Chairman of DECR UOC informs international European organizations of Church’s position on draft law №4511

April 28, 2016. On April 27, 2016, the Chairman of the Department for External Church Relations of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (DECR UOC ) His Eminence Metropolitan Mytrofan of Luhansk and Alchevsk has sent letters to international European human rights organizations, human rights representatives of leading international organizations who have offices in Ukraine, and also to embassies of major EU countries in Kyiv, in which He explained the position of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church with regards to the Draft bill №4511 “Concerning the special status of religious organizations whose administrative centres are located within a state that is recognized by the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine as an aggressor state”.

In the letters, Metropolitan Mytrofan particularly pointed out that, if ratified, the said draft bill would significantly restrict the rights of freedom of conscience and religion, since it contains elements of discrimination and would only further divide the citizens of Ukraine on religious grounds. The adoption of this bill could lead to new conflicts in the social and religious environment of our country and adversely affect the international image of Ukraine.

Commenting on this legislative initiative, the DECR UOC noted that on April 23, 2016, during a meeting of the members of the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations (AUCCRO) with the President of Ukraine Mr. P. O. Poroshenko, the representatives of the major faiths in Ukraine appealed to the President requesting that all amendments to the legislation on freedom of conscience and religion be ratified only if preliminary consultations and discussions are conducted with the religious communities. The President reacted positively to this request and promised to give appropriate instructions to the competent authorities. Hence, the draft bill №4511 must also go through the process of discussions with and be approved by the denominations that make up AUCCRO.

It may be well worth recalling, that similar attempts of interference by the state into the affairs of the Church, namely to liquidate, terminate activities or cancel registration have all taken place in the recent past. In early 2014 during the events of Maidan, representatives of the previous government, namely the Ministry of Culture of Ukraine, threatened to “terminate the activity” and withdraw the registration of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC).

Similarly, in late 2014, there were attempts by certain representatives of the parliamentary body to exert pressure on our church by employing the catch phrase “religious organization whose administrative centre is located outside of Ukraine.” Then the main scientific-expert administration of the Apparatus of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine in its opinion drew attention to the fact that such moves were unconstitutional and violated international norms with regards to state intervention into the affairs of religious organizations.

Today we are witnesses to attempts to continue this policy, when politicians want to confer “special status” upon the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, and the proponents and initiators of the draft bill have already admitted this publicly, despite the fact that no specific denomination is named in the text of the proposed bill.

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