At a Europe think tank meeting in Oslo last week, ECAL Convenor Jan-Aage Torp presented thoughts about the spiritual roots of the conflict between the Western world and Russia. Christian philosopher and Nobel Peace Institute researcher Dr. Asle Toje was intrigued by these perspectives.
The monthly Europe Cafe is sponsored by the European Movement in Norway, and draws a primarily youthful attendance of politicians, policymakers, diplomats, students, and business and media professionals.
On Tuesday, August 26th, the topic for discussion was «EU and USA´s sanction policies against Russia: Do they work?» The US Embassy spokesperson in Oslo participated along with several others.
Jan-Aage Torp, the ECAL Convenor, who often participates in the Europe Cafe, presented a comment about an alternative approach to the West versus Russia crisis. He stated:
- It seems to me that the roots of the conflict go 1000 years back to the division between the Western and Eastern Church. So really we need to bring the spiritual nature of this division into the equation. And that is really encouraging, because in spite of the political, military and trade differences, the fact of the matter is also that President Putin has had some sort of a Christian awakening in his own life which has a strong bearing on his communication in the Eastern world. Knowing that Germany´s Chancellor Angela Merkel also has had a Christian awakening in recent times, leading her to read the Bible and pray to Jesus on a daily basis, this presents opportunities today that we need to pursue. If both Putin and Merkel earnestly seek the same Christ, then there should be ways in which the roots of the 1000 year old division could be handled today, which in turn could perhaps lead to positive consequences for the escalating European confict, said Jan-Aage Torp.
Christian philosopher and Nobel Peace Institute researcher Asle Toje was intrigued by these perspectives, and he said in the meeting: - You have hit the nail on the head!
The Cambridge University trained Dr. Asle Toje then elaborated on these issues:
- There is a contrast in the rise of Russia and China in our days. China has pursued breakneck speed economic growth and expansion wihout paying attention to the deeper spiritual and ideological issues. That is in contrast to Putin´s Russia which has defined the role first. Putin has done an excellent job in this. Whether he has been genuine or not, I don´t know, but he has infused his nationalistic project with spiritualism. He has defined a distinctly Russian exceptionalism. We think of American exceptionalism. But Putin presents «The Third Rome» saying that «Constantinople fell, Rome fell, but Moscow did not fall!» That means that Moscow would be the last hope for Christianity! It gives Russians a unique purpose in this world. In Putin´s Russia, the State supports the Church, and the Church supports the State. What you see in the orthodox world is that the newest building in every city is the church. Golden domes are glistening all over the orthodox world. But the churches are empty. So even though Putin has fallen in love with orthodoxy, the population has some way to go to embrace this vision. I am not sure that the Patriarch in Moscow can be prised away from Putin because their projects are so neatly aligned as they are. - So I would agree with Jan-Aage Torp that a spiritual approach does present opportunities that need to be explored! stated Dr. Asle Toje.