The Director of the International Institute for Religious Freedom and Moderator for Ecumenical Relations of the World Evangelical Alliance, Thomas Schirrmacher, together with the Secretary General of the Asian Evangelical Alliance, Dr Richard Howell (New Delhi), informed themselves personally in the Department for Foreign Affairs of the Russian Orthodox Church about the results of the conversation between the Pope and the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church. It culminated in a joint statement – also on the subject of the persecution of Christians. Archimandrit Philaret Bulekov, Vice-President of the Russian Orthodox Church Department of External Church Relations, welcomed the fact that the major churches and Christian associations were moving closer together on the issue of the persecution of Christians.
Howell and Schirrmacher were in Moscow for the Global Christian Forum leadership meeting. Both represent the World Evangelical Alliance. The Global Christian Forum has been a discussion forum of the Vatican, the World Council of Churches, the World Evangelical Alliance and the Pentecostal World Fellowship for 20 years.
Schirrmacher also visited the Russian Evangelical Alliance and held talks with its Secretary General, Sergey Vdovin, and with the presidents of the two largest member churches, the Union of Gospel Christians/Baptists and the “Pentecostal Churches of Evangelical Faith.”
Within the course of the Global Christian Forum, the leaders of the Baptists, Pentecostals and Lutherans met representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church in the Patriarchate. At this meeting, Schirrmacher and Howell thanked the Russian churches for upholding faith in Jesus Christ during 70 years of Communist rule and a most brutal persecution of Christians. There was also commemoration expressed for the martyrs. However, Schirrmacher also called on the churches to learn from history and stand up for religious freedom in Russia and for the persecuted churches worldwide.
Schirrmacher also met with the Board and the Youth Board of the Russian Section of the International Society for Human Rights (ISHR). Schirrmacher is the international President of the ISHR. The Russian Section of the ISHR is one of the largest human rights organizations in Russia. As President Vladimir Novitski explained, the organization is very popular with young people. Among other things, the talks focused on preparations for the next International Council of the ISHR in Bonn in April, where Schirrmacher will stand for re-election.