Russia responsible for oppression of religious freedom in occupied Crimea and Donbass, states Resolution
The complete de-occupation of the Ukrainian territories of Crimea and Donbass will stop the brutal persecution of believers from different confessions inspired by Russian occupation authorities, and restore religious freedom. The participants of the Round Table on Religious Freedom in Ukraine stated it in the Resolution released on May 14, 2019 in the press center of the UMCM in Kyiv, the Institute for Religious Freedom reports.
The resolution states that the occupation authorities in the Crimea do not recognize the freedom of religion, but consider it a collective category, depending on the level of loyalty to the Russian authorities. As a result, Russian authorities in Crimea continue to persecute Muslims from among Crimean Tatars, the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Jehovah's Witnesses, and some Evangelical churches in Ukraine.
The annexation of Crimea led to numerous violations of religious freedom. The forcibly imposed Russian legislation is widely used to persecute religious communities and individual believers. There have been documented a lot of cases of punishment for “reading the Bible and prayers”, “distributing leaflets with an invitation to a prayer house”, “religious songs” and other activities that are equated with the missionary ones held outside the designated places.
At the same time, the situation in the occupied territories of the Donbas is even worse - most religious communities simply ceased to exist, and freedom of thought, conscience and religion does not exist as a phenomenon. In certain locations, as it was the case in the Soviet timees, believers of certain denominations are forced to gather underground, to have the opportunity for joint prayers, studying the foundations of their faith and the fulfillment of religious ceremonies. Dozens of temples, prayer houses and places of worship have been captured and are now under the control of illegal armed units of the so-called “DPR” and “LNR”, supported by Russia. The practice of abduction, torture and extrajudicial executions of clerics and individual believers of most confessions, except the Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, is widespread.
As a result of the deliberate policy of terror by the occupation authorities, which copies the judicial arbitrariness and repressive laws of Russia, most clergy together with their families left the region. Somewhere, like in the times of the Soviet regime, believers of certain denominations are forced to gather underground in order to have the opportunity for joint prayers, studying the doctrines of their religion and the holding of religious ceremonies.
The initiators of the resolution require the Russian Federation to take measures for the de-occupation of the Ukrainian territories of Crimea and Donbas and the cessation of their offensive on the freedom of religion, as well as to immediately release all Ukrainian citizens imprisoned on grounds of professing their religious beliefs, which is a direct violation of Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
In addition, the resolution calls upon UN member states to initiate a public report on the state of ensuring freedom of opinion, conscience and religion in the occupied territories of Ukraine in the Crimean and Donbas regions in order to present it at specially organized hearings in the UN, the Council of Europe, the OSCE, the EU and USA.
The initiators of the resolution also request an appointment of a EU Special Representative for the Occupied Ukrainian Territories of Crimea and Donbas to carry out continuous monitoring of the situation with human rights violations and periodic public reporting to the EU Council on the state of affairs.
The resolution was supported by 50 participants in the Round Table on Religious Freedom in Ukraine, among which 25 churches and religious organizations and 25 human rights and other non-governmental organizations.
As reported, the Round Table on Religious Freedom in Ukraine was established on April 16, 2019 in Kyiv by the participants of the first meeting, which decided to unite the efforts of the religious community and human rights defenders, with the involvement of scholars and representatives of the government in the affirmation of religious freedom and peace-building.
The organizational support of the Round Table on Religious Freedom in Ukraine is carried out by the Institute for Religious Freedom in partnership with the Center for Civil Liberties with the support of the UCSJ.
Participants of the press conference where the Resolution of the Round Table on Religious Freedom in Ukraine was released are the following:
• Archbishop Yevstratiy (Zoria), Deputy Chairman of the Department of External Church Relations of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, representative at the European European Institutions;
• Pastor Anatoliy Kozachok, First Deputy Senior Bishop of the Ukrainian Church of Evangelical Christians;
• Fr Olexa Petriv, Head of the Department of Foreign Relations in Ukraine, Mitered Archpriest of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church;
• Hennadiy Biloritsky, representative of the Association of Jewish Religious Organizations in Ukraine, legal counsel to the Chief Rabbi of Kyiv and Ukraine;
• Sheikh Rustam Gafuri, Deputy Mufti of the Spiritual Directorate of Muslims of Ukraine;
• Oleksandr Zayets, chairman of the Board of the Institute of Religious Freedom, moderator of the Round Table on Religious Freedom in Ukraine;
• Oleksandra Matviychuk, chairman of the Center for Civil Liberties;
• Yevheniy Zakharov, director of the Kharkiv Human Rights Group;
• Olha Skrypnyk, chairwoman of the Crimean human rights group.