IRF - Institute for Religious Freedom, Kyiv, Ukraine

Orthodox Church of Ukraine claims the threat of confiscation of all its churches in the occupied Donbas PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 28 February 2019 11:58
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All parishes of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) are at risk of the illegal confiscation of all its churches in the occupied territory of Donetsk region.

According to the Institute for Religious Freedom, metropolitan Epiphanius, the Primate of the OCU, reported on such intentions of the Donetsk occupation authorities in his special statement on the religious persecution intensification in the occupied territories of eastern Ukraine.

“Over the past 5 years, the situation with respect for the religious freedom in the occupied territories of Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine (the so-called “DPR” and “LPR”) has been constantly deteriorating. In particular, the rights of believers, religious communities and clergymen of the autocephalous Orthodox Church of Ukraine are systematically violated in the occupied territories of Donbas. This is manifested in systematic persecution, insults, arrests, seizure of churches, and so on”, the OCU statement says.

However, as it is noted in the statement, if until now it was a matter of a significant restriction and violation of the believers’ rights, starting from March 1, 2019, there is a threat of a total ban of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine parishes and clergymen activities, complete confiscation of the parishes’ property and deportation of the priests from the territory, controlled by the so-called “DPR”.

The reason for this is the illegal requirement for all religious communities “to register under the “DPR”’s laws."

“This requirement cannot be fulfilled, because the structure that has issued such a “law” is recognized as the state by no one,” the metropolitan Epiphanius says.

In this regard, since this March, 36 churches and premises, as well as the eparchial House of Mercy, belonging to the communities of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine in the temporarily occupied territories of Donetsk region, may be “confiscated to the advantage of the “DPR””, and the priests may be deported.

“There is a great danger that they will be able to commit this crime in a few days. Thousands of believers will remain without their Church and without their priests. The occupational authority of Donetsk have made impracticable conditions regarding the re-registration of the OCU statutes according to the “DPR” laws,” Archbishop Serhii (Horobtsov), the head of Donetsk Eparchy of the OCU, stressed out.

Given this threat, Metropolitan Epiphanius made an appeal to the UN, the OSCE, the Minsk Process guarantor states, the European Union and all democratic countries in general, as well as international and interfaith institutions, “to interfere with those who make final decisions on the point raised and to take steps in order to prevent catastrophic scenario.”

According to IRF reports, a new wave of religious persecution of the believers of various denominations in the occupied territories of Donetsk and Luhansk regions has resumed in 2018.

Originally, the self-proclaimed authorities in Donetsk and Luhansk adopted the so-called “laws”, which obliged all churches and religious organizations, except the Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate, to re-register. After that, the activity of many denominations, which did not fall under the conditional definition of “traditional” found themselves under the threat of a ban, and some of them were subject to physical attacks and assaults on property.

In its annual report, the USCIRF Commission stated that Russia was responsible for religious crimes in Donbas and the Crimea because of its actual control over these occupied territories.

In October 2018, the Institute for Religious Freedom presented the report “Religious freedom at gunpoint: Russian terror in the occupied territories of Eastern Ukraine”.

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