Met. Luke of Zaporozhye to Secretary of State Blinken about persecution of Ukrainian Orthodox Church

Washington, D.C., September 28, 2023

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His Eminence Metropolitan Luke of Zaporozhye recently appealed to the U.S. Secretary of State concerning the state-sponsored persecution of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

The Metropolitan earlier appealed to various U.S. media outlets about the persecution, as well as to authoritative hierarchs of other Local Churches.

His Eminence has personally become a target of persecution, as well as his diocese. In July, the Zaporozhye City Council ruled to cut off all relations with the Church, with the intent of seizing its churches and the land they sit on.

Thus, Met. Luke appealed to Secretary Anthony Blinken on behalf of his diocese, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, and the few local authorities who are also facing persecution for having defended the Church.

His address reads:

Dear Secretary Blinken!

On behalf of the Zaporizhzhia Diocese of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) I appeal to you as the Head of the institution responsible for monitoring of rights and freedoms in the religious sphere.

We are compelled to do this both by private and general reasons.

This April the Zaporizhzhia Regional Council had been planning to adopt an unconstitutional Act to proscribe
the UOC in the Zaporizhzhia region. However, this did not happen because of the written comments of two regional officials – Volodymyr Podorozhko, Executive Office Manager, Zaporizhzhia Regional Council, and Yegor Moroz, Head of the Legal Support Department, Zaporizhzhia Regional Council. They noted that the draft of the UOC Prohibition Act on the territory of the Zaporozhzhia region incompatible with Ukrainian legislation.

After that these two officials have been subjected to bullying and threats. In particular, a large number of aggressive “activists” using internet-based social media platforms promised to take “radical measures” against those who respect the Ukrainian Constitution.

On May 23, 2023, the Zaporizhzhia Regional Council deprived Podorozhko and Moroz of their key powers. As a result, they drastically reduced their salaries. They may be fired altogether for their adherence to principles and following the law. The fate of these people, whom I may not know personally, but whose actions inspire deep respect, it cannot leave us indifferent. After all, they were unfairly and unjustly punished for their desire to protect the fundamental rights of tens of thousands of people in our region.

However, we recently received а letter demanding to vacate two rented premises where Orthodox churches have been located for many years.

But this is not only a problem of the Zaporizhzhia region. Currently our entire Ukrainian Orthodox Church is standing upon the threshold of terrible trials. We talk now about an attempt of its liquidation and forced merger into the organization called “Orthodox Church of Ukraine” (established in 2019).

For that purpose, the Church now is under unprecedented pressure at all levels. 250 churches of the UOC were seized with the direct support of the local authorities in 2022 alone. This year the raiding activity continued. Churches are being seized daily in Khmelnitsky, Chernivtsi, Kyiv and other regions of Ukraine. Our believers are maimed, beaten, poisoned by tear gas, subjected to all sorts of bullying and attacks. Supporters of the “Orthodox Church of Ukraine” began using physical violence against our bishops. In fact, entire Dioceses of our Church are being destroyed.

Moreover, several bills have already been registered in the Parliament, which involve a ban or significant restriction of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church rights. At the same time, throughout the country, regional and city councils make decisions to proscribe the functioning of the UOC in the regions. The initiators of these unconstitutional decisions are the deputies from the European Solidarity Party (headed by Petro Poroshenko).

The situation is aggravated by the wrongful verdict of the Constitutional Court, which recognized the legitimacy of the anti-church law developed during the presidency of Petro Poroshenko. The goal was to deprive the UOC of its official name and transfer its property to the newly created “Orthodox Church of Ukraine”.

Officials are going to take away from our Church the main Orthodox shrines of Ukraine – the Pochaev and Kiev-Pechersk Lavras (in the last one some churches have already been illegally transferred to the “Orthodox Church of Ukraine” in use).

The managerial link of the UOC has also been struck. In particular, some of our bishops were placed under house arrest, some of them subjected to sanctions, and the others were deprived of citizenship. This is the rationale for their deportation from Ukraine.

In light of these events, we are frankly discouraged by the silence of the American authorities. After all, the Democratic Party’s platform, as well as the current U.S. Government position is the protection of the rights and freedoms in all manifestations. Especially when it comes to a fundamental right – the right to freedom of conscience.

We remember what you said in your speech on May 12, 2021. Here is а fragment: “Our country’s commitment to defending freedom of religion and belief goes back centuries. It continues today. Religious freedom, like every human right, is universal. All people, everywhere, are entitled to it no matter where they live, what they believe, or what they don’t believe.”

If this is the position of the U.S. Department of State, why do the U.S. authorities keep quiet? Why do the values of Democracy are factually betrayed for quietness? The same Democracy, on which the international authority of the United States is cemented.

But it’s not even a question of that. Behind the growing persecution, one can see the pain, tears and blood of millions of Ukrainians who simply want to save the Faith of their forefathers.

Honorable Mr Blinken!

We very much hope that you, as the Head of the U.S. Department of State, will pay attention not only to the egregious facts of violations of fundamental human rights in Ukraine, but also take appropriate steps within your competence, in particular, in support of those officials who spoke out against the violation of the Constitution of Ukraine and in defense of Orthodox believers in the Zaporizhzhia region.

After all, ignoring this problem could call into question the commitment of the U.S. Government and the Democratic Party to the protection of persecuted person or social group rights and freedoms.

In turn, we are ready to provide you and your Department with all the necessary evidence of the relevant violations.


+ Metropolitan Luke of Zaporizhzhia

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