Expert: Priority of state policy in religion should be compliance with law

Yuri Reshetnikov. Photo: a video screen

The main task now is to ensure compliance with the Constitution and minimize the multiplicity of conflicts between religions, Yuri Reshetnikov said.

Failure to comply with the Constitution at various levels of government, in particular the principle of separation of the Church from the state, has led to obviously negative dynamics in the development of Church-state and interfaith relations, the religious scholar, PhD in Philosophy, the former head of the State Committee for Religions Yuri Reshetnikov said on the air of the "Right to Faith" programme.

“If we are talking about the problem of non-compliance with the law, I’ll remind you that at the beginning of this year certain changes were made to the Ukrainian law “On Freedom of Conscience”, with different motivations, which related, in particular, to the procedure for changing jurisdiction by religious communities,” Reshetnikov noted. “The proposed procedure was not easy, although it was proposed by people who declared their commitment to the OCU. What have we got in practice? Even this procedure, proposed and voted by supporters of the OCU, is practically not respected. The corresponding decision is not made by the religious community, as provided for by the law on freedom of conscience, but by some other bodies – village meetings, village councils, etc.”

He emphasized that “if a religious community wants to change its affiliation, this is its right enshrined in law, and the law provides a certain mechanism for how to implement it, but this should be a decision of the people who belong to this community, it cannot be the decision of someone who lives (and we know cases when they do not live) in this village. This goes beyond both legislation and common sense.”

Also, the expert believes, the new state agency should develop a comprehensive programme that will minimize the conflictogenicity of interfaith relations.

“It is no secret that since 2014 this conflictogenicity has grown many times and actually returned us to the situation that was in Ukraine in the first half of the 90s, when there was also a struggle for the temples, with beating and all entourage,” he noted. “If we think in general about the citizens of Ukraine, about our state, then in the face of both internal and external threats, in particular external aggression against our state, to allow ourselves such a confrontation inside Ukraine, the artificial confrontation, which is inspired by certain people, which leads to the fact that the village is divided, families are divided – is not just a big luxury, but it is dangerous and does not meet the national interests of Ukraine and ensuring public stability in it."

The expert is convinced that the state should first and foremost ensure equal living conditions for all citizens of Ukraine, regardless of their nationality, language or religion.

“I think that there are things that are purely ecclesiastical and should be decided at the church level, and the state, in turn, must ensure equal living conditions for all religious communities and equal treatment of all citizens of Ukraine. I think that this is most important for us,” Yuri Reshetnikov emphasized.

As reported, a competition for the post of head of the State Service of Ukraine for Ethnic Policy and Freedom of Conscience is being held in Kiev at the moment, with two candidates shortlisted – Yuri Reshetnikov and Andrei Yurash.

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