Religious Freedom

Religious freedom in Ukraine is especially precious given the repression of religion throughout the history of the Soviet Union, including the actual outlawing of the Ukrainian Catholic and Ukrainian Orthodox Churches.

Since independence the people of Ukraine have brought the practice of their respective faiths out of the shadows, out of secret meeting places in the forests, and out of other hiding places.  The practice of religion so long denied in public  in the past, now flourishes.

The Government of Ukraine and the people of Ukraine have worked their way through the very sensitive negotiations of things like the real property issues left as a result of the Kremlin’s seizing and assigning properties of Ukrainian Churches to the Russian Orthodox Church.

And most importantly the disparate religions have come together in an extraordinarily unique ways.

While all across the globe there are wars and other conflicts based upon religious differences, the All Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations is a genuine example of ecumenical cooperation that should be recognized and should stand as a global example.

These religious leaders of different faiths provided aid and comfort to the wounded during the Revolution of Dignity.  On the stage of the Maidan they offered prayers from their respective faiths.

In 2015, in the United States Capitol, the Foundation hosted a Conference on Ukraine’s Humanitarian Crisis, the crisis of death, casualties, homelessness and displaced people resulting from Russia’s war against Ukraine.

On the stage in the Capitol were leaders of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, the leading Jewish Rabbi of Ukraine, the Roman Catholic Church, the leading Mufti of Ukraine and representatives of Protestant denominations. They were united in their cooperative efforts to address the humanitarian crisis.

During a meeting at the NSC, they gave a letter addressed to President Obama, signed by 16 members of the Council.

At a press conference at the National Press Club, Rabbi Bleich made the point that regarding religious faith, if he was right, the others were wrong, if they were right, he was wrong, but they have chosen as faith leaders not to discuss religion, but to work together to address Ukraine's  humanitarian challenges as well as other concerns of the people of Ukraine.  And work together they do.

As in every society Ukraine has outliers and malcontents but, in Ukraine religious freedom is precious and faith-based behavior goes beyond tolerance to genuine respect and cooperation for the common good of the people of Ukraine.

The big exception to religious freedom in Ukraine is in Russian occupied Crimea and Donbas.  The Kremlin’s repression from Soviet times is back.

Rabbi Bleich
Chief Rabbi of Ukraine

The Chairman of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom Robert P. George has said, “Religious minority communities, particularly Muslim Crimean Tatars, suffer because of Russia’s application of its more restrictive criminal and administrative codes, notably its onerous registration requirements and notorious anti-extremism law.”

And the USCIRF states “No religious community remains unscathed, particularly given the Kremlin’s application of its extremism law in Crimea.  Russian authorities have raided Tatar homes, mosques, media outlets, and schools, and the Kingdom Halls of the Jehovah’s Witnesses.  They have detained imams and fined individuals simply for possessing Islamic and Jehovah’s Witness text which are banned under the extremism law.  Twelve Crimean Tatars, accused by Russian authorities of being members of a banned terrorist organization, were arrested … after speaking with international human rights monitors about the repression of Tatars….”

Source: Wikimedia/Gage Skidmore
Robert P. George
Chairman of the United States Commission on
International Religious Freedom

In order to gain legal status, Russia requires all Crimean religious communities registered with the Ukrainian state to re-register under Russia’s more stringent requirements.  Of the over 1,500 religious communities with Ukrainian legal status, only 400 were re-registered under Russian authority.  Unregistered religious groups, including the Ukrainian Catholic Church – banned by the Kremlin 70 years ago – and Armenian Apostolic parishes, cannot open bank accounts, own property, issue invitations to foreign guests, and publish literature. In view of the Kremlin’s hostility, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church did not even apply for registration.

While Ukraine has become a shining example of religious freedom where Russia has illegally seized control of Ukrainian territory Russian repression of religion has returned with a vengeance.

Another of the powerful reasons the United States and the world community must continue to condemn Russia’s invasion and occupation and, at the very least, continue all sanctions against Russia for its gross violations of international agreements and human rights abuses.

