Council of Churches urges the government to ensure freedom of religion during the quarantine
The All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations sent proposals to the Prime Minister of Ukraine and the Ministry of internal Affairs aimed at ensuring the constitutional right to freedom of religion during quarantine in Ukraine.
Religious figures draw attention to the fact that the decree of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine dated 11.03.2020 No. 211 (as amended on April 2) bans all mass events, including religious ones. At the same time, it is referred only to mass events, and the explanation on the Government portal says that “the Government does not close Churches,” according to the Institute for Religious Freedom.
However, on the ground, representatives of the state and local authorities interpret the quarantine restrictions differently, sometimes requiring the complete closure of churches, which is a violation of article 35 of the Constitution of Ukraine.
To resolve these misunderstandings and avoid chaos during the organization of festive services, the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations offers the government to make clarifications and explanations to the resolution of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine dated 11.03.2020 No. 211. Also, the Council requested appropriate explanations to the local police and local authorities to provide unhindered prayer services in observance of quarantine restrictions.
Among other things the Council of Churches proposes to establish such a procedure for organizing services during the quarantine period:
• Services and religious rites are not prohibited and may be performed subject to restrictions on their mass (that is, it is allowed to be in a Church or other premises of a religious organization up to 10 people in total at the rate of 1 person per 5 sq. m.);
• add the clergymen and persons involved in organizing services and ensuring their video broadcasting to the list of persons who can use public transport, as well as a personal or official car (if such restrictions are imposed), to travel to/from a religious building or other premises of a religious organization;
• clergymen and persons involved in the organization of Services and their video broadcasting have the right to confirm the official purpose of their movement to/from a religious building with a cover letter on the letterhead of a religious organization or a service certificate issued by a religious organization;
*, ensure the right of clergymen and persons involved in the organization of services to move freely to conduct Services and ensure their video transmission to the faithful.
Besides, AUCCRO drew the government's attention to the need to continue distributing free food and products to people without permanent residence (in public places) and through targeted assistance to single and low-income individuals. It is proposed to work with local authorities to develop mechanisms for continuing such social service of churches and religious organizations, volunteers and employees of charitable organizations.
According to the AUCCRO firm belief, a clearer and more balanced regulation of restrictions on religious activities during quarantine will help avoid chaos, mass discontent of believers and the accumulation of people who need to be fed and meet their religious needs, especially during religious holidays, and will also help to ensure that more believers meet the holidays at home.