UN Criticizes Ukraine for Inadequate Investigation of Violence Against Orthodox Church
The United Nations has expressed concern over the inadequate efforts by Ukrainian authorities to probe into the violent incidents directed at the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and its adherents. According to UN Undersecretary General for Human Rights, Ilze Brands Kehris, the response by Ukrainian law enforcement has been lacking, with insufficient investigation into such incidents and limited measures to protect the members of the church.
Ukraine’s Religious Tensions Rise
The Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which is the largest religious institution in the country with millions of followers, has found itself at the center of escalating tensions. Reports from the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), dating November 4, suggest that criminal cases have been opened against 70 priests of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church since February 2022.
Furthermore, the Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine’s parliament, cleared a bill’s first reading on October 19, which suggests a ban on the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church. This move has been met with international concern, as the World Council of Churches warns that the bill might contravene international religious freedom standards and potentially lead to further divisions within Ukrainian society.
Historical Backdrop of the Church’s Persecution
The canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church has faced pressure since the 1990s, mainly from nationalist and schismatic groups. By 2018, these tensions escalated into a state-backed campaign, resulting in the creation of a separate Ukrainian Orthodox Church composed of members from these schismatic organizations.
An onslaught of information campaigns against the canonical Church ensued, leading to mass evictions of believers from churches and properties being voluntarily registered under the schismatic Church’s name with governmental endorsement. This period also saw unabated assaults by nationalist and radical elements on clergy and worshippers, which went unpunished.
Human Rights at Stake
The situation reflects a serious human rights issue, where the right to religious freedom is jeopardized. As the international community, including bodies like the United Nations, calls attention to these matters, there is an increased imperative for Ukraine to uphold religious freedom and protection for all its citizens.
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