Review of Interdenominational Councils in Ukraine in 2010
Against the backdrop of tumultuous social and political events, it is interesting to consider the activities of interdenominational institutions in the context of church-state and socioreligious relations in Ukraine over the last year.
This review does not cover the activities of interdenominational councils that operate at the local level and interchurch organizations that work in a particular field (distribution of liturgical literature, coordinating ministering in the penal system, etc.). The purpose of this article is to acquaint the public with activities in 2010 of interdenominational institutions that have (or claim to have) influence in the religious environment of Ukraine. To do this, we must look at the work of the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations, the Council of Representatives of Christian Churches of Ukraine, and the Council of Evangelical Protestant Churches of Ukraine, as well as analyze some of the other interchurch entities.
All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations
The All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations (AUCCRO) was formed in 1996 as a representative interdenominational advisory body aimed to unite the efforts of churches and religious organizations in Ukraine’s spiritual revival. The activity of the council includes coordinating a dialogue between churches in Ukraine as well as those abroad, participating in drafting regulations for church-state relations, and implementing charitable measures.
Currently, the AUCCRO includes 19 churches and religious organizations (Orthodox, Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim), which makes up about 95% of the religious network in Ukraine.
Throughout 2010 the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations continued to play a leading role in interfaith and church-state relations. Chair of the AUCCRO during this period (from October 2009 to November 2010) was Bishop Markijan Trofimiak, who is responsible for external relations of the Roman Catholic Church in Ukraine. Since November 4, the new chair of the council is Vasyl Raychinets, senior presbyter of the Union of Free Churches of Christians of the Evangelical Faith of Ukraine.
Four sessions of the Secretariat of the AUCCRO and three meetings of the council with the participation of heads of the denominations were held this year. At these meetings, where deputies of Ukraine, government representatives, and experts were also present, the representatives of the denominations analyzed a number of pressing issues in church-state relations and in protecting public morality.
As a result of the discussions, the AUCCRO prepared the following appeals to state authorities:
- to the Ukrainian people on the second round of presidential elections in Ukraine;
- to President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych and the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine regarding the development of church-state relations in Ukraine;
- to the Ukrainian public concerning the need to counter slander in Ukraine;
- to President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych and the Foreign Ministry of Ukraine regarding the position of the Ukrainian state on the immoral initiatives of the Council of Europe;
- to the parliamentary committee on human rights, national minorities, and international relations regarding the improvement of the draft law on the organization and conduction of peaceful activities;
- to the members of the Permanent Delegation of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to protect public morality and freedom of conscience and religion;
- to President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych and the State Committee on Nationalities and Religions regarding legislative initiatives in the freedom of conscience and religious organizations;
- to the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine regarding the need to renew the activity of the Commission for Ensuring the Rights of Religious Organizations;
- the Verkhovna Rada Speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn regarding the dialogue between the denominations and the parliament;
- to the Ministry of Family, Youth and Sports, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, State Committee for Television and Radio Broadcasting regarding the creation and revitalization of community councils for cooperation with religious organizations.
In 2010, AUCCRO representatives actively participated in the public councils of the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health, which cooperate with churches and religious organizations. Representatives of denominations worked closely with the National Expert Commission of Ukraine on the Protection of Public Morality. In September of this year, as part of the 4th National Congress on Bioethics, a symposium on "Moral and Ethical Aspects of Artificial Termination of Pregnancy" with the participation of the Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations was held. The resulting resolution and the work of the symposium was approved by the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine.
Throughout the year, AUCCRO chair Bishop Markijan Trofimiak in agreement with heads of denominations developed a permanent dialogue with the state and representatives of public authorities—in particular, with the State Committee on Nationalities and Religions, the Ministry of Health, the National Expert Commission on the Protection of Public Morality.
Despite numerous appeals from the AUCCRO, President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych never met with AUCCRO members in 2010. To a certain degree the current situation hinders the development of church-state relations in Ukraine as many urgent issues require discussion at the highest level. Establishing and promoting a dialogue between denominations and authorities to consolidate a partnership remains an important task for the council.
On December 14, 2010, an extraordinary meeting of the Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations was held. The meeting was convened as a response to the Presidential Decree No. 1085/2010 "On the Optimization of the System of Central Executive Agencies” from December 12.
