Beslan's Orthodox Bishop Urges Unity as Response to Terrorism

Opens “Religions and Cultures” Meeting in Milan

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MILAN, Italy, SEPT. 6, 2004 ( Humanity cannot be divided in the face of terrorism, says the Orthodox bishop whose jurisdiction includes the Russian city where hundreds died in the terrorist school seizure.

Eparch Feofan Ashurkov of Stravropol and Vladikavkaz attended the opening on Sunday of the meeting “Religions and Cultures,” organized by the Community of Sant’Egidio. The event has gathered more than 350 religious representatives and cultural leaders.

“Here there is a teaching for the whole of humanity,” said the eparch, who is under the Moscow Patriarchate.

“Humanity has no other option than to unite, so that terror will not take place, and to eliminate all the situations that create it,” he said. “This is above any other difference.”

“When receiving news of the kidnapping, I arrived in Beslan in 30 minutes and offered myself as a mediator, but dialogue was rejected,” Eparch Ashurkov said.

“I approached the terrorists several times, but on their side there was no request, no dialogue; they had condemned all to death,” the Orthodox bishop lamented.

“Can one call someone who commits such acts a liberator? To struggle for freedom through the death of children?” he asked.

“Those who tried to escape were shot in the back,” the bishop recalled. “I myself closed the eyes of several children who were killed that way. How can someone who acts like that call himself a liberator?”

Eparch Ashurkov expressed his gratitude to the Holy See “for the important moral support it gave us during these days,” before requesting a minute of silence for the victims of Beslan.

The theme of this year’s Religions and Cultures meeting is “The Courage of a New Humanism,” in keeping with the “spirit of Assisi,” fruit of the historical meeting for peace promoted by John Paul II in 1986.

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