A sacred relic, believed by some Orthodox Christians to be the belt of the Virgin Mary, is drawing thousands of Russian pilgrims in search of a cure for a myriad of ailments including infertility. But the treasure – a 2,000 year old cincture woven from camel fur – is also having political resonance.
Russian leaders have called the country’s shrinking population a matter of national security and now the influential Orthodox church has joined the fight.
It wants to take the relic to pregnancy centres to discourage women from having abortions and save mother Russia by promoting motherhood.
Al Jazeera’s Neave Barker reports from Samara.