked. Alexei’s personal stance on this issue is crystal clear, as he asserted that the spread of the Western conception of human rights would likely lead to the “revival of neo-paganism.”

But be careful what you say about Alexei, who has just received a miraculous endorsement from God:

Droplets of myrrh came out on the portrait of Patriarch Alexy II on the Trinity Day in the church of St. Alexander Nevsky at the town of Nizhniaya Salda near Yekaterinburg.

‘It is a sign of God! The Lord himself has marked the patriarch’s image to strengthen our faith!’ parishioners say as cited by the Tvoy Den newspaper.

…Having seen the emanation with his own eyes, the archbishop [Vikenty of Yekaterinburg and Verkhoturye] said, ‘The myrrh may mean the tears of joy. It is through the efforts of His Holiness that the Russian Orthodox Church has united, and the Lord is rejoicing in His children’.

Alexei considers that Putin should also be praised for bringing about the re-unification of the two Russian Orthodox churches, and he recently presented the president with an icon of the “Life-giving Trinity” (an ironic choice, given the fate of so many of Putin’s critics). No doubt the kudos that Alexei will garner from the “miracle” near Yekaterinburg will also radiate across to Putin. Also likely to benefit by contamination is Alexander Lukashenko, the ruler of Belarus; Alexei has heaped awards and praises on the dictator.