Russia Restricts Churches in Ukraine. Divided Orthodox Have Double Complaint.

Ecumenical Ukrainian delegation to DC summit tells of Russia’s wartime destruction of 630 religious sites, without the input of Moscow-linked Orthodox church.

Religious freedom is under threat in Ukraine. Some question by whom?

A Ukrainian delegation to last week’s International Religious Freedom Summit in Washington, DC, had a clear answer: Russia. Led by Sergey Rakhuba, president of Mission Eurasia, it presented “Faith Under Fire,” a December report detailing the crimes of war in eastern Ukraine and elsewhere.

“Faith communities are under incredible pressure in occupied territories,” he told CT. “The ideology of the Russian world is to completely monopolize religion.”

International lawyer Robert Amsterdam, however, warned that Ukraine was attempting the same control over one half of its divided Orthodox church.

Initial legislation passed by the Ukrainian parliament in October, he said, threatened to “ban” the historic Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC), the branch canonically linked to the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) patriarchate in Moscow. In response, Amsterdam sent a 25-page dossier to the US, UK, and European Union heads of state on the UOC’s behalf.

“There is now a very serious question mark over whether Ukraine can meet its commitments to human rights and the rule of law,” the dossier stated. “This will have dire ramifications for Ukraine’s entry into the European Union and its place in the Western world.”

The authors of both reports share a common enemy.

Mykhailo Brytsyn, the lead author of the Mission Eurasia report, is a Ukrainian pastor who was previously arrested by the Russians during a worship service in Melitopol, occupied by Russia since March 2022. He was later exiled, and the army seized his church and turned it into a military base. Amsterdam, a Canadian lawyer with offices in …

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