Saturday, April 7, 2018

Learning with Partners about the History of Islam and Orthodoxy in Kazan

On January 27 in the lilac-colored room of St. Catherine's Church in Kazan a telebridge between Kazan and partners in Germany was established for a second time. Participants included pastors from the territory of Palatinate, the former deans of Tatarstan Christian Hermann and Norbert Hussong and congregants from Kazan, led by Pastor David Gorn.
Our partners from Germany were interested in such questions as “the Lutheran Church in the Muslim Republic of Tatarstan,” “politics and government authorities,” “the religious situation (history and contemporary),” “inter-ethnic relationships in Tatarstan on all levels,” “Muslim ministers,” “the building of mosques and Orthodox cathedrals in Kazan and Tatarstan as a whole,” “mixed marriages.” We invited professionals to the discussion - the deacon of the theological department of the Russian Islamic Institute Robert Shangaraev, and the head of extension education for the Orthodox Spiritual Seminary in Kazan, priest Alexander Danilov. The telebridge began with our “calling card” - a number of hymns in German and Russian. Then there was a prayer from Palatinate, after which Pastor David Gorn from Kazan led a prayer. The "Freude" singing group led by Tatyana Fel sang "Herr, deine Güte" in German. 

Our guest Robert Shangaraev told the history of Islam in the territory of Tatarstan. Volga Bulgaria was founded in 922 with the acceptance of Islam by a number of related nomadic tribes. This helped to unite the divided tribes, improved relations with the Muslim East, introduced the Arabic alphabet and the construction of mosques began. But in the 13th century Batu Khan of the Golden Horde destroyed the settlements and incorporated the land of Bulgaria into the territory of the Horde and Volga Bulgaria ceased to exist. Part of the Bulgars migrated to the banks of the Volga and Kama rivers. In the 15th century the Golden Horde ceased to exist and as a result of the victory of Russia over them some of the land of former Bulgaria comes under the authority of Moscow, while the rest became part of the Kazan khanate. In 1552 Ivan the Terrible incorporated Kazan and the Kazan khanate into Russia. Catherine the Great allowed the building of mosques and in this way won the respect and love of the Tartar people. Karl Fuchs, a German and a professor at Kazan University, was the first to describe the life and customs and the Kazan Tatars. In the Soviet times, Muslim ministers, like all ministers in the USSR, were repressed, mosques were destroyed. Around 30 years ago the rebirth of Islam began. Old mosques were restored and new ones were built. Today in Tatarstan there are around 1600 of them; there are educational institutions – medrase - and the Bulgarian Islamic Academy has begun to work. The goal of the academy is to build and form a local Islamic theology school (Tartar academic theologians include Mardzhani Shigabutdin, Abd An-Nasir Kursavi, Gataull Bayazitov and others) and to encourage the maintenance of peace and concord in the country. 
Priest Alexander Danilov spoke about the history of Orthodoxy in Kazan. It was the same as in all the rest of Russia: 90% of the ministers were repressed or destroyed in the Soviet Times. He spoke about how today the seminary in working on new methods of communication between their students and students of other confessions. A new course is being established on the basics of Islam, and there are already intramural sporting competitions between students of the seminary and the Islamic Academy. The Christian churches host together a festival of spiritual music. 
During the meeting participants shared their own personal stories. Rafael, a teacher at the university, spoke about how he became Orthodox. He read the Gospels just out of curiosity 25 years ago, and he recognized his sinfulness and came to the church, where he saw and continues to see miracles. Eduard Gansky, a German Russian, spoke about his mixed marriage. He told about his life with his Tartar wife, with whom he has been married for 10 years. He loves her, his family and his Muslim relatives very much.They've never had any conflict on religious grounds. From the very beginning they agreed that they wouldn't talk about their religious beliefs. Eduard wished his German friends similar results in their country. A duet from the "Renaissance" chamber orchestra performed the piece written by congregational member Rudolph Brening, “At the Edge of Kazan.” The evening also was enhanced by songs from the vocal group “Kubanskoe Podvore” led by Elena Tarasova. At the end of the evening the participants of the conversation sang a hymn in two languages and prayed the Lord's Prayer.
Vera Muzafaraova

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