Murder of a missionary -

Murder of a missionary

Religious leaders call for peace as slain Russian priest buried


Father Daniil Sysoyev was shot dead inside his own church last week, in a killing that many suspect was by Islamic radicals. He was a controversial figure, even within the Russian Orthodox Church. In contravention of an unspoken agreement among the major Russian religions not to seek converts among each other’s flocks, Sysoyev was an active missionary, seeking to proselytize Moscow Muslims. Sysoyev also posted a series of online sermons on YouTube dissecting the Islamic faith and making several incendiary claims about the religion. The priest himself spoke of receiving multiple death threats for his views on Islam. Late last week, after the evening service, an intruder burst into Father Sysoyev’s small church, located in a drab Moscow suburb. The killer was wearing a surgical mask, brandishing a pistol, and demanded to know where Sysoyev was. When the priest emerged, he was shot twice, in the head and neck, and later died in hospital. A lengthy funeral service was held for Father Sysoyev yesterday at a church in southern Moscow, presided over by Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church. Tensions were high even as leading Christian and Muslim figures called for calm. “To kill a man of God inside his own church is absolutely disgusting,” said Natalia, an elderly mourner who said she had not known the priest personally but respected his views. “If it was the Muslims, there will be hell to pay. Russia is a Christian country and they shouldn’t forget that.” Muslims agree the danger exists. “He was an odious figure, who openly insulted Islam, the Koran, and our prophet,” said a high-profile Muslim intellectual who did not want to be named, because of the sensitivity of the situation. Whether or not the murder was perpetrated by Islamic radicals, he said, there is now every chance of a backlash. “I wouldn’t be at all surprised if we see revenge attacks,” he said. “The fact that the Patriarch himself led the funeral service is a sign from the authorities that these views are acceptable, and it’s very ominous.”

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