First and foremost, the heads of denominations and authorized representatives addressed the following aspects of the decree: (1) the liquidation of the State Committee on Nationalities and Religions, as well as the transfer of religious state policy duties to the reorganized Ministry of Culture of Ukraine and the power to register religious organizations to the newly created State Registration Service of Ukraine; (2) authorizing the government to decide the matter on liquidating the National Expert Commission of Ukraine on the Protection of Public Morality (NEC).
At the meeting the AUCCRO prepared two appeals to President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych on the following issues:
- the need to restore a single government agency for religious affairs;
- amendments to the Tax Code of Ukraine regarding the tax exemption for donations to religious organizations.
Additionally, the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations expressed its support for the NEC and approved a number of resolutions on establishing a dialogue with President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych and preventing changes to the current Law of Ukraine "On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations."
Council of Representatives of Christian Churches in Ukraine
The Council of Representatives of Christian Churches of Ukraine (Council of Churches) was formed in 2003. According to the founding documents, the main purpose of the Council of Churches is to promote the spread of Christianity and the principles of religious freedom in Ukraine, to promote a dialogue among Christians to revive Christian morality in society, to eradicate Soviet atheism and totalitarianism, and to build partnerships between the state and the church to develop the civil society.
The members of the Council of Churches includes representatives of nine Christian churches: Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kyivan Patriarchate, Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate), Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Roman Catholic Church in Ukraine, Ukrainian Union of Evangelical Christian Baptists, All-Ukrainian Union of Churches of Christians of Evangelical Faith – Pentecostals, Ukrainian Christian Evangelical Church, Brotherhood of Independent Churches and Missions of Evangelical Christian Baptists of Ukraine, and Ukrainian Lutheran Church.
The Ukrainian Orthodox Church chaired the Council of Churches in 2010.
During the year, one session of the Council of Churches and a meeting of the heads of Christian Churches of Ukraine were held. At these meetings, participants discussed the position of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine and the Permanent Delegation of the Verkhovna Rada to PACE, which was declared during the Council of Europe’s consideration of draft documents supporting sexual minorities. Participants of these meetings produced a number of proposals to improve the dialogue with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine and members of the Permanent Delegation to PACE from Ukraine on the protection of public morality and the consolidation of religious freedom.
As a result of these meetings, the heads of Christian Churches of Ukraine adopted a series of documents:
· Declaration "On the negative attitude to the sin of homosexuality and its propagation in society, and attempts to legalize same-sex marriages (same-sex registered partnerships)";
· Open appeal to the Ukrainian public about the need to protect high moral standards and family values;
· Open letter to the government, the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Family, Youth and Sports, and the Ministry of Education and Science "On the need for the state to hold an educational campaign to preventing the spread of AIDS and HIV among the population."
In addition, the Council of Representatives of Christian Churches of Ukraine sent an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights expressed its position regarding the case of religious symbols in Italian schools (Lautsi v. Italy).
At its next regular meeting in December 2010, the Council of Churches will review the results of the annual period, elect a new chair for the council for the next period, and outline a work plan for next year.
Council of Evangelical Protestant Churches of Ukraine
The Council of Evangelical Protestant Churches of Ukraine (CEPCU) was formed in 2006. Heads of the following nine Evangelical Churches (religious associations) belong to the council: All-Ukrainian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists, All-Ukrainian Union of Evangelical Christian Churches – Pentecostal (AUECCP), Ukrainian Union Conference of Seventh-Day Adventists, Ukrainian Christian Evangelical Church (UCEC), Union of Free Churches of Christians of Evangelical Faith of Ukraine, Ukrainian Lutheran Church (ULC), Brotherhood of Independent Baptist Churches and Missions of Ukraine, the Association of Missionary Churches of Ukraine, and the Association of Independent Charismatic Christian Churches of Ukraine (Full Gospel), which joined the CEPCU in December 2010.
Bishop Vyacheslav Horpynchuk (January) and senior Michael Bishop AUECCP Panochko (February–November) chaired the CEPCU over the last year. At the last council meeting held on December 3, 2010, senior bishop of UCEC Leonid Padun was elected chair for the next term.
All in all, in 2010 the Evangelical Protestant Churches of Ukraine held six sessions, at which were discussed issues regarding church-state relations, protection of public morality, attempts to politicize issues of religious organizations, media coverage of Evangelical churches, celebration of 450 years of the Peresopnytsia Gospel, and violation of religious rights and freedoms.
