Ukraine, Europe and a broken jaw
“Ukraine is Europe,” politicians constantly tell us. However, the attitude of the authorities towards the Church raises doubts about the sincerity of these statements.
Ukrainian politicians of all levels emphasize that our state is part of Europe, and we have no other path except joining the European Union. However, joining the "family of European nations" requires Ukraine to adhere to certain conditions. Primarily, these conditions involve so-called Western values – democracy, freedom of speech and religion, human rights, and so on. Without adhering to these conditions, there can be no talk of becoming part of the European Union.
Our authorities understand this perfectly well, so at various levels, they try to show "Western partners" that Ukraine is maximally open to implementing these very "values."
Thus, in Kyiv and other cities, gay parades are held, the authorities have signed the Istanbul Convention, schools teach children "gender diversity," serious punishment can be imposed for infringing on the rights of sexual minorities, the legalization of pornography is on the agenda, and cannabis has ceased to be just "weed," turning into a "medical product."
All these actions by our politicians are undertaken because these are the requirements of the "West" agenda. They cannot disobey their "counterparts", so they make such decisions. However, in reality, it's not that simple – Ukrainian deputies and state agents not only can disregard the opinions of EU officials but also pretend not to hear them, especially when it comes to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
Ukraine and Europe: conditions for friendship
Recall that in June 2022, our country was granted candidate status in the European Union, subject to fulfilling seven conditions. Most of them are related to legislative reforms and tightening requirements for the protection of human rights. On February 5, 2023, German Chancellor Scholz stated that Ukraine must respect human rights to accede to the EU.
According to the German leader, all states wishing to join the European Union must first meet the criteria of the rule of law, democracy, human rights, and the fight against corruption.
He emphasized that "each candidate must meet the necessary criteria to become an EU member – this applies to the rule of law, democracy, human rights, and the fight against corruption."
When asked by a journalist whether Ukraine's odds of joining the EU are increasing due to the war, Olaf Scholz noted that the requirements for EU membership are "the same for everyone."
Do we see human rights violations in Ukraine? Of course. A tremendous amount. Primarily concerning the UOC. However, our authorities pretend that nothing is happening to the Church. For example, not long ago, a group of representatives from the Ukrainian Council of Churches went to the United States with one goal – there they claimed that "no church in Ukraine has been banned." Moreover, the spokesman for the OCU, Yevstratiy Zoria, told Americans about an "unprecedented level of religious freedom."
MP from the 'Servant of the People' party, Mykyta Poturayev, claims that the destruction of the UOC has nothing to do with religion. The same is stated by the head of the National Security and Defense Council, Oleksiy Danilov, and the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky.
However, it is impossible to conceal the fact that unprecedented persecution of the UOC is currently taking place in Ukraine. Temples are taken away from UOC believers, they are brutally beaten, insulted, and humiliated. The latest example is the seizure of the monastery in honor of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Cherkasy. Representatives of the OCU broke the jaw of a UOC priest, a parishioner had his leg broken, several other people suffered serious injuries, and the monastery itself was captured with the help of people in military uniform and police.
More than 30 different online publications, including those that did not previously sympathize with the UOC, wrote about this outrageous lawlessness within a few hours. Even for some enemies of the Church, it is already evident that the destruction of the UOC is taking on the scale of a civil war, and the seizures are becoming extremely cruel.
This means that the fact that human rights are violated in Ukraine is already visible not only to us but also to "Western partners." For this reason, many opinion leaders and politicians, both in Europe and overseas, are expressing concern.
Hiding persecution against the Church is impossible
On October 27, 2023, well-known American journalist and TV host Tucker Carlson published an interview on the X network (formerly Twitter) with lawyer Robert Amsterdam, who is currently defending the UOC from state persecution. Elon Musk shared the link to this interview on his X account, accompanying the video with the question: "Priests are being imprisoned?"
In addition, U.S. presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy believes that due to the persecution of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Ukraine cannot be called a democratic country.
In turn, Members of the European Parliament from the Netherlands and Germany, Marcel de Graaff and Joachim Kuhs, have appealed to the European Commission to react to the persecution of the UOC by the Ukrainian authorities. De Graaff even believes that "Ukraine violates the rule of law and human rights." "Ukraine should never become an EU member. I have appealed to the commission," writes the MEP. According to him, Zelensky is waging a war against priests, and "Members of the European Parliament demand an immediate response."
Marina Stavniichuk, an expert from the European Commission "For Democracy through Law," stated that the Ukrainian authorities should step back in the persecution of the UOC. Responding to the question of whether the state should interfere in the affairs of the Church, Stavniichuk emphasized that the UOC does a lot for Ukrainian soldiers on the front line, so the authorities need to be extremely tolerant in their relationship with the Church.
“What is happening today with the Churches in Ukraine should be a serious lesson for everyone. It seems to me that the authorities should take a step back, but the UOC, which is subject to serious persecutions today, should draw very serious conclusions for itself, notably the leaders of this Church. Conclusions need to be drawn in order to understand that power is one situation, while the Church must always be with the people,” she said.
Very recently, on November 17, 2023, the Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ilze Brands Kehris, stated that the Ukrainian authorities should revise the text of draft law No. 8371 on the prohibition of the UOC, which was adopted in the first reading. The official also noted an increase in violence against believers. According to Kehris, "unfortunately, Ukrainian law enforcement’s response in these cases has failed to sufficiently investigate incidents (when violence was perpetrated against UOC believers – Ed.) and take action to protect members of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church."
The West clearly sees everything happening in Ukraine regarding the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. As MP Artem Dmytruk rightly notes, "Ukrainian authorities must understand that secretly destroying the Church of millions of believers will not work, and the reputational losses will be enormous. The sooner they stop this lawlessness, the better. Better for everyone. The people, the state, and the government."
The question is different – why do our politicians carefully listen to the opinion of "Western counterparts" in some cases and ignore it in others? We do not know how to answer this question in a way that makes sense because there is no logic in the actions of Ukrainian officials.
It seems that in their struggle against the Church, they are guided by some absolutely irrational considerations and a completely wild spirit.
It is the spirit that hates the Church and is ready to destroy even itself in its hatred if it can harm faith in God albeit a little. Exactly like those biblical swine that rushed into the abyss just to avoid being near Christ.