OSCE gathered officials and experts to discuss religious freedom in Ukraine
Strengthening cooperation of the government with religious organizations is an important component of national security. The international conference, which takes place May 26-27 in Kyiv, addresses these and some other issues of church-state relationship. It has been organized by the Ministry of Culture of Ukraine, Department for Religions and Nationalities along with the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights.
Speaking at the opening, Deputy Minister of Culture Andriy Vitrenko and deputy head of the Presidential Administration Rostislav Pavelko almost unanimously focused on the need to intensify cooperation of the state with church circles in a wide range of issues relating to national security. In particular, it refers to the peacekeeping influence of the Churches, their capability to warn provocations. Rostislav Pavelko suggested that man’s spiritual state affects his civil views as far as he is ready to defend his freedom, his country. And the government should work with the Church, so that hostile ideology is not spread through religious centers, so that they are not used for political manipulation.
Cooperation with religious communities is an important part of foreign policy of Ukraine. This was claimed by speakers of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine. The cooperation with the Ukrainian Council of Churches and religious organizations in this fieldwas also mentioned. In turn, AUCCROrepresentatives talked about how they see the situation in Ukraine, including that of religious freedom. The current chairman of the AUCCRO Victor Alekseenko, president of the Ukrainian Union Conference of SDA stressed among all post-Soviet countries the level of religious freedom is highest in Ukraine.
The main participants of the meeting are representatives of the departments of religious affairs of state regional administrations. As noted by the meeting moderator, Director of Religious Affairs and Nationalities under the Ministry of Culture Dr. Andriy Yurash,this is the first meeting of this kind after more than a five-year break. Moreover, this period was tragic for departments dealing with church-state relations in the region, as most of them were downgradedin rank or reduced to one or two people. A.Yurash analyzed the current rank of these units and identified9 types. For example, in Vinnytsia region thedepartment that employs 9 people is operating efficiently while in neighboring Zhytomyr region all the work rests on one person who works within the framework of the department of interaction with civic associations. In some regions, religious issuesare combined with the issues of culture, protection of the historic environment or even financial planning. Therefore,Yurash proposed to address the OSA management with request to regulate the work of relevant departments and to provide them with the proper ranknotlower than aseparate department.
Katarzyna Yaroshevich reported on the activities of the Bureau for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights introduced and the specialist on freedom of religion and belief Dilnoza Satarova told about the Bureau Ukrainian project.
During two days,the conference will work in eight sessions, where representatives of the religious environment, Kyiv and regional officials, Ukrainian and foreign experts will speak and present certain subject areas.