Ukraine: The US Department of State report on the religious situation in Ukraine in 2016The US Department of State released the 2016 International Religious Freedom Report. “This report is a requirement pursuant to the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 – legislation that upholds religious freedom as a core American value under the Constitution’s First Amendment, as well as a universal human right”, said Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson during the press conference. The release of the 2016 International Religious Freedom Report details the status of religious freedom in 199 countries and territories, and provides insights as to significant and growing challenges.
Analyzing the situation in Ukraine, the report starts with the political statement: “In February 2014 Russian military forces occupied Crimea. United Nations General Assembly Resolution 68/262, adopted on March 27, 2014, and entitled “Territorial Integrity of Ukraine,” states the Autonomous Republic of Crimea remains internationally recognized as within Ukraine’s international borders. The U.S. government does not recognize the attempted annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation and considers Crimea still to be a part of Ukraine. It mentions different issues and developments in Ukrainian religious landscape, church-state relations, legal initiatives, difficulty and rivalry between the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Kyiv Patriarchate.
The report pays special attention to the situation in Russia-occupied eastern Ukrainian territories, self-proclaimed Luhansk and Donetsk People’s Republic. “Russian-backed separatists continued to control parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts. Authorities in the “Donetsk People’s Republic” (“DPR”) detained and imprisoned members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses as well as other religious leaders. Following the passage of a law banning “sects,” “DPR” representatives seized many Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Kingdom Halls as well as a Seventh-day Adventist church. Russian-backed separatists also continued to occupy religious buildings of minority religious groups and use them as military facilities”.
It also takes into consideration all violations of religious rights and violence. “There were reports of physical assaults on members of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church (UGCC) and Jehovah’s Witnesses, as well as one attack on a Jewish journalist. Although there were threats of violence directed against the UOC-MP, the UOC-MP pilgrimage march from the Donetsk oblast to Kyiv celebrating St. Volodymyr’s Feast Day was peaceful, despite some acts of harassment. The UOC-KP pilgrimage march for St. Volodymyr’s Day, the UGCC pilgrimage to the Zarvanytsa Icon, and Jewish community pilgrimages to Uman and other Jewish burial sites, were all peaceful. UOC-MP leaders stated the UOC-KP continued its efforts to seize churches belonging to the UOC-MP; the UOC-KP said it was parishioners and not the UOC-KP who had initiated the transfers of affiliation. The Jewish community remained concerned about the continued existence of Lviv’s Krakivskiy Market on the grounds of an ancient Jewish cemetery. There were reports of acts of vandalism at Holocaust memorials, synagogues and Jewish cemeteries, as well as at Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Kingdom Halls along with a few reports of attacks on UOC-MP, UOC-KP and UGCC churches”.
Executive summary on Crimea describes that the “religious and human rights groups reported Russian media continued to engage in a campaign to create suspicion and fear among religious groups, especially targeting the Crimean Tatar community and the UOC-KP and the UGCC. Muslim religious properties reportedly were vandalized and Muslim leaders said police were slow to investigate”. (Quelle: www.risu.org.ua, 16. August 2017)