Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 08.08.2018
The “Rooskiy Mir” goes against all forms of religious expression other than the KGB-inspired Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate. In areas of Ukraine that have been invaded and occupied by Russia, other forms of worship are deemed to be ‘non-traditional’ and are banned. In Russian-occupied Donbas, the invaders from Muscovy are raiding Protestant churches and burning them to the ground. In Russian-occupied Crimea, the invaders from Muscovy are persecuting Crimean Tatars who are peaceful adherents of Islam as if they are terrorists. The attack on freedom of religion by Muscovy interlopers in Ukraine is as vicious as it is relentless.
On August 7, terrorists from the so-called ‘Luhansk People’s Republic’ (LPR) broke up a meeting of the “Good News” church in Alchevsk, Luhansk region, Ukraine (Russian-occupied). Peter Dudnyk is a clergyman in the same denomination and is in Slavyansk in Donetsk region in free Ukraine. Pastor Dudnyk relayed information about the “LPR” raid on social media, writing that clergymen of the “Good News” church in Alchevsk were arrested and interrogated. The clergymen were later released, but are called to appear in a ‘court’ on Wednesday. Pastor Dudnyk wrote: “I received a message that two brothers were released from the dungeons of the MGB [the so-called ‘Ministry of State Security’ of the so-called ‘LPR’].
The attack on evangelicals in Alchevsk by Russian terrorists must have been even more traumatic to the victims because of memories of a similar but more deadly attack four years ago. In June 2014 in the then Russian-occupied city of Slavyansk, Donetsk region, terrorists of the so-called ‘Russian Orthodox Army’ raided a Pentecostal church called “Transfiguration of the Lord.” The Russian terrorists abducted four members of the church and murdered them. After the retreat from Slavyansk of Russian forces under the command of GRU officer Igor Strelkov, Ukrainian authorities discovered the mass grave where the Pentecostalists were buried. The bodies showed signs of torture and abuse.
Jehovah’s Witnesses were banned in Russian-occupied Donbas in 2017. All of their buildings were seized, starting early in 2015. On 30 May 2018 the Kingdom Hall of the Jehovah’s Witnesses burned to the ground in the Russian-occupied city of Luhansk. The persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses under Nazi German occupation is the only comparable precedent to what is happening to them under Russian occupation.
On 27 July 2018 all evangelical churches in the so-called ‘LPR’ were banned. The evangelicals were accused of adhering to a ‘non-traditional’ faith. In their next move, the Russian occupiers of the Donetsk region will ban all religious organizations that are not registered under their so-called ‘laws.’ Churches of the Moscow Patriarchate are exempt from the requirement. Because they will make it impossible for this ‘registration’ to succeed, the invaders from Muscovy are signalling that they will drive underground all religious denominations other than the Kremlin-approved church.
Ukraine is soon to receive the Tomos of autocephaly of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. That means that the Eastern Orthodox church in Ukraine which recognizes the world-wide communion centred in Constantinople will once again have its own head: the Metropolitan of Kyiv will be restored 332 years after it was illegally taken by Muscovy.
In the territories of Ukraine that have been invaded and occupied by Russia, proxies for the Kremlin are vociferous in denouncing the realization of an autocephalous Ukrainian Orthodox Church. In Donetsk, the figurehead leader of the so-called ‘Donetsk People’s Republic’ (DPR), Oleksandr Zakharchenko, says he will not allow the creation of a local church in Ukraine on ‘his’ territory. On July 27, the Russia-appointed terrorist said Ukraine is facing a “new religious war.” Threatening violence is a regular theme of Kremlin propaganda against any move of Ukrainian society towards greater autonomy and greater freedom.
Even in free Ukraine the Kremlin-led propaganda against autocephaly is relentless. The leader of the ‘Opposition Bloc’ in Ukraine’s parliament, Vadym Novinskyi, threatened Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the head of all the Eastern Orthodox Churches and the Bishop of Constantinople, with “civil war” when the Tomos of autocephaly is issued. The ‘Opposition Bloc’ is the successor to the Party of Regions, with similar loyalty to Russia and to factions of the oligarchy that have survived from the Yanukovych era.
To the occupation authorities from Muscovy of Ukraine’s Crimea, being a member of the Crimean Tatar minority and being a Muslim automatically qualifies as being a ‘terrorist.’ Phaseem Amzai, head of the Hizb Ut-Tahrir Information Office in exile in free Ukraine, reported: “In order to silence the Tatars who oppose occupation, Russia is ready to qualify all of them as terrorists and extremists.” Russia has banned the peaceful religious organization, Hizb Ut-Tahrir, and the peaceful civil society organization, the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People. Both groups are legal in Ukraine and thrived before Russia’s invasion and occupation in 2014.
Russia is invading Ukraine as part of its war against the West. The core Western value of toleration and respect for diversity of religious expression is despised by the Putin regime. Moscow has what it calls a church – the Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate – that it uses as a weapon of imperialist aggression against all of its neighbours. Any religious belief or practice apart from the Putin-Gundyayev ‘church’ is anathema in the parts of Ukraine that have been invaded and are occupied by Russia. Putin hates Protestantism, especially evangelical Christianity. Putin hates Islam, especially the traditional, peaceful, and non-militant kind practiced by the Crimean Tatars. Most of all, Putin hates the independence of the human spirit that leads people to believe or not to believe according to their conscience and insight. Putin hates Ukraine because Ukrainians are building a thoroughly European and Western society where diversity of religious belief and expression flourishes.