Ukrainian space needs spiritual decolonization - State Service for Ethnic Affairs and Freedom of Conscience
The discussion emphasized the role of Ukrainian churches and religious organizations during wartime. They have played a significant part in providing assistance to those in need and have emerged as prominent figures in society. Volunteers from Christian, Muslim, and Jewish communities, who collaborate not only within their respective communities but also establish strong human and interfaith connections, enjoy the highest level of trust and respect.
The discussion covered both visible and invisible aspects of religious community engagement. It was acknowledged that approximately 400 religious structures have been destroyed, with nearly 100 of them beyond repair. Additionally, the conversation touched upon the torture and persecution endured by priests in the occupied territories, as well as the brazen religious annexation of dioceses in temporarily occupied areas. Regarding invisible forms of impact, the disruption of longstanding traditions essential for the functioning of religious communities among internally displaced individuals was addressed.
The extraordinary conditions of the state of war have led to fundamental changes in the content and forms of activities of religious organizations. The Church has not only become a support for believers once again, shaping correct values for society but has also transformed into a large-scale humanitarian hub, developing new forms of spiritual care.
Jeanne Osypenko, Deputy Head of the Kyiv Regional Military Administration, emphasized that 1,958 religious organizations, which are part of 39 religious administrations and centers, are registered in Kyiv Oblast. The Regional Council of Churches and Religious Organizations, which includes 19 structures, also exists within the Kyiv Regional State Administration (KODA).
From the early days of full-scale aggression, religious organizations have been working together with government bodies, addressing humanitarian issues, and providing volunteer and chaplaincy assistance, shelter, and food for internally displaced persons.
Metropolitan Oleksandr (Drabynko) of Pereyaslav and Vyshneve of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine mentioned that religious life is being restored in Kyiv Oblast. Many believers are coming for confessions, and in general, the churches are filled with people. The spirituality of Ukrainians is also evident during the funerals of military personnel, where people, regardless of their affiliation, kneel and pray. The development of religious life is also seen in the formation of a layer of chaplains and the activities of Ukrainian priests abroad, who carry out humanitarian missions, including the baptism of displaced persons.
During the meeting, the participants also discussed the issue of decommunization of Ukrainian churches. Viktor Voynalovych emphasized that the question of spiritual decolonization of the Ukrainian space has also arisen.