His Life for the Mission:
The unprecedented murder in modern
Russia of Father Daniil Sysoyev
for his Orthodox missionary activity
03 December 2009
On November 19,
as was customary, Father Daniil
held a Thursday night biblical discussion
in his small wooden church of Saint
Thomas the Apostle. Around
10 p.m., the participants began
to disperse and only a handful of
people remained in the building
– a few women from the church’s
staff, a couple of people waiting
to say their confessions, and the
choir regent, Vladimir Strelbitsky.
Sometime between 10:40 and 11:20
p.m., a thin man wearing a doctor’s
mask walked into the church.
The first person he saw was Vladimir
Strelbitsky descending the stairs.
The assailant immediately fired
a gunshot, leaving the regent seriously
wounded (his condition at this moment
remains highly critical).
The gunman then called on Daniil
Sysoyev, allegedly in a “Caucasus
accent.” Father Daniil emerged
from the altar to face his murderer
and was shot several times.
As he laid helpless on the floor,
the culprit approached for one last
shot at close-range to the back
of the neck. A witness said
the man then ran upstairs to look
for a girl who had recently converted
from the Islamic faith to Christianity.
He then escaped, taking her in a
direction unknown to the witnesses.
Father Daniil was rushed to the
hospital, where he died about an
The murder of Father Daniil was
shocking and painful for our community,
especially for those who knew about
his mission and had read his books.
It is truly an unprecedented crime
in Russia for an Orthodox priest
to be murdered for performing Christian
Nobody could make out the killer’s
face and no one can clearly pinpoint
the motives behind the murder.
However, it is obvious from this
event that a significant religious
figure like Father Daniil has been
a major irritation for extremists
who are opposed to Christian missionary
work in Russia. In the past,
similar cases involving murder have
occurred throughout the Caucasus
region. While no Orthodox
priests numbered among those killed,
there were a number of Christian
missionaries from Protestant denominations
who gave up their lives for preaching
the Gospel among the local population.
The same thing regularly happens
in countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan,
Iraq and numerous other states,
where Catholic and Protestant missionaries
die as martyrs.
Father Daniil was only 35 years
old at the time of his death.
He became involved in missionary
work among members of various religious
“sects” back in the mid-1990s.
In 1996, Daniil Sysoyev, who was
a young deacon at the time, initiated
regular biblical discussion evenings
at the Krutitsky Patriarchal Metochion,
where he eagerly welcomed people
wanting to leave other religious
denominations in order to convert
to Russian Orthodox Christianity.
That same year, he joined the St.
Ioann Kronshtadsky Center, where
he served under Hieromonarch Anatoly
(Berestov). In 2001, he was
ordained to the priesthood and began
active outreach work among the Muslim
population, which many suspect is
what led to his cruel death.
There are very few among the
current Moscow Orthodox clergy who
could come close to the level of
commitment demonstrated by Father
Daniil. As a missionary, he
traveled extensively; and not long
before he was murdered, he had returned
from a mission trip to Mongolia.
He was always willing to participate
in events such as round tables,
conferences, and radio and TV shows.
He published approximately 20 books
and hundreds of articles in the
printed press and had gained particular
attention for his active daily blogging
activities (still available to readers
Father Daniil was a staunch creationist
who denounced the theory of evolution
and opposed secularism on the part
of the state and society in Russia,
claiming that this could inevitably
beget an atheistic society.
The priest tended not to observe
political correctness in his aspiration
to proselytize individuals from
the Islamic faith. He denied
the “canonical territories of traditional
religions” and did not consider
the political balance between the
country’s “traditional religions.”
He did not share the official view
that Orthodox preaching to the Islamic
people could be equated with a “detrimental
proselytism” for the country.
It must be said that many other
Christian Churches, including conservative
Protestants, Pentecostals and Charismatics
who are also active in outreach
work, tend to take the same uncompromising
stance and openly demonstrate their
disregard for political correctness
when it comes to proselytizing among
the Muslim population. They
too often end up paying for their
convictions with the lives of their
Nevertheless, it should be noted
that Father Daniil always tried
to maintain an open and sincere
dialogue with Muslims, Protestants
and members of other religious “sects.”
He would openly tell them Orthodox
Christianity’s perspective on their
faith, while at the same time respecting
every person regardless of his belief
because, in the end, he was just
trying to fight for the eternal
life of that person’s soul.
His example demonstrates spirited
and open-hearted Christian preaching.
The last entry in his “Live Journal”
blog appeared to be the words intended
for all Christian missionaries:
“Missionaries, be heavenly citizens
and call on everyone to join you
there in heaven, for only in this
way can you advance.”