Inter-faith roundtable highlights the importance of strengthening faith-based education.
The Seventh-day Church in Russia recently took an active part in a roundtable discussion entitled “Actual Problems in the Development of Religious Education and Science in the Russian Federation.” Oleg Goncharov, director of Religious Liberty and Public Affairs of the Adventist Church in the Euro-Asia Division region, served as a moderator of the discussion in Moscow on March 28, 2018.
The event, organized by the Russian Association for the Protection of Religious Freedom (RARS), was attended by representatives of public and religious organizations, including from the Ministry of Science and Education.
“A development of the system of religious education is of great importance for our society,” acknowledged Alexander Kudryavtsev, deputy head of the Department for Humanitarian Policy and Public Relations in his opening remarks. “Thus, the Russian government is interested in helping religious organizations solve urgent problems related to the work of religious educational institutions.”
Konstantin Blazhenov, deputy head of the Department for National Policy and Interregional Relations of Moscow, added that respect among different faiths is essential in a modern society, especially in cosmopolitan cities such as Moscow.
“Moscow is a multinational and multi-confessional city—it’s a city of students,” he said. “All denominations have their educational institutions…. And the Moscow City Government considers this a very important factor for maintaining interethnic, intercultural, and interreligious respect because conflicts arise most often where there is not enough information.”
Adventist Leaders Contributions
In his role, Oleg Goncharov, who is an ordained minister, urged the religious organizations of our country to give due attention to the development of the religious educational system. “Today, society needs spiritual people who are brought up by moral values,” he said. “Currently, at the legislative level, positive changes are taking place, [as] our current legislation allows religious organizations to establish and open religious educational institutions at all levels.”
According to Ivan Ryapolov, education associate director of the Adventist Church in the region, the Adventist educational system is going through important changes. “Over the past five years, [the Adventist Church] has opened 36 [schools] across Russia and former USSR countries,” he said. He also informed that currently, the Adventist Church operates 52 schools, where Christian education is offered to 1,989 students. Adventists now plan to open ten new schools every year, he said.
Oleg Voronyuk, Financial Affairs vice-president of Zaoksky Adventist University, spoke about the advantages of obtaining higher education in religious institutions.
“Along with the fact that the student receives a set of specific skills and practical competences, Christian higher education pays great attention to the development of integrity in the human person,” he said. “Christian universities emphasize the education of personal traits and moral imperatives that will make a person a full, positive, and necessary member of society.”
As Voronyuk reminded the other participants, Adventist schools have received state recognition and accreditation. It means, he said, that the doors of our schools are open to any person regardless of religion, race, or nationality.
“In Christian schools all are equal,” he emphasized.
How Essential is Religious Education
Representatives from other faiths echoed contributions and statements by Adventist leaders.
“Our country urgently needs religion to become a part of the educational process of the younger generation,” said Archpriest Lev Semenov, dean of the Faculty of Continuing Education of the Orthodox St. Tikhon Humanitarian University. “It is an urgent need.”
Igor Kovalevsky, secretary general of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Russia, seconded and stressed the importance of theology’s role in education. “Theology teaches tolerance, mutual understanding with people who hold different views,” he stated. “Religious education stimulates students to a broader understanding of reality and expands the horizons of knowledge.”
In the case of Galina Teplikh, head of the department for the development of scientific and educational projects of the Chisinau Post-Graduate School, the importance of religious education and theology goes well beyond theoretical considerations, especially as we face contemporary threats to human existence. “It is extremely important, you’d agree, to impart spiritual values to those who answer for the nuclear button in our country,” she said.
As he assured religious education leaders of his government support, Andrey Tretyakov, main adviser of the Department for Interaction with Religious Organizations of the Office of the President of the Russian Federation, closed the event with a challenge.
“Set high goals and achieve them” he said. “Develop religious educational institutions in such a way others want to follow their example.”