Kiev, October 5, 2016
On October 6, 2016, the Verkhovna Rada (the Ukrainian Parliament) will consider the bill no. 4128 “Amendments to the Ukrainian law on the freedom of conscience and religious organizations (for the changing of jurisdiction by religious communities).”
According to its authors, the aim of the draft law is “to provide religious communities with the right to conscious choice and the free and unimpeded change of their subordination to religious centers for the satisfaction of their spiritual needs and the appropriate expression of religious feelings.” According to the Legal Department of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, the bill proposed by the deputies is instrumental in legalizing the takeover of churches by raids and poses a potential threat to Ukrainian society.
The bill was registered at the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine in February 2016 and since that time it has been criticized by religious figures along with legal experts. However, the Verkhovna Rada’s Committee for Cultural and Spiritual Issues recommended deputies to pass bill no. 4128 at the first reading.
On October 6 the legislative initiative of a group of parliamentarians headed by Viktor Elenskiy will be represented by people’s deputy Nikolay Knyazhitskiy.
The Opposition Bloc is demanding that the draft law be excluded from consideration.
“This bill contradicts the Ukrainian Constitution as well as European regulations and rules. The worst thing is that this law may cause a war and hatred in our country. We are calling upon politicians to stop and not to split our country. We insist on removing this bill from the agenda which legalizes the takeover of churches by raiding. It must not be considered… The mechanism here is the following: a group of Muslims declare themselves parishioners of a neighboring synagogue and vote for converting the community to Islam. Nonsense? I believe mosques and synagogues will not be affected, while Orthodox churches will be faced with hard trials,” the group’s co-chairman Alexander Vilkul said at a briefing.
The deputy has noted that over the past two years over thirty churches of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church have been seized by raiding.
According to the official UOC-MP data, in 2014-2016 about forty canonical temples were taken over under the pretext of “change of jurisdiction” in favor of the so-called “Kyiv Patriarchate” which is not recognized by the Orthodox world.