Bishop Victor on US State Dept Report: We’ll continue to defend UOC rights

Head of the UOC Representation to European International Organizations, Bishop Victor (Kotsaba) of Baryshevka. Photo: Bishop Victor's Facebook page

The UOC Representation to International Organizations commented on the words of the US Department of State about "non-substantiated" persecution of the canonical Church.

On June 12, 2020, the Head of the Representation of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church to European International Organizations, Bishop Victor (Kotsaba) of Baryshevka, commented to the UOJ on the opinion of the U.S. Department of State that the UOC allegedly cannot provide evidence of its persecution from the OCU and nationalist organizations of Ukraine.

This finding was published in the State Department’s 2019 Report on International Religious Freedom.

“It is regrettable that such a formidable structure of the USA, which does not cease to appeal to the whole world for justice, does not see obvious violations of the rights of believers of the UOC in Ukraine. It would be fair if the truth had sounded,” said Bishop Victor. “It is obvious that the UOC was not able to provide evidence of incidents of church raiding and other violations of the rights of our believers, since the US State Department did not contact the officials or structures of the UOC on this matter. If this structure had carried out a monitoring procedure, we would have provided it with evidence of numerous violations of the rights of believers of the UOC. Moreover, we are ready to do it at any time now.”

According to the bishop, the OHCHR mission turned to them and following the results of meetings with victims-members of the UOC communities and studying documents, the reports of the UN mission confirmed violations of the rights of religious organizations and believers of the UOC. The OSCE reps acted in the same way – they not only carefully studied the situation, but also conducted special conciliation procedures in order to stop the large-scale raider attacks on the churches of the UOC in the Ternopil Region.

“One cannot fail to note the fact that after verifying the information we had submitted, three UN Special Rapporteurs at once decided that a communication should be sent to the Government of Ukraine, since violations of the rights of believers were evident. There is also a decision of the UN Human Rights Committee being absolutely contrary to the opinion of the US State Department that blocked the eviction of the UOC community from its temple in Ivano-Frankivsk via an urgent procedure. Moreover, the initiator of this appeal was not only the UOC community but also an independent human rights organization.

In view of the above, the statements of the US Department of State that the UOC allegedly could not substantiate 'raider attacks' by the OCU and nationalist organizations contradict the facts, confirmed by eyewitness accounts, materials of many criminal proceedings, and decisions of the courts," stressed Bishop Victor.

He suggested that such an opinion could be included in the Report of the US Department of State erroneously due to the oversight of employees who had prepared this text on the basis of propaganda media monitoring, which does not reflect the actual state of affairs.

“It is possible that this statement also has a political rationale. In this way, the involvement of the first persons of the state of the previous government in violations of the rights of believers of the largest denomination in Ukraine is offset, and an artificial picture is created in the media that that there were no such violations,” the bishop argued. “Therefore, there is a reason to assert that the conclusions of this structure on the issue, which lacks proper insight, fail to correspond to reality. At the same time, the UOC Representation to European International Organizations continues its work to protect the interests of the UOC believers in the structures of the international human rights mechanism.”

The State Department’s Report on International Religious Freedom of June 10, 2019, referred to the UOC as the “UOC-MP” and said the canonical Church “did not provide evidence that the OCU had carried out ‘raider attacks’ by deceiving and stealing parishioners by using a similar name."

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