I discovered this article by coincidence and since I do knot know very much about the social work of the russian church i thought that maybe some of you knew about this.
" The Russian Orthodox Church is not preoccupied with the country's social problems. DCA(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DanChurchAid
) has a hard time finding church partners
While the number of homeless people and alcoholics in Russia rises, the Russian Orthodox church is pulling itself out of the political debate about the social problems. Also the actual welfare work leaves the church increasingly to secular charities.
"The church has turned into a more nationalist-patriotic direction and go more after what stands well with those in power than to fight for the weak. They align themselves with the idea of 'Russia for Russians' and rulers opposition to foreign interference in the work . This means that the church is unwilling to cooperate with foreign organizations such as DCA, because we also work to improve the most vulnerable groups' rights. It is politically controversial, so the church will rather not touch, "says Maria Nedergaard Gostisjtjeva .
She is the director of DCA's work in St. Petersburg and has lived in Russia for over 20 years.
"As a charity organization, we try to find partners who can work long terms, based on a Christian view on humanity. So it was natural for us to look for religious partners because the church was granted freer conditions in the 1990s. In a period we succeeded, but seven or eight years ago we broke more or less officially with the church and continued in limited cooperation with local congregations where there was an understanding of the diaconal work and a willingness to fight for disadvantaged groups such as homeless and HIV-infected, "she says .
But that cooperation has largely broken down because the local congregations who engage in politically controversial issues are being threatened and reprimanded by the church's top officials, she explains.
Annika Hvithamar who is an expert on Orthodox Christianity and lecturer at the Department of Education, Philosophy and Religious Studies at Southern University, is more positive.
"It's probably especially in the church's top, there is reluctance to lay out the government line. Further down the ranks there are people who think the church should play a more active role in society's weakest," she says, adding that the Orthodox Church, theologically speaking, is more oriented towards prayer, meditation and liturgy than social work. In addition, the church under communism was banned from engaging in social work.
"But after the Soviet welfare system collapse developed the Russian Orthodox Church explosively in the social field and the current patriarch, Kirill, is known for his involvement in that specific field. But while there is no doubt that the church generally is political follow-like, "says Annika Hvithamar.
Karsten Fledelius, MA. in history and Serbo-Croatian and specialist in Russian conditions, tend to agree. But he emphasizes that the church in many areas is very politically active and, among others have benefited from the fact that both prime minister Vladimir Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev are practicing Orthodox Christians and is in line with the church when it comes to the sight of Orthodox Christianity in central role for the Russian nation.
"The church looks much more like the bearer of Russia's non-communist heritage and identity than as an institution which will compensate for society's major shortcomings in the social field," says Karsten Fledelius.
He adds that "floor level" is social action driven by enthusiasts, usually laymen.
"But the question arises as monasticism is in development, the right belief and cohesion of the Russian nation, which are prioritized by management. Homelessness is not seen as an important part of the legitimacy of the church. Unlike some regular Russians who look completely different on it, "he assesses.