Russian churches in Europe target of hate crime


European Union


Vandalism on parish notice board in Strasbourg. Photo Facebook, Philip Ryabykh

All over Europe, Russian Orthodox Church buildings suffer because of the war in Ukraine. After the invasion of Ukraine, Russians have increasingly become targets of hate crime.

For example, the rector of the Church of All Saints in Strasbourg, Archimandrite Philip Ryabykh, reported on Facebook that he found two letters Z painted in red on the parish notice boards. The Church of All Saints belongs to the Russian Orthodox Patriarchate. "They probably want to stigmatise us, as they did with the Jews in the Third Reich", he complains. "Then they painted the star of David on houses, and now we have a red-letter Z to turn us into a target for violence."

The rector points out that his parish has condemned the war in Ukraine and prays for peace. "Our Ukrainian members house their relatives who flee from Ukraine, and the church attempts to support them."

Archpriest Sergei Baburin also notices an increase in fear among churchgoers. Baburin is the rector of the Church of St. John of Kronstadt in Hamburg. He says to RIA Novosti that people are looking for someone to blame. He sees how people glance at him eloquently when he speaks Russian on public transport. "But no one lashes out." Even though tensions are felt, no church has been vandalised in his parish yet.

Archpriest Andrei Eliseev, a rector of the Russian St. Nicholas Cathedral in Nice, said to RIA Novosti that "Nationalists are everywhere." Eliseev: "They arrange manifestations, shout out Nazi slogans, like "Ukraine over the moustache" and so on." He added that he has even received death threats by mail.

Simon Ishunin tells RIA Novosti that he experienced surges of hostility towards everything that was Russian at the beginning of the conflict. However, he adds that these sentiments quickly faded. "I always tell my parishioners: if you have political issues, solve them outside the temple." Ishunin emphasises the importance of prayer and help for "people who are suffering now on the territory of Ukraine."

Ukrainian refugees allowed to stay in the Russian monastery

Despite the hostilities, European Orthodox Churches under the Moscow Patriarchate reach out to Ukrainian refugees, RIA Novosti writes. Archimandrite Philip says that his parish has received eleven refugees from Ukraine. "And we are waiting for more to come." Even though his parish does not consist of rich people, many try to contribute.

Also, the St. George Monastery of the Moscow Patriarchate in Götschendorf near Berlin receives Ukrainian refugees. Ukrainians can stay in the monastery. Moreover, olunteers help them attain refugee status, which allows them to receive social support, material assistance and housing, RIA Novosti reports.

"Russian military must stop targeting religious sites"

Not only Russian churches are damaged because of the war. The Russian military also targets religious sites. Therefore, representatives of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and the Council of Europe call Russia to stop destroying places of worship, Die Tagespost reports. "We are appalled by the destruction of religious sites. They are vital to the country's diverse religious communities, more so than ever in times of crisis."

According to Die Tagespost, at least 60 churches and other places of worship have been destroyed by Russian attacks. Most of them are Orthodox church buildings.



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