Rebooting the government in Ukraine: will the new President of Ukraine V. Zelensky stop the persecution of believers of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church?
Will there be real religious freedom in Ukraine?
Montenegro and Macedonia...
Summary: In 2019, the rights of Christians belonging to the Serbian Orthodox Church continue to be violated in Montenegro and Macedonia. The Government of Montenegro has initiated a bill which is viewed by believers as a discriminatory attempt to deprive them of their historical cultural heritage; clerics of the SOC do not have their permits to reside in the country prolonged; the authorities do not allow Christians to worship. The situation in Macedonia has already become the subject of litigation at the ECHR in light of the violation of Christians’ rights; Archbishop Jovan Vraniskovski was subjected to more than 5 years of imprisonment due to his religious activity. These and many other facts testify to the similarity of tendencies in Montenegro and in Macedonia – the official authorities exclusively support those denominations which in the spirit of nationalism provide mutual political support to states. The rule of law and human rights are grossly violated. Is there a solution to these problems with the help of law and policy?
Summary: During 2014-2018 there were recorded numerous violations of the UOC believers’ rights in Ukraine: seizures of temples, threats and persecutions of Christians, acts of discrimination by radicals and government officials. The number and intensity of rights violations has increased dramatically in 2019 – on the eve of the election campaign of the former President of Ukraine, which included popularization of the Tomos, issued by the Patriarch of Constantinople, but not recognized by other Orthodox Churches of the world. Only from October 2018 to April 2019, more than 62 temples of the UOC were illegally seized. Hierarchs of the UOC entered the scandalous fake base "Mirotvorets" (Peacemaker) as enemies of Ukraine, they are searched when crossing state borders; clerics and activists who defend the rights of the UOC are summoned to the SBU (Security Service of Ukraine) for questioning, criminal cases are fabricated against them on false grounds. The number of violations of the UOC believers’ rights was so dramatic that the Holy Synod of the UOC had to openly and publicly appeal to the international community for protection.
Video address of the Holy Synod of the UOC due to violations of the believers rights in Ukraine:
Key written statements of NGO Public Advocacy during 42 session of UNHRC
The statement describes how the situation in Ukraine has changed since the re-election of the President of Ukraine. The political persecution of the UOC believers by the ex-President of Ukraine P. Poroshenko has abated, yet will the new President of Ukraine V. Zelensky protect democracy and religious freedom in Ukraine? The human rights NGO, which defends the rights of believers in Ukraine, has presented an action plan to the UNHRC on redress for the violation of rights of Christians in Ukraine.
The document contains references to the decisions of the Holy Synod of UOC, which recognize the facts of violations of the UOC believers’ rights by the authorities in Ukraine: seizures of temples, mass non-registration of statutes of religious organizations, criminal prosecution of clergy, acts of discrimination.
The persecution of the Orthodox in Montenegro and Ukraine has the same roots: the state seeks to illegally intervene in the religious sphere and impose on the believers a religious denomination being politically more “favorable” to the authorities. The statement cites decisions of the Legal Council of the Montenegrin Archdioceses of the SOC on this issue.
The statement contains the text of the communiqué of the Serbian Orthodox Church on Kosovo and Metohija. It highlights sufferings and the need for survival of the believers in Kosovo and Metohija, as well as the evidence of the destruction of Orthodox shrines in this region. The disagreement of the SOC with the separation of Kosovo from Serbia reflects the position of a large Orthodox community around the world supporting the SOC in this respect.
Key written statements of NGO Public Advocacy during 41 session of UNHRC
The statement describes the facts of violating the rights of human right activists defending the UOC believers. It provides an insight into the facts of their being charged with criminal offences, searched, including in connection with their efforts to protect the rights of believers.
The document contains a legal assessment of the criminal responsibility of the priest of the UOC, the head of the Human Rights Department of Rovno Eparchy of the UOC, Fr. Viktor Zemlianoy, who was persecuted for the protection of Christians in Ukraine.
The statement reveals the participation of radical organizations in the persecution of Christian believers in Ukraine, including attacks on monasteries and the media. The state of Ukraine is urged to strengthen counter-terrorism measures in relation to radical structures, while the international community – to render comprehensive support to the State of Ukraine in this matter.
The statement describes some evidence of hate speech towards believers of the UOC in the documents of public authorities, high-profile cases of beating believers by the units of the Ministry of Internal Affairs in Katerinovka village, Ternopol Region; the cases of raider seizure of temples in the villages of Ptichya of Rovno Region and Kolomyya of Ivano-Frankovsk Region; facts of violations of the believers’ rights during the All-Ukrainian Cross Procession. The text of this statement is regularly re-published in the UN system in order to draw the attention of the international community to these outstanding issues.
On the seizure and re-arrest of the church building located in the village of Ptichya, Dubno District, Rovno Region, Ukraine
The statement describes a high-profile case of arresting and blocking worship services in the temple of the UOC religious community of Ptichya village, Rovno Region, Ukraine. The case is resonant, as the church was arrested by the decision of the authorities in criminal proceedings, despite the fact that the UOC community has ownership of the temple, repeatedly confirmed by the courts of Ukraine. The temple was eventually taken over by armed representatives of radical organizations.
On violations of the rights of the believers of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church by the actions of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople and the responsibility of Patriarch Bartholomew for massive violations of Human Rights in Ukraine
The statement contains an exclusive legal analysis of the decisions of the Patriarchate of Constantinople on granting the Tomos to Ukraine. In particular, it is established that the Constantinople Patriarchate concealed full texts of the decisions of the CP’s Holy Synod. The statement verifies and describes the relationship between violations of the rights of Christians in Ukraine and the decisions of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, as well as holds the leadership of this denomination to account for the emergence of a new wave of seizure of temples, discrimination and religious hatred.
The statement makes a summary of the trends and causes of violations of the rights of Christians in Ukraine, Montenegro and Northern Macedonia in view of the unequal policies of the authorities in relation to religious organizations. State support for a particular religious group and discriminatory diminution of the rights of believers of other faiths leads to the erosion of the rule of law and destroys the democratic foundations of civil society.
The statement contains a legal opinion on the incompatibility with the norms of international law of the so-called “law on renaming” (Law of Ukraine “On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations”). This law obliges all UOC religious organizations (about 12,000 entities) to compulsorily register changes in their statutes and indicate in them that they are affiliated with a religious center registered in a state recognized in Ukraine as an aggressor. Consequently, the law illegally labels Ukrainian citizens, believers of the UOC as members of the organization being hostile to the state. The law actually victimizes people, aims to divide society, to create an atmosphere of religious animosity. Religious organizations of the UOC are forced by the authorities to give up historical names, thus violating the believers' right to freely practice their religious identity, which is part of the right to freedom of religion.
The statement sets out the position of the leaders of the largest religious denominations in the Middle East due to the continued suffering of two archbishops, abducted in Aleppo and still held captive. The international community must bear in mind this tragedy.
At the request of Eastern Orthodox Churches and civil society in the SAR – refugees and migrants who want to rebuild an affected region – the NGO draws the attention of the UNHCR and the international community to the voice of Christian Eastern leaders and indigenous people seeking to convey to the international diplomatic audience their pain, hopes and suggestions for the future of the Middle East region.