Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard
In Ukraine the capture of temples and the intimidation of supporters of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church [Moscow Patriarchate – ed] by “activists” of Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU), representatives of political forces, and government officials proceeds. No less than 8 cases of temples being captured and church communities being coerced into subordination to the OCU in the Lugansk, Volyn, and Rovno regions have been recorded in recent days.
Thus, on January 21st in the village of Veseloye in the Starobelsk district of the Lugansk region a parish meeting took place, during which the church community expressed its support for the initial Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Representatives of the “Ukrop” party from Starobelsk interfered in it in every possible way and tried to intimidate believers and the new abbot of the temple. As was noted on the website of the Severodonetsk diocese, at the meeting there were aggressive-minded armed people who put obvious pressure on, and issue threats to, the church community. Because of this the community’s opinion remained unheard.
In the village of Bronitsa (Krymno) in the Kamen-Kashirsky district of the Volyn region supporters of a “transition” to the OCU opened the locks on the temple of the UOC and pushed the abbot out from the church’s territory, having thus torn his outerwear. The police officers who arrived didn’t document the “noticeable damage” on the doors of the temple. Under the supervision of the police Father Sergey managed to enter the temple to take away the property of the UOC community – church utensils, an antimension, and everything necessary for carrying out church services. Then the doors of the temple were sealed by law enforcement bodies.
The priest is preparing a judicial claim after the raider actions and the abuse of authority by representatives of the local government. The inhabitants of Bronitsa and Krymno withdraw their signatures from the “transition” to the OCU in large quantities. At the moment the community of the UOC has already decided that it will hold services in a house.
In four villages of Volyn – Skobelka, Berestechko, Kutrov, and Nichegovka -parishioners of the UOC are defending their right to temples that “activists” of the OCU tried to capture on January 20th.
Thus, in the village of Skobelka in the Gorokhov district supporters of the OCU demanded to hold a meeting for the “transfer” of the temple to the subordination of the OCU. After heated disputes, a group for negotiations was formed, during which it was proposed to use a provision of law No. 4128, which stipulates the admissibility of carrying out consecutive church services, should a conflict arise over this or that parish. OCU activists refused to resolve the issue peacefully.
At the end of long negotiations, supporters of the OCU departed from the temple, and members of the UOC community once again unanimously voted to remain with the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church under the leadership of his Beatitude Metropolitan Onufry of Kiev and All Ukraine.
A similar situation also happened in the town of Berestechko in the Gorokhov district. And in the Church of St. George in the village of Kutrov in the Gorokhov district supporters of the OCU held a meeting, however the abbot of the UOC community is still in the temple competently. In the village of Nichegovka in the Manevitsky district activists of the OCU refused to respect the provisions of law No. 4128.
On January 18th supporters of OCU declared the “transition” of the monastic temple of the Holy great martyr Dmitry Solunsky in the village of Polozhevo in the Shatsky district of the Volyn region to the subordination of the OCU, having seized the room of the temple built on a private site belonging to the abbot of the Svityazsky Petro-Pavlovsky monastery.
According to the abbot of the monastery archimandrite Arseny (Demyanchuk), who built the temple, the locks on the premises have already been changed. He contacted the police and the authorities, but no actions followed. Also, the abbot of the monastery of the temple specified that there was no registered community in the village as such. People simply came to services in an organised monastic parish. According to archimandrite Arseny, many inhabitants of Polozhevo who signed the poll “for Ukraine” already understood that they were simply duped, and asked the monastery not to leave the village.
On January 20th the village hall of Urvenna in the Zdolbunovsky district of the Rovno region held a village meeting, during which the question of switching parishioners of the Svyato-Kazansky parish to the OCU was considered. According to the abbot of the local church, archpriest Andrey Ostapyuk, parishioners refused to participate in the meeting since they are convinced that church issues must be resolved only by the temple and its parishioners.
In turn, according to the chairman of the Zdolbunovsky regional administration Sergey Kondrachuk, the decision made at the village meeting in Urvenna was enough to transfer the community of the UOC to the OCU. He reported about this on his Facebook page. According to him, 58 people voted to switch to the OCU.
The abbot of the Svyato-Kazansky parish Andrey Ostapyuk noted that in reality the situation in the village is significantly different. “Among the attendees were not only residents of the village of Urvenna, but also from the neighboring villages of Gilcha and Zagrebla. It turns out that in total, in our settlement, 150 voters have the right to vote, but even according to Kondrachuk there wasn’t a majority nor unanimity,” emphasised Andrey Ostapyuk.
At the moment the lawyer of the Rovno diocese of the UOC understands the situation that developed with the parish of the village of Urvenna and noted that law enforcement bodies will be notified about all revealed violations of the law. Also, the Rovno diocese of the UOC emphasised that even if the temple is captured by force, the religious community will exist.
As a reminder, earlier the human rights activists of “Uspishna Varta” reported on Facebook that the speaker of the Verkhovna Rada Andriy Parubiy signed scandalous draft law No. 4128/D on the transition of religious communities, which was supported on January 17th by 229 People’s Deputies. According to human rights activists, the approach offered by the draft law is the unjustified interference of the state in the internal affairs of religious communities and can lead to violations of the international obligations of Ukraine in the sphere of providing freedom of worship and religion.
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