Wednesday, January 19, 2022

    UN sees issues in process of communities’ transition to OCU

    The UN Human Rights Committee, an organization that monitors the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, recently published its comments and suggestions on the situation of civil and political rights in Ukraine.

    Among other things, the document mentions respect for freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

    “The committee is concerned at reports of violence, intimidation and acts of vandalism of places of worship in connection with the process of transitioning churches and religious communities from the Ukrainian Orthodox Church to the newly established Orthodox Church of Ukraine. The Committee is further concerned at the reported inaction of the police in such incidents and the lack of information on investigations conducted by the State party,” the UN Committee said in a statement.

    Human rights watchdogs emphasize that Ukraine, as a party to the Covenant, shall ensure the effective exercise of freedom of religion and belief, including by protecting places of worship from violence, intimidation and vandalism, and ensure that all cases of violence are thoroughly and immediately investigated and those guilty – prosecuted.

    Ukrainian media have been widely covering glaring problems faced by Orthodox Ukrainians seeking to join the Orthodox Church of Ukraine. For example, in Vinnytsia region, on the feast day of the Intercession of the Mother of God, the ROCinU’s front NGO Myriany staged a provocation: “Orthodox titushkas (thugs)” blocked the OCU community access to the church premises, the right to which the community won in courts of all instances. In Volyn region, a community from the village of Shepel has been unable to legally join the OCU for two years already due to ongoing litigation. OCU Bishop Nykodym of Kherson and Tavria said that in the region, communities and priests do not switch for the OCU out of pure fear.

    Even the head of the State Ethnic Policy, Olena Bohdan, acknowledged that there were obstacles in place for religious communities wishing to join the OCU, and called for believers to report such issues in person.

    How did the ROC and its branches in Ukraine react to this? As always, they stick to wishful thinking.

    “The Russian Church welcomes the fact that the UN Human Rights Committee adopted such an objective decision on the situation of persecutions against the faithful of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church,” Metropolitan Hilarion, head of the Moscow Patriarchate’s External Church Relations Department, told RIA News.

    But where did Hilarion see in the mentioned document at least a hint of recognition of “persecution” of the “canonical” ROCinU?

    It should be recalled that the Moscow Patriarchate had previously planned to support its branch in Ukraine by spreading on international platforms misinformation about the alleged “persecution.” ROC Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeev) also spoke about it. It is he who so warmly “welcomes” the report of the UN Human Rights Committee, which clearly recognizes Russia’s occupation of Crimea and Sevastopol, as well as certain areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions. So it appears Alfeev admits that Crimea is not part of Russia, doesn’t he?

    Bishop Viktor Kotsaba of the Russian Orthodox Church has been persistently circulating misinformation across international platforms as well. According to my sources, Kotsaba constantly complains to the UN that ROC communities are under “pressure” and that the state “fails to protect” them. Bishop Viktor has secured considerable funding from Russia for his latest efforts. Also, there is a separate team of lawyers, funded separately from Moscow.

    I emphasize that the report of the UN Human Rights Committee does not condemn Ukraine, only voicing concerns and suggestions. I hope that the Ukrainian authorities responsible for ensuring or observing freedom of religion and law and order will not only listen to these recommendations, but also implement them, ensuring the transition procedure for those communities that have expressed such will.

    Author: religious expert Oleksandr Yefremenko