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Hands off  the Cross

· The Patriarchate of Moscow stands up for the two British employees fired for their refusal ·

The Russian Orthodox Church cannot stand by and watch while Christianity is persecuted in Europe, according to Fr Philip Ryabykh, a representative of the Patriarchate of Moscow to the Council of Europe,  in an interview with the Voice of Russia . He was referring to the two British citizens fired for their refusal to remove the crosses around their necks in the workplace. The cases of  Nadia Eweida, an employee of British Airways at Heathrow Airport, and Shirley Chaplin, a nurse, will soon be examined by the European Court of Human Rights and Orthodox representatives, together with Russian lawyers, have already guaranteed their support. Fr Philip called it an “unprecedented situation”.

The two women have appealed to the Court to recognize that the freedom of religion has been violated and that they have been discriminated against because of their religious ties. British authorities – the Voice of Russia says – did not expect the case to be brought before the Strasbourg Court and has proposed a law that allows employers to dismiss employees who refuse to hide their religious confession.

“The decision of the Strasbourg Court will apply to all countries that are members of the Council of Europe, including Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova – that is, countries where Orthodox Christianity is the most common denomination,” Father Philip says. It is a tradition among Orthodox Christians to  wear a crucifix and, he warned,  “if the Strasbourg Court’s decision turns out to be not in favour of these women, this would create a precedent which, I believe, would be very dangerous. This may become a start of persecution against Christianity in Europe”.

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