In his weekly column published online today Mr. John L. Allen Jr. considers:.
For once in this volatile part of the world, religion does not appear to be a driving force in the conflict.Thanks to Mr. Allen people now know that both leaders have pointed to the same religious denomination of the parties involved. This post is worth reading.
Hence the obvious, if largely unasked, question: If religion isn't the problem, can it be part of the solution?
...Both Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI have placed a "preferential option" for the Orthodox at the heart of their ecumenical hopes, which means that the fate of the Orthodox inevitably affects the Catholic future.
The clash between Russia and Georgia over South Ossetia is not akin to Russia's difficulties in Chechnya, or to the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh, or to tensions between Serbia and Kosovo, because the animosities in Ossetia do not break down along Christian/Muslim lines. ...In the Ossetian conflict, all parties are Orthodox Christians.
In fact, this is the first instance since World War II in which one majority Orthodox nation has gone to war against another. Both Alexy II, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, and Ilia II, Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia, have cited the Orthodox-on-Orthodox nature of the violence as especially tragic [emphasis added].
Wiki-map of the embattled region is used according to the GFDL. One click on the map enlarges it.