Attempt of people’s deputies of Ukraine to regulate the activities of Church organizations at the legislative level was the cause of protests and caused a sharp statements of some representatives of the Church. They accused the authorities that such decisions it splits the country and provoke large-scale sectarian conflict. Does Ukraine need now such laws and will they be able to defuse tensions between the faiths, to understand “Apostrophe”.
In 2016 the people’s deputies from the faction “Samopomich”, “Block of Petro Poroshenko”, “popular front” and non-faction MPs have registered two draft laws — № 4128 and No. 4511. Then their appearance is not caused active debate neither in Parliament, nor in society. But on may 18, as soon as it became known that in the Verkhovna Rada is planning to vote for these laws, immediately under its walls started to gather disgruntled representatives of religious organizations with the requirements to prevent taking bills. What is offered in the so-called Church laws that acted against them, not only the laity, but also priests, bishops and monks?
Bill No. 4128 provides for amendments to the Law of Ukraine “On freedom of conscience and religious organizations” and add a certain orderliness in the transition of local communities from one Church to another. To change the jurisdiction of the members should just pack up and vote. It was against the rules were made by the representatives of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP), which leave the congregation with regard to its ambiguous position regarding the war in Donbas and annexation of Crimea.
The second bill (No. 4511) is much more ambiguous. According to one of the articles of the document, it is proposed to determine the special status of religious organizations, senior centers are in the state, recognized by the Verkhovna Rada as the aggressor. In other words, the senior centers are in Russia and the Moscow Patriarchate. This document also provides for the signing of specific agreements between the state and the Church, according to which the latter undertakes to respect the sovereignty, territorial integrity and laws of Ukraine. One of the provisions of the bill, which caused a storm of debate not only under the walls of lying, but on the sidelines, for the fact that assert national and regional leadership, the Church can only after coordination with the Central Executive authority that oversees the area of religion. And most importantly, that in the case of systematic violations of the current legislation of Ukraine or establishment of the fact of cooperation with terrorists, the government has the right to stop the work of the Church in Ukraine, that is actually to prohibit the functioning of the UOC-MP.
It is expected that against the rules in Parliament, the most active were representatives of “Opposition bloc”. One of the most influential members and the main adherents of the UOC-MP, the MP Vadim Novinsky on the sidelines called to prevent a vote. “Now there is a fragile but inter-religious peace. As soon as these bills will be adopted even in the first reading, the world will be destroyed”, — commented on the situation Novinsky. Similar statements were repeated by other members of that focused attention on the fact that the bill is anti-Ukrainian and vote for the faction they will not.
Comments in the “Apostrophe” is one of the authors of the bills, the people’s Deputy from “popular front” Sergei Vysotsky explained that the vote last week did not take place because of some political agreements. Other MPs have unofficially said that the bills initially, no one was going to put to the vote, because Parliament was not a sufficient number of votes for a positive decision and it was just a PR Pro-government factions. This confirms the fact that “Church laws” never came.
“Consideration of these issues will be back soon, if you come back at all. Votes for them was not originally. Why was it necessary to put them in the agenda is unclear. Rather, it was a kind of PR,” say “Apostrophe” one of the deputies.
Positions of the parties
However, political expert Nikolay Spiridonov said “Apostrophe”, that the PR could be quite dubious, as the idea of banning or restricting the activities of the UOC-MP actually supports not so much the citizens of Ukraine. “This idea is rather unpopular among the electorate, it supports from 8 to 13% of the population. As it breaks including the Constitution of Ukraine, the 35th article. Because the state should not meddle in the Affairs of the Church, and the Church in state Affairs, so these bills are quite absurd,” commented the expert.
In turn, the political analyst Yevgeny Magda believes that it is necessary not to ban UOC, and to create in Ukraine a single local Church, but this is not a state structure. “Any questions related to freedom of conscience, beliefs, they are extremely sensitive to any civilized society. But the fact that there is an objective need to raise the issue of creating a national Orthodox Church in Ukraine is a fact, but the state this influence should not,” concluded Magda.
Mixed views on these bills and in the Church environment. So the UOC-KP “Apostrophe” said that advocate that in the near future, I’m Glad all has returned to review the documents. According to the head of the Information Department of the UOC KP yevstratii Zorya, under current law, a religious community has the right freely to choose their discipline and change it, but still does not address the question, how it happens, so opens a wide field for manipulation, which the MP uses in order to consolidate their parishes. “Because they are protesting against this project, because I understand that when the legislation clarified the way in which the parish can move to another jurisdiction, they will move away much more of the parishes. But this law applies not only to one denomination, but of all religious communities and organizations, but we’re not afraid, we will lose parishes. And in MP I’m afraid because of the tradition that has developed over the centuries, where people do not care, and most importantly — to have a good property and communication with management. For them the main thing — to keep control over the temples, I’m afraid” — he said “Apostrophe”.
Similar to the UOC-KP rhetoric and adhere to the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC). The chaplain of the UGCC Nicholas Medina believes that the functioning of the UOC-MP in Ukraine is harmful to the national interests of the country. “Every Moscow priest who is active, who is passive, but is the ideologist of the “Russian world”, so of course, their activities need to be addressed, because this depends on when the victory and the establishment of a Ukrainian state as a whole. Of course, the best option is a complete ban of their activities, even at the level of the SBU, because in every Church you can find a lot of literature in Moscow, in the sermons of the priests at 80% you can hear the propaganda of Russian aggression in Ukraine and much more, but for now it’s not possible. So the important thing now is to get them to take their name — the Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine, and then to force them to return the Ukrainian shrines and everything else,” stated “Apostrophe” your opinion Medina.
However, the UOC-MP, criticized the bills, saying it would lead to mass conflicts in the religious environment. “The problems can begin not only in our parishes, not only the UOC-MP and UOC-KP are going to pull the parishes, but there are other denominations in the country who have unresolved conflicts among themselves. This bill increases the possibility of growth of conflicts in the religious environment. And considering that in the East there is a war, it may blow up the situation inside the country. So if the government wants to threaten the sacred, the Church, people can not tolerate,” comments “Apostrophe” Deputy head of the Department for external Church relations of the UOC Archpriest Nikolai Danilevich.
The UOC-MP called bill No. 4511 discriminatory. “The need is no, because if someone violates the law of the priests, if there are cases of anti-Ukrainian propaganda, separatism, that is, for this purpose the criminal code of Ukraine. It is enough that the priest bore personal responsibility for violation of the law, and not the whole Church. We will do everything to adopt these laws to prevent, we will act with all legal means, will appeal to the world community to prevent their adoption,” — concluded Mykola Danylevych.
Religious scholar Lyudmila Filipovich believes that it should equally evaluate both documents. According to her, bill No. 4511 is a provocation of the authorities to divide and split the Ukrainian society, and bill No. 4128, by contrast, aims to democratize religious life in the country. “The law on resubordination I don’t see any danger because it is now difficult to move from one jurisdiction to another, however, we see that these processes — not a mass. If this law passes, I don’t think 12.5 thousand of parishes that belong to the UOC for the year will go to the UOC-KP.
A structure will be preserved for a long time will continue to exist as an Orthodox Church, which does not go to the Union. But the right is supposed to be and it should be enshrined in law”, — said Filipovic.