There’s no denying that wars on religious grounds have been among the most protracted and painful conflicts throughout human history, with no other form of conflict even coming close to the sheer amount of violence and bloodshed that such confrontations provoke.
Predictably enough, upon launching yet another “color revolution” in some region of the world, Western policymakers would immediately start exploiting the religious divide that exists in pretty much any state in a bid to protract Washington’s domination over the rest of the world. It’s hardly a secret that upon the foundation of al-Qaeda that was nurtured by American intelligence agencies, Washington managed to establish the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). This terrorist group would advertise itself as a valid Islamic movement, the fact that resulted in thousands of young Muslims falling victims of religious radicalization.
Soon enough this tactics resulted in a major split emerging across the Muslim world and the struggle for regional domination, which allowed the Pentagon to secure billions of dollars in arms contracts that would be fulfilled under the pretext of a joint anti-terrorism struggle.
It’s clear that by provoking a series of military conflicts across the Middle East, Washington managed to take down a number of “authoritarian” political figures, that used to be the pillars of regional stability and that found themselves standing in the way of Washington’s cunning designs. Those people are well-known but not well-remembered, as one can find among them Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi and Hosni Mubarak – those very personalities that are being consistently antagonized by the West today. In the process of taking them down, the Pentagon managed to destroyed the best armed forces that the Middle East has ever had, without putting much fighting effort into this process, leaving the armed forces of Iraq, Libya and Egypt in a state of disarray.
This turn of events resulted in the growth of Islamophobia, terrorist threats and mass migration -those very things that proved to be quite painful for the European Union, as it was forced to spend a considerable amount of time and resources to counter-balance those processes, which allowed Washington to increase its influence on the EU in the long run.
But this wasn’t the last step the US was to make on the geopolitical chessboard, as its orchestrated a religious schism within the Orthodox church. This was no minor achievement as today the Orthodox church has some 300 million believers within its ranks, of which the largest number of members can be found in Russia and all across the post-Soviet space. Yet, this stronghold has an inherited weakness, as Turkey’s Constantinople has been the primary capital of Orthodoxy for centuries. So it’s of little wonder that Washington made a decision to drive a wedge between the largest parish of the Orthodox world in Russia and its center in Constantinople.
To fulfill this goal, Washington made a decision to prompt Constantinople to send patriarchal exarchs, namely archbishop Daniel of Pamphilon and bishop Ilarion of Edmonton from Canada to Kiev for them to initiate the discussion about the independence of Ukraine’s Orthodox church. This step was made mere days after a seemingly cordial meeting between the Patriarch of Moscow and all Rus’Kirill and the archbishop of Constantinople, Bartholomew I. It’s safe to say that Washington was well-aware of the disastrous consequences that a schism within the Orthodox church could bring, and yet it carried on fulfilling its plans all the same. However, this crisis hasn’t resulted in a major aggravation of the close ties that Russia and Turkey have been enjoying for a while now. Russia refused to voice its frustration over the situation publicly while Ankara would carry on its persistent attempts to acquire Russia’s S-400 Triumph, the anti-air system that has no real competitors on the international arms market.
As for the role that Turkey played in the Orthodox church schism, unfortunately, one has to recognize that the initiative Bartholomew I is pursuing is one of the most dangerous scenarios possible, as the redistribution of property between churches could lead to outbursts of violence and civil unrest. At the same time, it is noteworthy that some Ukrainian political figures and their Western sponsors are trying to impose “irreversible realities” upon Ukraine, by making attempts to force Ankara into supporting religious extremists. Instead Ankara would try to urge Bartholomew I to exercise restraint in its speeches, but none of these attempts have had a lasting effect, as archbishop of Constantinople was forced to assume an extremely radical stance on this whole situation by his Western sponsors, while making no attempt to mend the wounds on the body of the Orthodox church that he inflicted.
It clear that if Turkish authorities don’t find a way to bring their message across, it’s highly probable that Ankara itself will be drawn into a highly violent religious struggle that is running the risk of tearing the Orthodox world into pieces.
Against this background, Lebanon’s Al-Akhbar reveals that by succeeding in its quest to insignate religious violence in Ukraine, Washington is trying to subject the Antioch Orthodox church to its will due to the strategic alliance it has been enjoying with the Russian Orthodox church, in spite of the fact that there’s no natural preconditions for a religious split to occur within Lebanon. Yet, as Russia’s influence keeps growing in the Middle East together with its close ties with Moscow’s strategy partner in the region – Damascus, Washington seems to be too inclined to foment violence even in those countries where various religious communities have been coexisting peacefully for decades. Just recently, it attempted to trigger a split between the Orthodox churches in Lebanon and Syria by arguing that patriarch’s position should be moved from Damascus to Beirut. Such designs are being discussed at the highest political level in total disregard of the fact that it may create yet another political schism.
Today it is clear for everyone that the struggle for the future of the Orthodox church is a struggle for massive political power. The actors behind the latest Orthodox schism are not going to feel satisfied with their success in underming Ukraine’s religious unity, as they are going after Russia’s internal political stability and the international support this country has been receiving from various states. The fate of millions of believers is at stake, as the Russian Orthodox church remains the largest Orthodox church in the world, the church that takes it lineage back to 988, when the Slavic population of today’s Russia was baptized. According to the official figures released by the Russian Orthodox church last year, some 180 million people find hope and refuge in its cathedrals, with its jurisdiction stretching across a great divide of Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.
Jean Périer is an independent researcher and analyst and a renowned expert on the Near and Middle East, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook“