I have recently been meditating to the Kontakion of the Dead (Kiev melody). Perhaps not appropriate for the season of the Nativity – but meditation is an Advent tradition. I love many things about Russia, and one of my best friends is Russian, but I am saddened when I consider the current treatment of the LGBT community in Russia.

Orthodoxy and the state were often partners in Russian history – but not always willingly. I cannot see into President Putin’s heart; I will not make comments on the motivations behind his cultural and religious policies. I will also not deny that very many people in Russia – perhaps the majority – dislike homosexuality and to varying degrees consider homosexual acts sinful.

But I ask this: how do they think their actions reflect Christ? Do they believe they are doing God a service by subduing the LGBT community? Do they believe that God will punish their nation if they fail to act, to suppress his supposed enemies? I will not assume that the majority of the faithful approve of the far right’s treatment of gay Russians. But ought they not to pursue justice? Is it right that people be beaten, blackmailed, and humiliated without comment? Are we not called to be lovers of compassion, lovers of justice?

I fear that the voice of westerners will do no good for these poor souls. Whenever we protest the injustices committed in Russia, not only are we accused of hypocrisy (and sometimes rightly so), but those whom we seek to help are labelled “traitors” and treated even worse. Where is the help for these people?

I know that many reading this will say that “It is not our job to promote sin”, calling homosexual acts such. But leaving aside the vexed question of “gay marriage” and other related issues, we are called to promote the doctrine of Imago Dei. When people say it is okay for neo-Nazis to drench people in urine because of their orientation and lifestyle, we tacitly agree with an attack on our value in the eyes of God. The Scripture does not say, “and those who sinned, He held them of less account”. It says, “for God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son”.

I will not ask you to pray against your conscience, but I do ask you to echo this prayer to the extent you feel able.

Dear Lord and Father of mankind, we ask you to forgive us our sins: what we have done and what we have failed to do. Today we lift up to Your loving and attentive gaze the nation of Russia, troubled with so much division, hatred, and fear. Please bring healing to that land through the ministry of Your Holy Spirit. In Jesus’ name we pray: amen.