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    Metropolitan Epifaniy at Crimea Forum: invaders brutally violating freedom of religion

    On February 26, 2024, the Primate of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, Metropolitan Epifaniy, spoke at the Crimea Forum, where he condemned the brutal violation of the right to freedom of conscience and religion committed by the invaders in Crimea.

    Metropolitan Epifaniy compared the situation of religion in Ukraine and in the Russian Federation, stressing that freedom reigns in Ukraine, and the government does not interfere in the life of religious communities. On the other hand, there are strict restrictions in Russia, and religious organizations are actually under the control of security services, reports the press service of the OCU.

    The invaders of Crimea extended this system to the peninsula, demanding re-registration from religious communities, which would mean recognition of the region’s capture. The OCU refused to do this, due to which its operations were sharply restricted. Of the 40 communities that operated before the occupation, not a single one remains that can function freely.

    Instead, the churches of the Moscow Patriarchate loyally registered under the laws of the invaders, and the three dioceses of the Russian Orthodox Church were included in the Russian Orthodox Church. Metropolitan Epifaniy noted that Metropolitan Onufriy never protested these illegal actions, but only criticized the Ukrainian authorities and the OCU.

    “Instead, the Church as part of the Moscow Patriarchate already in June 2014 began active registration in line with Russia’s instructions. And now, in general, three dioceses that were subordinated to Metropolitan Onufriy were directly included in the Russian Orthodox Church by the decision of Kirill Gundyaev. It should be emphasized, by the way, that such actions on the part of Moscow in the occupied territory did not cause any protests on the part of Metropolitan Onufriy and his subordinates. Their courage extends only to criticism of the Ukrainian authorities and the Orthodox Church of Ukraine. And they meet Moscow’s lawlessness with eloquent silence,” said Metropolitan Epifaniy.

    Since the very outset of the occupation, the Russians have been trying to take control of the religious communities of Crimea, displacing dissenters. During the years of occupation, hundreds of violations of the right to freedom of conscience were recorded while those who chose not to leave Crimea were brutally persecuted.

    The invaders also captured the HQ of the OCU diocese in Simferopol and the cathedral church of Saints Volodymyr and Olha.

    Metropolitan Epifaniy called for the deoccupation of Crimea because only the return of the peninsula to the sovereignty of Ukraine can guarantee the restoration of human rights, including freedom of religion.

    According to the Metropolitan:

    “In Ukraine, freedom of religion is actually ensured by law and practice, and the government does not interfere in the internal life of religious communities.”

    “The occupiers of Crimea extended the effect of their legislation to this Ukrainian territory, requiring religious communities to register anew. And this implies, in particular, their formal recognition of the occupation.”

    “On the occupied peninsula, Ukrainian citizens are stripped of basic rights and freedoms, including freedom of religion.”

    “Only the de-occupation of the peninsula and its return under the sovereignty of Ukraine and within the legal field of our state can guarantee the restoration of human rights in Crimea.”

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