At the sessions, the CEPCU prepared, in particular, the following documents:
- Statement regarding the inadmissibility of involving churches in political activities (April 2010);
- Letter to the Mayor of Kyiv Leonid Chernovetsky regarding objective coverage in the media of religious life in Kyiv (June 2010);
- Open Appeal to support the Resolution of the Symposium "Moral and Ethical Aspects of Artificial Termination of Pregnancy" (October 2010);
- Appeal to President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych on the Tax Code of Ukraine (December 2010);
- Address to the Foreign Ministry of Ukraine "On Protection of Rights and Interests of Ukrainian Citizens During a Visit to the Republic of Uzbekistan" (December 2010).
Activities of the CEPCU helped minimize the attempts to politicize the religious environment on the eve of the local elections. The council demonstrated its openness to have dialogues with other Protestant churches, in particular, by inviting representatives of these religious organizations to its meetings and granting them the power to vote. Throughout the year the CEPCU provided spiritual and moral support to people who suffered from the activities of the Embassy of God church, led by a citizen of Nigeria – Sunday Adelaja).
Ukrainian Interchurch Council
The Ukrainian Interchurch Council (UIC) was formed in 2003. It consists of about 20 religious leaders of evangelical associations and a number of NGOs and religious press services.
In the first half of 2010, Bishop of the Church of the Living God Serhii Baluk presided over the UIC. In the second half the year, authority was transferred to Bishop Philip Savochka of the Salvation Evangelical Christian Church.
Throughout the year, the UIC held several meetings were participants discussed several issues related to church-state relations in Ukraine, held prayer spiritual activities (for example, "International Prayer for Revival – 2010"), and made appeals to the public regarding elections.
Some members attempted to raise political issues with the Ukrainian Interchurch Council, but none were further discussed. Overall, the impact of the UIC in 2010 on church-state relations in Ukraine was limited and insignificant.
Council of Representatives of Spiritual Directorates and Centers of Muslims of Ukraine of the State Committee on Nationalities and Religions
The Council of Representatives of Spiritual Directorates and Centers of Muslims of Ukraine of the State Committee on Nationalities and Religions was formed in April 2009 as a representative advisory body of Muslims of Ukraine affiliated with the State Committee of Ukraine on Nationalities and Religions.The current council is composed of three out the five Muslim religious associations that operate in Ukraine: the Spiritual Administration of Muslims of Crimea Spiritual Administration of the Kyiv Muftiat and the Umma Spiritual Directorate of Muslims.
The council is mainly engaged in coordinating pilgrims to holy places of Islam. The activity of this council is complicated because the Spiritual Directorate of Muslims of Ukraine (Kyiv) and the Spiritual Center of Muslims of Ukraine (Donetsk) do not participate in its work. These religious associations, however, are members of the Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations.
Last of all, there is the All-Ukrainian Council of Christian Churches (AUCCC) and the Spiritual Council of Ukraine.
In 2010 the AUCCC, a regional project, was still forming, which was further complicated because some of its members transfered to the Spiritual Council of Ukraine. The AUCCC has centers in Dnipropetrovsk, Mykolayiv, Kirovohrad, and a few other cities, but they had little impact on the interchurch and church-state dialogue. Recently the AUCCC has been trying to start a dialogue and joint projects with Ukrainian Interchurch Council.
The Spiritual Council of Ukraine was formed about a year ago in the wake of the presidential election on the initiative of the Party of Regions and some Charismatic and Pentecostal religious communities. This institution is still forming. Some members of this council were elected to local government councils during this year's October election, indicating the political basis of this project. In early 2010, representatives of the Spiritual Council of Ukraine made several high-profile political statements, but they had little response from the public.
To sum up, we can conclude that the major and most influential body in interdenominational and church-state relations in Ukraine in 2010 remained the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations. In its part, the Council of Representatives of Christian Churches of Ukraine acted in unison with AUCCRO, thus increasing influence of the AUCCRO in church-state relations and, especially, in protecting and promoting public morality.
It should be noted that the Council Evangelical Protestant Churches of Ukraine has increased its credibility and gained public support in the last year.
In total, three interdenominational organizations represent the largest churches and religious organizations, which have extensive experience in interdenominational, church-state, and socioreligious relations. As a whole, in 2010 all interdenominational organizations to a certain degree contributed to the important task of promoting a dialogue between different religious, national, ethnic, and other groups, which is essential for the consolidation of peace and understanding in the Ukrainian society.