The Real Threat to Religious Freedom in Ukraine

November 22, 2023

RFI’s Paul Marshall wrote an article published recently in Providence arguing that “the real threat to religious freedom in Ukraine is the Russian invasion.” Amidst U.S. concerns that the Ukrainian government is curtailing religious freedom, Marshall recounts a recent visit to the United States by a diverse delegation of Ukrainian religious leaders to counter these allegations and assert that religious freedom in Ukraine is strong, except for the areas under Russian control. He writes:

The Ukrainian government is concerned that, because of the UOC’s [Ukrainian Orthodox Church] historic ties to the Moscow Patriarchate, some of its members are sympathetic to and may provide support to the invaders. This is rational, given that Patriarch Kirill, Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church, has enthusiastically supported the invasion. To counter this, Ukraine’s parliament gave preliminary approval to a bill in early October 2023, now tabled, that would restrict any religious organization affiliated with an aggressor state. Metropolitan Zoria stated that the goal of the bill is to “protect religious freedom from being instrumentalized by the Kremlin’s dictatorship.”

Another concern is the status of the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra, often also called the cave monastery. This spectacular historic site lies in the heart of Kyiv and is Ukraine’s most important religious center, the spiritual core of the country. The Ukrainian government is seeking to restrict the UOC and settle the Orthodox Church of Ukraine there. This is somewhat akin to wanting Westminster Abbey in London to be run by the Church of England. It is hardly a major blow to religious freedom.

If we are truly concerned with religious freedom in Ukraine, then we should focus on the Russian-controlled areas where any religious body not under Russian Orthodox control is suppressed and its clergy may be tortured and imprisoned.

The Religious Freedom Institute, founded in Kyiv in 2001, consistently documents these atrocities and the general situation of religious freedom in Ukraine.[1] Senior Catholic clergy have said that if the Russian invasion succeeds, then the Catholic church in Ukraine will be exterminated. The real threat to religious freedom in Ukraine is the Russian invasion.

Read the full article: “The Real Threat to Religious Freedom in Ukraine.”