Funeral services were held yesterday for a murdered Russian Orthodox priest whose killing is suspected to have been done by Islamic radicals.
Father Daniil Sysoyev was shot dead in his church last Thursday after a masked intruder entered the building demanding the priests whereabouts. After emerging, Sysoyev was shot at least four times in the head and chest and died on the way to the hospital.
An active opponent of the Islamic faith, Sysoyev authored several books denouncing Islam and more recently posted videos on YouTube to publicize his views. The priest reportedly received more than a dozen death threats via phone and e-mail from various pro-Muslim groups.
Both Orthodox and Islamic representatives have urged the public not to jump to conclusions about who is to blame, although the incident has sparked rising tensions between the religious groups.
"We want to say that we oppose any expressions of terrorism and extremism," Russia's Chief Mufti Ravil Gainuddin told reporters. "Islam denounces terror and the murder of an imam, an orthodox priest, is an awful sin."
Russian Orthodox head Patriarch Kirill, who presided over Sysoyev's funeral, praised the priest for having worked to, "defend the word of God."
"If a person is killed for spreading God's truth, that means the truth is affecting people who don't accept it, and that it contains great force," said Kirill.
An estimated 65 percent of Russia's 140 million population is Orthodox while Muslims in the country have grown to 14 percent. Muslims in Russia live largely in Siberia and the country's southern Caucasus regions.