We live in the land of wonders and paradoxes. In 2014, in Ukraine the so-called "EuroMaidan", which defended the European choice of the country, won the day. The Maidan was actively supported by both the Uniates (UGCC) and the schismatics (UAOC and UOC-KP), who received corresponding political, economic and reputational bonuses from this.
But the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which as a whole took a neutral position during the revolutionary events of 2013-14, experienced all sorts of harassment, including open robbery and physical violence.
And today the country of the victorious Maidan is arguing with Europe itself (diplomatic scandals and mutual public accusations with Poland and Hungary, to name but a few), the schismatics and the Uniates forcibly seize churches (like some savages) and only the Ukrainian Orthodox Church uses the adopted by Europe and in the entire civilized world human rights instruments to defend its rights. A paradox…
One of the episodes of this civilized legal and absolutely fair struggle for religious rights was the meeting of the working group of the Universal Periodic Review of the 28th session of the UN Human Rights Council on November 15, 2017 in Geneva. Since the meeting, enough time has passed to analyze both the results of this event and the reaction of representatives of the Ministry of Culture of Ukraine, which is responsible for the state policy in the religious sphere.
Let's start with the latter. Already the day after the meeting in Geneva, the head of the Department for Religious and Ethnic Affairs under the Ministry of Culture Andrei Yurash broke out into an angry interview, saying that all the reports of both church and secular media on the topic of the Geneva meeting were falsified and directed against Ukraine. Here is a quote: "All this is manipulation and another pure classic pro-Russian anti-Ukrainian fake."
Mr. Yurash’s actions and statements very vividly point to his engagement and prejudice. And this interview is no exception. To prove the truthfulness of his judgments about the Geneva meeting, Yurash brings his photo and the statement that, as they say, "I myself was there and witnessed everything".
But he was not alone there; there were other people present and even video cameras. And participants of the meeting published relevant documents on their official websites.
Mr. Yurash says: "No foreign delegation has had any claims to Ukraine for alleged violations of religious rights, and no one has demanded anything from our state."
Excuse me, but there is a video presentation by the delegation of Greece
The Greeks directly said that "the state of Ukraine needs to take additional measures to protect religious rights, to protect journalists and ensure the rights of all religious communities based on autonomy procedures."
Here is a video of the speech by the delegation of Italy
Italians said that "the state of Ukraine should ensure the free activity of journalists and human rights activists." Just during the seizure of Orthodox churches and all the events taking place around this, journalists and human rights defenders face threats, violence and other forms of counteraction to their legitimate actions to cover the developments and protect the rights of believers. There have been numerous cases when well-built men did not allow camera crews of various media to shoot the excesses around Orthodox churches, with the video equipment taken away and threats to "to beat them up". This is fully experienced by UOC journalists, but also other media.
Here is a video of the presentation by the delegation of the Netherlands
The Dutch also said that "crimes against the media, journalists and human rights activists should not go unpunished."
This is what, according to Mr. Yurash, means "no complaints"?
And here is even more specific appeal of the non-governmental organization from the USA ADF International, which is the leading expert in the sphere of religious freedom in the world.
"Orthodoxy in Ukraine, however, is divided into three main groups: the Ukrainian
Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP, the only Ukrainian church recognized as legitimate by the other mainstream Orthodox churches worldwide), the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate (UOC-KP), and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC)…Tensions and disputes over issues of legitimacy and identity have led to protracted legal battles over property and other issues, and, in some cases, this has led to harassment and social alienation.... In light of the aforementioned, ADF International suggests that the following recommendations be made to Ukraine: protect the right to religious freedom of all citizens of and residents in Ukraine, promote religious harmony and interdenominational tolerance, and ensure both in law and in practice that all religious individuals and groups have their rights to freedom of expression and association guaranteed in all arenas of society."
The original English text is available here:
Mr. Yurash asserts that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church was not mentioned at all at the meeting in Geneva. But the official UN document says the exact opposite:
As you can see, it was mentioned. It was also said about anti-church bills, church raiding, and the inciting of religious confrontation, etc.
Why is Mr. Yurash being so hysterical, why is the clearly anti-Orthodox portal RISU trying to distort the meaning of what is happening?
Everything is quite simple – any official, politician, public figure or any news agency, if they want to know about what is happening in Ukraine, will not refer to Mr. Yurash's interview, but to this very "Report of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights ", which states in black and white about the violation of the rights of believers of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
And the whole situation with the meeting in Geneva fully proves the correctness and effectiveness of that way of protecting one's rights, which the UOC has chosen: not to revenge, not to repay evil for evil, not to respond violently to violence, but, first, to pray to God, and then seek justice in the courts and international organizations.
Yes, during the events like the Geneva meeting of the working group, as a rule, streamlined diplomatic language sounds. Yes, all conclusions and decisions are of recommendatory and informative nature. But we see firsthand how the world is getting to know the truth about what is happening in Ukraine, including government officials, international, governmental and non-governmental organizations. Foreign mass media, human rights activists and public figures also are learning the truth, which is impossible to hide, despite all the titanic efforts of Mr. Yurash and his like.
And efforts are made as titanic, as ridiculous. For example, in the same RISU interview, Andrei Yurash said how last year at a similar event, during the discussion of the church raiding issue, "the Ukrainian delegation explained that in this case it was a question of the free expression of religious will of believers who volunteered to change their confessional affiliation". So I want to exclaim: "Yurash, open your eyes! The whole Youtube is full of videos of this "free expression of religious will" and "voluntary desire", when militants in camouflage and balaclavas beat believers (including women) and expel them from the churches they have built with their money and prayed in for decades."
But people around are not blind, as, perhaps, Ukrainian officials would like.
The Ukrainian Orthodox Church raises the issue of violating the constitutional rights of its believers in many international instances: in the UN, the OSCE, and non-governmental human rights forums. The critical mass of discontent of international organizations with such a state of affairs in the religious sphere of Ukraine is not growing quickly. But you shouldn’t give yourself a false hope regarding the complexities of diplomatic rhetoric. Behind all this is the fact that sooner or later the Ukrainian authorities will have to answer to the international community for violating religious rights in Ukraine. And it's time to ask the question: who actually takes the anti-Ukrainian position – those who speak about lawlessness at the international level or those who commit lawlessness in Ukraine and even tries to hide it?