Ukrainian Orthodox Church asks UN to defend its religious freedom


Eastern Europe


Ukrainian soldiers attend a service in an Orthodox church in Glushkivka village near Kupyansk, Kharkiv region, Ukraine. Photo EPA, Sergey Kozlov

The Ukrainian Orthodox Church, belonging to the Moscow Patriarchate, appealed to the United Nations to protect religious freedom. Since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, the denomination has suffered restrictions from the government and social pressure from the Ukrainian population.

Therefore, Metropolitan Onufriy of Kyiv and all Ukraine has sent a letter to the Secretary General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, and his deputy Amina J. Mohammed, among others. That is reported by the Information and Educational Department of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

"We would like to ask you to pay attention to the gross violation of the right to freedom of conscience and religion in Ukraine, which consists in the violation of the rights and discrimination of Orthodox Christians of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC)", the appeal reads.


From the beginning of the invasion, the UOC has chosen the side of Ukraine, Metropolitan Onufriy points out in his statement. He writes that the churches have helped refugees, supported the army and that members even fought at the front. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church is the largest denomination of Ukraine.

Yet, the Ukrainian government has taken several measures to limit the activities of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, arguing that it collaborates with the Russians. For example, it introduced anti-Church draft laws, Religion Pravda cites from Onufriy's statement. One of them concerns the possibility of government sanctions on religious leaders of the UOC or a potential ban on "illegal activities of local self-government bodies."


According to Metropolitan Onufriy, the Ukrainian state has always attempted to implement bills regarding religious freedom in line with the requirements of international acts regarding human rights and freedoms. That is important, he argues, because "the connection between peace and human rights is inseparable."

Also, the Metropolitan stresses that the UOC is willing to send a delegation to provide information on the situation in Ukraine. He concludes that he hopes that the UN implements "all necessary measures to counter the incitement of religious enmity and discrimination against believing citizens of Ukraine and religious organisations of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.



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