A Law That Legalises “Church Raiding” Entered into Force in Ukraine

Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard



On January 31st in Ukraine law No. 2673-VIII “On the introduction of amendments to some laws of Ukraine concerning the subordination of religious organisations and the procedure of the state registration of religious organisations with the status of a legal entity” came into force. The new procedure for the transition of religious communities gained legal force after the publication of the law in the “Golos Ukraini” parliamentary newspaper on January 30th.

According to the new version of the law, the decision to change subordination and the introduction of the corresponding changes or additions to Charters will be adopted by no less than the two-thirds of the members of the religious community (membership criteria must be stated in Charters) that is necessary for the recognition of the general meeting of the religious community as authoritative in accordance with its charter (regulation). Also, all religious organisations will have to carry out the re-registration of their charters within a year.

As a reminder, lawyers noted that prior to the entry into force of changes to the canonical affiliation of a parish, all actions in circumvention of the procedure specified in Article 13 of the Law of Ukraine “On Freedom of Worship and Religious Organisations” and the Charter on the Management of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church constituted a crime. In this connection, human rights activists recommended to the parishioners of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church to call the police and to write a statement concerning the illegal acts of “activists”.

As the human rights activists of “Uspishna Varta” noted earlier in the monitoring of violations of rights and freedoms, in a number of settlements in Central and Western Ukraine numerous instances of the confessional belonging of temples of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) being forcibly changed in favour of the new Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) were observed even before the entry into force of the new edition of the law.

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Such “transitions” are usually accompanied by acts of aggression committed against the parishioners and clergy of the UOC by radical “activists” and the exertion of administrative pressure by local officials. In a number of villages such “meetings”, aimed at the issue of changing the affiliation of the parish, were held at the initiative of the village leader. They were attended not by a religious community, but by a territorial community, including the residents of other villages and parishioners from other religious communities (Protestant, Greek Catholic, etc.) who have nothing to do with the life of the parish.

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