Story today from the NyTimes on the Georgian Orthodox Church and the Russian Orthodox Church acting as mediators, as the only channel of communication between the two countries, over the recent war. Both churches have played a constructive peace-seeking role in the conflict:
During the fighting in August, both Patriarch Ilia II of the Georgian Orthodox Church and Patriarch Aleksy II of the Russian Orthodox Church called for an end to bloodshed between Russians and Georgians, who share a common Orthodox Christian faith.
And doing what churches ought to do they stand in conflict even with the governments of their own countries on certain points:
The Russian Orthodox Church has been seen as taking a position at rare odds with the Kremlin in rejecting appeals by South Ossetians who would like to join the Moscow Patriarchate. The issue has not been resolved — Orthodox churches in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, another breakaway region of Georgia recognized by the Kremlin, are still in jurisdictional limbo — but church officials in Moscow have said that canonical territory cannot be dictated by political lines.
There have been strains as well in the relationship between Patriarch Ilia and President Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia.
God be with them in their workings. They need our prayers.
Update I: As a political update to this conflict, it is worth noting that the evidence is now much clearer that Georgia did initiate the aggression which as Yglesias notes does not give a green light to Russia’s increased counter-aggression, but if nothing else it is further proof that McCain was an awful choice for president because he was so in the tank for Georgia. It also suggests that NATO entrance should not be in the offing for Georgia. It ought also to cause a re-think of the Obama-Biden plan of mass aid to Georgia so that it does not end up propping up and encouraging President Saak because he appears more than ever a bit off his rocker.
On the other hand, looking at the war, Russia’s army is not the big scary monster to be feared. It was pretty old and creaky and beat up a small-time opponent who had dumbly bought into a “big army” for a small army model of dealing with this problem. Instead of practicing or at least threatening if needs be a kind of Global Guerrilla tactic as a way to defend their territory.