Special report on the rights of Orthodox Christians in Ukraine in 2014
March 10, 2015. The Centre for Monitoring the Rights and Freedom of Orthodox Christians in Europe publishes a special report on the rights of Orthodox Christians in Ukraine in 2014. After the victory of the Maidan movement in Kiev in February 2014, the country entered into civil confrontations and military conflict in the eastern regions of Donetsk and Lugantsk. The escalation of the civilian conflict in the course of 2014 led to serious violations of rights of the country’s religious communities, especially of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate, the largest confession in the country. This report represents the facts of such violations. There may also have been violations in Ukraine against Orthodox Christians during the past year that were not registered, communicated, or otherwise escaped our attention.
In 2014 the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) and her faithful faced escalating discrimination and direct violence against her members, increasing toward the end of the year. In some cases the methods and forms of the actions against UOC MP are reminiscent of the worst periods of atheistic persecution in the Soviet Union.
The grounds for this escalation are the alleged accusations that the UOC MP and her members are “the 5th column of the Kremlin in Ukraine” and harbor pro-Russian aspirations. At the same time, the official representatives of the UOC MP called for peace and mutual understanding between the different groups of the country. Many UOC MP churches and volunteers are both helping refugees and acting as mediators in some conflict situations.
It is necessary to understand that historically Ukraine has long been a place of inter-confessional disputes and tensions between the Greco-Catholics and the Orthodox, between the canonical Orthodox recognized by the other Orthodox Churches, and those groups that are not recognized. This situation was aggravated after the collapse of the USSR. The Greco-Catholics and the Kiev Patriarchate (neither recognized by the canonical Orthodox Churches), although representing important minorities in Ukrainian society, have tried to become an “all-national church” playing the nationalist card in religious relations. In order to attain this status they are aiming to damage the majority-member Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate or even to completely displace it.
It is hazardous for Ukrainian society and for its peaceful co-existence with neighboring countries to regard the religious situation in Ukraine through a political prism. For this reason, religious communities must exert every effort to stay above political conflict and for politicians to maintain neutrality towards religious organizations.