The feast of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker is one of the most beloved Church feast of Ukrainians. It is a time for family and gifts, joy and the peace of community. Therefore, an attack on a Church precisely on this day bears a particularly odious character. Such an act itself says volumes about the perpetrators—that they love neither the saint nor their own people; and it makes one even wonder if they are Christian.
Nevertheless, this is what the pseudo-Church called the “Kyiv Patriarchate” has done as the apotheosis of anti-Christian acts against their own countrymen (see these news items: Members of the right sector have beaten orthodox believers who protected their church from seizure in west Ukraine; “Right Sector” has blocked a church and is holding parishioners hostage without light and water; and Parishioner from Ptycha village hospitalized in critical condition, ambulance subsequently called for another).The character of these attacks on believers is every day resembling more and more the progroms perpetrated by Ukrainian nationalists in the early twentieth century, which ended in sadistic bloodshed and wounds that have still not entirely healed. They were only stopped by governmental intervention.
Below we publish in translation an appeal by Metropolitan Bartholomew of Rivne and Ostroh from December 20, 2015
“Dear Mr. President! Petro Alexeevich!
Terrible events happened in the Rivne region on the feast day of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker. Real pogroms and violence began in Pticha village against the background of religious strife. The local authorities, law-enforcement agencies, the Right Sector extremists, instigated by the Kyiv Patriarchate representatives, have initiated persecutions and physical violence towards citizens of the Ukraine!
On December 18, on the eve of the feast, faithful members of UOC MP managed to get into the church that had earlier been unlawfully taken over by representatives of the Kyiv Patriarchate and the Right Sector. The UOC MP community has all necessary documents confirming ownership of the church building as well as several respective court rulings. However, the local authorities and representatives of the Kyiv Patriarchate are totally ignoring the rights of UOC MP believers.
When our faithful members were making attempts to get into their own temple, they were beaten and tear gas was used against them. But, nevertheless, they got inside their church. After the evening service a part of the community locked themselves in the church building as a protest against unlawfulness of the local authorities and UOC MP.
Now the police and the aggressive representatives of the Kyiv Patriarchate are holding these people hostage, as if they were criminals. They do not allow anyone to hand over warm clothes, water and food to them. The church building has been cut off power supply. The temperature inside the church is +4 degrees Celsius. The state of the hostages’ health has deteriorated. An emergency doctor was let into the church, but he did not leave enough medical supplies and only hastily examined the people.
Please, tell us who is the true criminal in this case? How can they commit such unlawful things on this feast, which is one of the most important and joyous days for Ukrainians?
On the night before December 20, windows in UOC MP parishioners’ houses were smashed. Families with small children live in some of them. Furthermore, all those who come to support the village’s religious community receive this treatment and worse: their car tires are slashed, and their windows are shot at from pneumatic weapons. The religious community in Pticha village is intimidated and shocked.
According to our information, Right Sector soldiers along with the most aggressive followers of the Kyiv Patriarchate are preparing to storm takeover of the church with use of force at night. Our experience in previous conflicts shows that they will act very brutally, which will be beyond the law and Christian ethics. Mr. President, under your very eyes ordinary Ukrainians and patriots, like yourself, are being deprived of their fundamental human rights. They are treated like second-rate creatures. Their children are tormented, their properties are brought to ruin. The most terrible phenomenon of pogroms which, it seemed, was overcome more than 70 years ago forever, has returned to the Ukraine.
Our state is being pushed to the flame of the religious strife. There are no winners in such conflicts – there are only losers in them. The social wounds caused by these conflicts cannot be healed for many generations. Mr. President! I am asking you to intervene immediately and to protect your fellow citizens! For the sake of the Ukraine, for the sake of our common future, for the sake of life and health of the ordinary faithful. May God the Almighty be merciful to all of us! May He inspire us to make it up with each other and to forgive each other! May He preserve the Ukrainians who have been clashing with each other. May He keep some of them from evil and violence, and others – from their own hatred that really blinds them!”