Tuesday, January 31, 2023

    Russia pursuing “church occupation” in captured territories – media

    Based on the experience of the Protestant community of Mariupol, Liga.net explains how the Russian authorities deploy their religious troops on the church ruins in Ukraine.

    Under the slogans of “de-satanization” of Ukraine, Russian occupiers declared war on God. Such a conclusion can be made after looking into the research by the Institute of Religious Freedoms (IRF). Rights defenders documented dozens of cases where clergymen were tortured and murdered. Repression against representatives of various faiths continues in all occupied territories.

    At the end of September, at the OSCE conference in Warsaw, Ukrainian representatives of the IRF made public nearly 20 cases of illegal deprivation of liberty of religious figures by the Russian military in temporarily controlled or occupied territories. Imprisonment of priests was accompanied by torture, attempted rape, and threats to massacre family members.

    Over the past two months, the picture has become even more terrible: the doors of torture chambers have opened in the liberated towns and villages of Kharkiv and Kherson regions.

    Today it can be said that not only Orthodox Christians, but also Muslims became martyrs for their faith in this city. Another recent trend is the raiding of property of Protestant communities. LIGA.net tried to understand how the church occupation was taking place and what the church henchmen of Putinism and pseudo-Christians of fascist Germany have in common.

    The pastor of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Valentin Zagreba, says that the repression of believers in the occupied territories is systematic, but not total. In the conditions of occupation, priests of those churches whose faith is connected with national identity (OCU, Greek Catholics), as well as Protestants, are exposed to the greatest threats. It is extremely dangerous to do good deeds in front of the occupiers. And this is not empty rhetoric – this has been the case since 2014.

    Many communities were deprived of their property: churches and prayer houses are being used by the occupation authorities for their own needs. There was a case where the Russian military turned a chapel into a public restroom. But more often temples and prayer houses are repurposed into barracks, offices, or gyms.

    One of the most high-profile crimes committed by Igor Girkin’s accomplices is the brutal murder of four Pentecostals – ministers of the Transfiguration Church in Sloviansk in May 2014. The terrorists appropriated the cars of the deacons, while their owners were burned next night after being subjected to torture.

    Pastor Gennady Mohnenko spoke about the religious occupation. “This is some kind of animal immorality,” he says. In the fact that they brought 50 school sets to a city where about 100,000 people died? And they talk about the bad Nazis who destroyed everything here, and that they are rebuilding this…”

    We have reason to believe that the raiding of the church property is not an accident and not only a private initiative of the Yaroslavl bishop Andrii Dirienko. This is part of Putin’s religious policy in the occupied territories. Its essence is the subordination of local religious organizations to figures loyal to the Russian authorities.

    Sometimes this policy is implemented gently, as local churchmen themselves cooperate with the occupiers. First of all, this concerns the bishopric of the UOC MP. A striking example is Metropolitan Elisey of the UOC MP of Izyum and Kupyansk, who openly sided with the occupiers. Sometimes – “with fire and sword.” Rustem Asanov, the imam of the Crimean Tatar religious community, had to go through the Kherson torture chamber. The Russian military strongly advised him to start cooperation with the Spiritual Administration of the Muslims of Crimea (in the city of Simferopol), which in 2014 switched to Russia’s side. The advice was accompanied by beatings, putting a bag over his head, and other tortures.

    But it is especially interesting to observe how evil is disguised as good on the example of Russian Protestants. The way they are going now is reminiscent of what happened to the Protestant communities in Germany during World War 2.