Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 26.02.2019
Foreign occupation by Muscovy has brought religious intolerance and persecution to Crimea and to part of Donbas. This kind of bigotry is alien to these Ukrainian lands. Since independence in 1991 and the overthrow of the criminal Soviet regime Ukrainians have asserted freedom of religion as the modern, democratic, European state that it is. But invasion by the Russian Federation, starting in 2014, changed all that for millions of Ukrainians in the southernmost and easternmost parts of the country.
Epifaniy is the Primate of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine and Metropolitan of Kyiv and All Ukraine. In a statement entitled “On expanding religious persecution in the occupied territories of the Donbas,” Metropolitan Epifaniy wrote: “In the occupied territories of the Donbas, the rights of believers, religious communities and clerics of the Local Ukrainian Orthodox Church are systematically violated. This is manifested in systematic persecution, mistreatment, arrests, seizure of temples, and the like.”
The restriction of and violation of rights in Donbas began when the Russian Federation expanded its invasion to eastern Ukraine in April 2014. But the severity of those restrictions and violations has become more acute since the grant of a tomos of autocephaly to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine. “From March 1, 2019, there is a threat of full prohibition of the activities of communities and clerics of our Church, complete confiscation of community property and the deportation of priests from the so-called "DPR" territory,” writes the Primate of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine.
The reason is a so-called ‘law’ of the Russian occupation authorities, demanding ‘registration’ of religious communities. It is impossible for any church apart from the Kremlin-front Moscow Patriarchate to comply.
Three dozen churches and premises belonging to communities of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine are threatened with confiscation by the Russian occupation authorities, and the priests are threatened with expulsion from their homes.
Vicious religious persecution may descend on Ukrainians from the hands of the Russian invader-occupiers. Metropolitan Epifaniy gives a world-wide appeal: “We appeal to the United Nations, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), the guarantors of the Minsk Process, the European Union and, in general, all democratic countries, international and interdenominational institutions … to take measures to prevent a catastrophic development of events.”
The Russian invaders of Ukraine persecute Muslims, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and evangelical Christians and smash up the culture of toleration that is natural to Ukrainians. Now the Muscovites will bring down the heel on the Orthodox Church of Ukraine. Only the Kremlin-front Moscow Patriarchate survives in the nihilist wasteland of Putin at war.