Kiev, April 28, 2016
European organizations have been informed of the stand of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC MP) on bill no. 4511. Letters to international human rights organizations, their representative offices in the Ukraine and embassies of major EU states in Kiev were sent out on April 27 by chairman of the Department of External Church Relations of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church Metropolitan Mitrofan of Luhansk and Alchevsk, reports Pravlife.org with reference to Vzcz.church.ua.
As stated in the letters, the bill, “On the Special Status of Religious Organizations Whose Administrative Centers are Located in a State Recognized as an Aggressor State by the Verkhovna Rada [the Ukrainian Parliament]”, considerably restricts the right of freedom of conscience and religion, contains signs of discrimination and splits Ukrainian citizens on the basis of religion. The adoption of this bill may lead to new conflicts in the country’s social and religious environments and have a negative impact on the international image of Ukraine.
Commenting on this legislative initiative, the DECR of the UOC-MP notes that on April 23, 2016, during a meeting between the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations and the Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, representatives of the major faiths of Ukraine addressed the head of the state with a request, asking to ensure that all amendments to the legislation in the spheres of freedom of conscience and religion would be made only subject to the prior consultations and discussion with the religious community. The President welcomed this request and promised to give relevant instructions to the competent bodies.
“Consequently, bill no. 4511 should be considered and coordinated by all the denominations represented in the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations,” the Department stresses.
The DECR of the UOC-MP notes that attempts of a similar meddling of the state representatives in Church affairs, aiming to close down, to stop activities and to annul registration, took place recently. For instance, early in 2014 during the events on Maidan Nezalezhnosti Square representatives of the former authority, namely the Ukrainian Ministry of Culture, threatened to “stop activity” and annul the registration of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church [known as the Uniate Church].
Also, late in 2014 several deputies attempted to suppress the UOC-MP by characterizing it as “A Religious Organization with an Administrative Center Outside of Ukraine.” Then the Central Scientific and Expert Department of the Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada Secretariat ruled that these steps were unconstitutional and violated the international norms of state interference in religious organizations’ affairs.
“Now we see attempts to continue that policy when they want to grant the Ukrainian Orthodox Church 'a special status', and the bill’s originators are already declaring it publicly despite the fact that the denomination’s name is not indicated in the text of the bill,” UOC-MP’s DECR notes in conclusion.