Wednesday, May 22, 2024

    Religion as one of main factors in Russia’s war against Ukraine: round table

    Religion as Russia’s war tool applied against Ukraine and the spread of narratives of the “Russian world” by Moscow Patriarchate priests were discussed during the round table “Religious factor and its use in modern hybrid warfare”, which was recently held at Ternopil National Technical University.

    “The topic of religion is extremely important in the context of understanding all processes related to Ukraine. It is all the more relevant now, when one cannot help but see and understand the religious basis in this terrible war. Someone is trying to speculatively address this factor, and many, realizing how important religion was in the unleashing of this war, are doing everything possible to minimize the negative impact both on Ukraine and for on the reputational sphere of all religions,” said Andriy Yurash, Ambassador of Ukraine to the Vatican.

    According to the envoy, Russia has been exploiting the religious factor to deploy various ideological schemes that became the basis for this bloody war. The Ukrainian Church is very clearly aware of how serious the situation is and why the actions of the aggressor state can lead to negative consequences for the Ukrainian Churches.

    Historian Taras Antoshevsky claims that the current religious situation was formed in the 1990s and 2010s. At that time, the USSR collapsed, but the KGB (now the FSB in Russia) never ceased their operations. At the same time, the special services paid a lot of attention to religious circles and their involvement in the circulation of certain information.

    Oleksandr Sahan, head of the Department of Religious Studies of Institute of Philosophy named after H.S. Skovorody of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, said that despite many discussions surrounding the issue of possible unification of the OCU and the UOC MP, he sees no such possibility.

    “Which of the OCU priests is ready to serve alongside people who speak of the Holodomor of Ukrainians as the consequences of a drought or as a punishment that Ukrainians supposedly deserved? This is the Church, which since 2014 interprets Russia’s war against Ukraine as fratricidal, because it considers us to be one state. So what kind of association can we talk about? We should not be afraid that MP will remain in our country. But we must completely rid this structure of political elements,” he said.

    At the end of the round table, the participants adopted a resolution, the full text of which is published on the website of Ternopil National Technical University. We publish its full text.



    “The religious factor and its use in modern hybrid war”

    After listening to the reports of the experts and according to the results of the discussion, the participants of the Roundtable state the use of the religious factor in the current hybrid war against our country and appeal to the public authorities of Ukraine that deals with national security and state-church relations, as well as to scientists and institutions of civil society that are relevant to the sphere of freedom of conscience, with the following:

    1. When Ukraine became independent state, the influence of religious organizations and institutions on its national security in the aspect of the development of the humanitarian sphere has been significantly underestimated. The religious factor was not even included in the documents defining the national security strategy or information security of Ukraine for some period of time. Therefore, before and during the current war of Russia against Ukraine (since 2014), the aggressor state uses some religious institutions and public organizations created by them (fellowships, Cossack paramilitary structures, human rights unions, information agencies, etc.) as a means of spreading its ideologues in Ukraine (“russian world”, “Holy Rus”, “Triedina Rus”, “euro-asianism”, etc.), as well as for various special events and promotions. This situation was and is now a direct threat to the national security of Ukraine.
    2. Taking into account more than eight years of war experience, we can state the critical inadequacy of the public authorities’ efforts in countering the politicization of the activities of some religious and non-church institutions and destructive activities of individual clergymen. First of all, we are talking about the activities of the clergymen of the UOC of the Moscow Patriarchate, who in fact were and to a large extent remain the leaders of the mentioned ukrainophobic ideologies of “russian world”, “Holy Rus”, etc. Many clergymen of the UOC MP openly demonstrated their separatist beliefs, conducted anti-ukrainian propaganda, and committed actions that can be qualified as treason. However, the majority of these actions did not receive proper assessment (condemnation) from both the Church and the power structures of Ukraine.
    3. This situation became possible due to the neglect of national security issues in the religious sphere by the state authorities of Ukraine at the beginning of independence. Therefore, the FSS (FSB) of Russia and its other special services at that time received significant opportunities to influence the processes taking place in Orthodoxy in Ukraine. An important factor in strengthening the positions of the Moscow Patriarchate in Ukraine was also the fact that during the presidency of L. Kuchma, a policy of full support for the development of the UOC MP was carried out, on the basis of which it was planned to form the Local Church. As history showed, it was a wrong tactic that led to the artificial development of the UOC MP even in those areas where it did not have significant support. After all, the priority in returning of cult premises and assistance in development was given only to this Church.
    4. The UOC MP has never been canonically and factually an independent church structure. According to Orthodox canons and official documents (statutes, church policy, subordination, participation in church events, etc.), it is a component of the Moscow Patriarchate without any status defined in Orthodox canons. Having adopted the new Statute of the Moscow Patriarchate in 2017, the UOC MP actually lost even those elements of “autonomy and independence” that it received in 1990 (according to the letter of Moscow Patriarch Alexy II, October 27, 1990). Therefore, according to the canons and the actual situation, it is more logical to call this structure the Moscow Patriarchate in Ukraine (MPU) or the Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine (ROCU), and not the UOC MP. This is evidenced by the facts of the actual annexation of Ukrainian dioceses in 2022, that is, their anti-statute transition into direct subordination to the Moscow Patriarchate (Patriarch Kirill). The complete lawlessness of the UOC MP is confirmed by the fact that the “independent” Metropolitan of Kyiv Onufriy did not even manage to make a single verbal statement on this matter, needless to say about countermeasures in this situation.
    5. The Council of the UOC MP, which took place on May 27, 2022 in Kyiv, was convened in complete violation of regulations of Church and the sole purpose of it was to stop the transition of communities from the UOC MP to the local Orthodox Church of Ukraine. Applications for separation (break in relations) from the Moscow Patriarchate have not received any documentary or practical confirmation. The manipulative nature of the Council is also confirmed by the fact that there is no official version of the UOC MP Statute.
    6. The UOC MP is still the source of spreading anti-ukrainian and heretical in relation to the Orthodox creed ideologies (“russian peace”, “tsareboziya”, “expiation sacrifice/martyrdom”, etc.), as well as a means of imposing on Ukrainians complexes of inferiority, atonement for the Holodomor of 1932-1933, the perception of russian war against Ukraine as “fratricidal”. There was no assessment (condemnation) of these ideologies by the leadership of the UOC MP or its clergy even after the large-scale invasion of Russia against Ukraine.
    7. The higher hierarchy of the Moscow Patriarchate, together with other Russian religious centers, carrying out the will of the political leadership of Russia, conduct active ideological work aimed at the sacralization of the war against Ukraine, call on Russians to join the mobilization, deny the history and independence of Ukraine as a self-sufficient state. In this way, these religious centers testify to their complete dependence on the secular authorities and the politicization of not only their activities, but also their creeds (justification of evil).
    8. The current promotion of the religious idea of ​​”desatanization” of Ukraine (replaced to “denazification”) testifies to the fact that the Moscow secular-religious project “Katekhon” has reached a new level of development. According to it, active work is also being done to interfere in the activities of other Local Orthodox Churches through direct or indirect bribery, church raiding and neglect of canons. It is enough to mention the raiding invasion of the Moscow Patriarchate on the canonical territory of the Alexandrian Orthodox Church by creating on December 29, 2021, in violation of the canons and Orthodox traditions, the “Russian Patriarchal Exarchate of Africa” ​​and other similar actions.
    9. The merger of state and church institutions that is taking place in Russia has led to the fact that the Russian Orthodox Church has actually become the “spiritual security service of Russia.” Therefore, the secular Russian authorities actively use the means of the so-called “religious diplomacy” of this Church. In 2022, when the level of non-acceptance of Russian clerics in the world increased to the maximum, the Moscow Patriarchate began to massively use those UOC MP clerics who did not change their jurisdiction along with their communities outside of Ukraine. However, the statements of the World Congress of Ukrainians, the European Congress of Ukrainians and ordinary Ukrainian diasporas in various countries testify that along with religious functions, the priests of the Moscow Patriarchate are also engaged in “collection of personal data, agency work, direct recruitment”, and also, thanks to intrigues and bribery, are trying to discredit supporters of the autocephaly of Ukrainian Orthodoxy abroad (both individuals and the church in general). Such facts should find an adequate assessment of both the Ukrainian special services and authorities, as well as the governments of those countries where similar activities are conducted.
    10. Dealing with the consequences of the activity of the Moscow Patriarchate in Ukraine, we must take into account the fact that people raised by this Church live in a kind of informational and emotional bubble, in a parallel reality. Therefore, the informational efforts of authorities, scientists and the public should be aimed at providing Ukrainian society with objective information about the real activity of the Moscow Patriarchate in historical retrospect and its role in instigating and conducting the current war against Ukraine.
    11. The prohibition of the UOC MP due to the adoption of a separate law is currently impractical, since there are no real mechanisms to ensure its implementation, no powerful explanatory work has been carried out, and the hundreds of clerics-collaborators from the UOC MP who betrayed the country have not been punished. Therefore, such a law can be interpreted, also by international human rights organizations, as persecution for religious beliefs. Such a ban will also give Russian war against Ukraine new meaning. To the current dubious struggle with “Western Satanists” will be added the thesis about the “struggle for the Orthodox faith”, which is “undergoing persecution”, that is understandable to the Russians and their sympathizers in various countries.
    12. The current legislation of Ukraine provides sufficient means to counteract the use of the religious factor in a hybrid war against our state, to prevent the politicization of religious organizations and the activities of “political orthodoxy” structures. However, it requires political will and coordinated work of all structures, especially those related to the spheres of state-church relations.
    13. The current stage of development of state-church relations in Ukraine requires a change in legislation to abandon the practice of the Soviet totalitarian times, which provided a separate “state authority for religious affairs”. This state authority was created by Stalin to strengthen the control and reduce the effectiveness of activities (liquidation) of religious organizations. As Ukraine is independent and democratic country, such an institution is already morally and functionally outdated and has now become an emasculated version of a state authority with imaginary powers and no means of real influence on conflict situations or cases of violation of current legislation. In fact, all its functions are duplicated by other state institutions (registration, permits, etc.), which only complicates the passage or leads to the need to duplicate documents of religious organizations. The natural consequence of such a situation is the transformation of this state authority into a lobbying tool of individual political parties or religious institutions (depending on the region). The optimal option, which corresponds to the current realities of Ukraine, is the reorganization of the existing state authority for religious affairs into the office of the ombudsman for freedom of conscience.