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081. Religions map

Religions map

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Religions

Traditional religions in the Baikal basin include Shamanism, Buddhism in the form of Lamaism, and Russian Orthodox Christianity. Current religious situation is, to a large measure, determined by political reforms that were carried out in Mongolia and Russia in the 1990s. Now, there are a plethora of religious denominations and practices.

The majority of the population is religious. In most cases, undecided and non-believers still associate themselves with a particular traditional religion. In Mongolia, for example, about 90% of the population identify themselves with Buddhism, while 6% - with Shamanism. On the other hand, according to the 2010 census, 61.4% of the population 15 years of age or older identified themselves as believers. Buddhists, Muslims, Shamanists, Christians and adherents of other religions constituted 53, 3, 3, 2, and <1%, respectively. In Buryatia, the most widespread self-identifications are with two religions: Buddhism and Russian Orthodox Christianity. In Zabaikalsky krai and Irkutsk oblast, the overwhelming majority of the people identify themselves as Russian Orthodox Christians, whereas Buddhism holds the lead in Tuva. According to the opinion poll data collected in 2012 by the Nonprofit Research Service “Sreda”, the proportion of residents professing Buddhism in the aforementioned regions constituted, respectively, 20; 6; <1; 62; Christianity: 32; 32; 48; 2 (including Russian Orthodox: 27; 25; 41; 1), Islam: <1; <1; 7; ; <1; Shamanism: 2; <1; 1; 8; and other religions: <1; <1;<1; <1%.

Although religious organizations must register, there are some unregistered groups. They steadily grow in number with the fastest growth among Protestant and Evangelical groups.

The population is tolerant toward different religions. Contradictory and mixed religious views often coexist.

Buddhism in the Baikal basin (its concepts, rites, rituals, mythology, and spirits) was influenced by the religious customs that had existed before it was introduced in this region.

Buddhist monasteries take an important place in the social (and ecological) life. They organize the dialog with science and education. Not only Buddhist monks, but also secular specialists are invited to give lectures at monasteries. Publishing is a major activity of monastic centers. Much attention is given to the formation and preservation of the cultural memory of the people, as well as to the issues related to the adjustment of the Buddhist teaching to current conditions and its further development, including among the ethnically Russian population.

Christianity in the Russian part of the Baikal basin is mostly represented by the Russian Orthodox Church. In the Mongolian part of the basin, it is mainly Protestant and Evangelical organizations (90% Protestants, mainly Evangelicals and Baptists, 9% Mormons, 1% Catholics and Russian Orthodox believers).

Christianity views the resolution of environmental issues as a component of the ministerial and missionary services to God. According to the Bible, everything on Earth was created by God. Nature was created to satisfy human needs. However, it is not just a reservoir of resources for egoistic and irresponsible consumption, but a temple, in which an individual serves God. The individual is responsible for his/her thoughts and acts and must treat the nature with care. Life in all its different manifestations has a sacred character; its destruction or disturbance is a challenge to God.

According to Christianity, ecological problems are the consequences of egoistic and consumer impulses. Therefore, ecological activity will fail to reach the desired results, unless people begin to live by Christian commandments.

Islam (mostly Sunni Islam) has an ethnic character. In the Russian territory, the majority of Muslims are ethnic Tatars. In Mongolia, they are the not-so-numerous Kazakhs, Uzbeks, Uighurs, Tatars, and other Muslim ethnicities.

According to the Quran, the Man and the Nature are the great sacred creations of Allah. People are responsible for the preservation, purity, and beauty of the nature. All living beings on Earth are like the Man. Torturing them is absolutely prohibited. Any good done to an animal is equally beneficial as any good done to the Man. The efforts of the Man to do good to the nature is regarded as a virtue, which helps him or her gain blessings and Paradise in the future life.

Islam pays much attention to the improvement in the condition of Earth with human hands. It poses the question about the union of science and religion in dealing with environmental problems.

Shamanism is the oldest religion of Siberia and Central Asia. It is thought to be originated on Olkhon Island (on Lake Baikal), which is considered to be a sacred place. According to the concepts of Shamanism, there are three worlds: upper (heavenly), middle (terrestrial), and lower (subterranean). Nowadays, Shamanism also includes the followers of Tengrism, a global religion, which demonstrates a tendency towards a philosophical-metaphysical monotheism practiced by early nomadic communities in Mongolia.

A careful use of natural resources is based on the cultural and religious traditions. Local natural sites play an important role in the concepts of the universe. Previously, Shamanism “served” the communal-tribal sphere, and each tribe and clan had their own sacred places, where rituals were conducted. In such places, they built ovoos and tied ribbons to tree branches.

The ecological concepts of other religions in the Baikal basin are also directed towards nature conservation.

According to all religions, the resolution of environmental problems must begin with the spiritual and moral improvement of human beings.

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