Religious freedom in Ukraine is especially precious given the repression of religion throughout the history of the Soviet Union, including the actual outlawing of the Ukrainian Catholic and Ukrainian Orthodox Churches.

Since independence the people of Ukraine have brought the practice of their respective faiths out of the shadows, out of secret meeting places in the forests, and out of other hiding places.  The practice religion so long denied in public has flourished.

The Government of Ukraine and the people of Ukraine have worked their way through the very sensitive negotiations of things like the real property issues left as a result of the Kremlin’s seizing and assigning properties of Ukrainian Churches to the Russian Orthodox Church.

And most importantly the disparate religions have come together in an extraordinarily unique ways.

While all across the globe there are wars and other conflicts based upon religious differences, the All Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations is a genuine example of ecumenical cooperation that should be recognized and should stand as a global example.

These religious leaders of different faiths provided aid and comfort to the wounded during the Revolution of Dignity.  On the stage of the Maidan they offered prayers from their respective faiths.

In 2015, in the United States Capitol, the Foundation hosted a Conference on Ukraine’s Humanitarian Crisis, the crisis of death, casualties, homelessness and displaced people resulting from Russia’s war against Ukraine.

On the stage in the Capitol were leaders of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, the leading Jewish Rabbi of Ukraine, the Roman Catholic Church, the leading Mufti of Ukraine and representatives of Protestant denominations. They were united in their cooperative efforts to address the humanitarian crisis.

During a meeting at the NSC, they gave a letter addressed to President Obama, signed by 16 members of the Council.

At a press conference at the National Press Club, Rabbi Blah made the point that regarding religious faith, if he was right, the others were wrong, if they were right, he was wrong, but they have chosen as faith leaders not to discuss religion, but to work together to address Ukraine's  humanitarian challenges as well as other concerns of the people of Ukraine. . And work together they do.

As in every society Ukraine has outliers and malcontents but, in Ukraine religious freedom is precious and faith-based behavior goes beyond tolerance to genuine respect and cooperation for the common good of the people of Ukraine.

The big exception to religious freedom in Ukraine is in Russian occupied Crimea and Donbas.  The Kremlin’s repression from Soviet times is back.

The Chairman of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom Robert P. George has said, “Religious minority communities, particularly Muslim Crimean Tatars, suffer because of Russia’s application of its more restrictive criminal and administrative codes, notably its onerous registration requirements and notorious anti-extremism law.”

And the USCIRF states “No religious community remains unscathed, particularly given the Kremlin’s application of its extremism law in Crimea.  Russian authorities have raided Tatar homes, mosques, media outlets, and schools, and the Kingdom Halls of the Jehovah’s Witnesses.  They have detained imams and fined individuals simply for possessing Islamic and Jehovah’s Witness text which are banned under the extremism law.  Twelve Crimean Tatars, accused by Russian authorities of being members of a banned terrorist organization, were arrested … after speaking with international human rights monitors about the repression of Tatars….”

In order to gain legal status, Russia requires all Crimean religious communities registered with the Ukrainian state to re-register under Russia’s more stringent requirements.  Of the over 1,500 religious communities with Ukrainian legal status, only 400 were re-registered under Russian authority.  Unregistered religious groups, including the Ukrainian Catholic Church – banned by the Kremlin 70 years ago – and Armenian Apostolic parishes, cannot open bank accounts, own property, issue invitations to foreign guests, and publish literature. In view of the Kremlin’s hostility, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church did not even apply for registration.

While Ukraine has become a shining example of religious freedom where Russia has illegally seized control of Ukrainian territory Russian repression of religion has returned with a vengeance.

Another of the powerful reasons the United States and the world community must continue to condemn Russia’s invasion and occupation and, at the very least, continue all sanctions against Russia for its gross violations of international agreements and human rights abuses.

Policy Issues

Expand All
2019 | Comments By Robert A. McConnell
Click Here to Read More
READ MORE
2019 | Comments By Robert A. McConnell
Click Here to Read More
READ MORE
2019 | Comments By Robert A. McConnell
Click Here to Read More
READ MORE