UOC: Zolochiv power flagrantly violates the right to freedom of religion

Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra of the UOC. Photo: kpi.ua

The UOC issued a statement in light of the violation of the right to freedom of religion of Zolochiv believers by local authorities, who are provoking sectarian strife.

On July 14, 2020, the Synodal Legal Department of the UOC issued a statement on a violation of the right to freedom of religion of believers of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church by local authorities in Zolochiv city, Lviv Region. The statement is published on the website of the Legal Department.

The statement emphasizes that the local authorities of Zolochiv, led by mayor Igor Grynkiv, openly violate the constitutional right to freedom of religion of believers of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and the right to own private housing.

As noted, the city authorities unreasonably accuse priest of the Lviv Eparchy of the UOC Maxim Yoenko of illegal construction on his land plot.

“The priest’s family purchased private housing along with a land plot in Zolochiv. All the necessary documents were received for the repair work and reconstruction of the housing. But despite this fact, the authorities began to unreasonably accuse the priest of illegal construction and the intention to build a temple, based solely on their own assumptions, because now repairs are being carried out in the rooms of the house.

We believe that the real reason for such unfounded accusations was that believers of the UOC religious community began to gather for prayer together in the priest’s private house. As it turned out, these include residents of the city and neighboring villages, whom the authorities declared “enemies of the people”, dividing them by religion, as well as decided to ban the activities of the religious community of the UOC (calling it Moscow).

In this regard, we declare that in accordance with the legislation of Ukraine, people can freely pray and worship even in private homes, and the formation and activities of a religious community can be carried out without registration,” the statement said.

The UOC Legal Department explains that “the actions of the mayor and the decision of the Zolochiv City Council go beyond the powers defined by the legislation of Ukraine and provoke religious incitement and violation of property rights. As a result, on July 12, 2020, unknown persons entered the premises to damage property, and on the night of July 13, a group of people committed an act of vandalism: they doused and painted a fence with offensive inscriptions and Nazi symbols.”

The UOC emphasizes that “the local authorities involved other religious organizations, the UGCC and the RCC, to this conflict and allow them to neglect the UOC believers and spread religious intolerance and hostility in the city. At the same time, three plots of land were allocated to Greek Catholics for the construction of churches, two plots of land to the OCU, and one to Roman Catholics, while worshipers of the UOC are not only unable to obtain land for the construction of the church, but are also persecuted and discriminated for prayer in the priest’s private home.”

Such selective and discriminatory attitude of local authorities to religious organizations violates the requirements of the Law of Ukraine “On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations,” the UOC believes, because “all religions, faiths and religious organizations are equal before the law. The establishment of any advantages or restrictions for one religion, faith or religious organization in relation to others is not allowed. Therefore, the religious community of the UOC has the same right to exist in the city of Zolochiv like other religious communities of the UGCC, RCC, OCU, and the government is obliged to provide them with land for the construction of the temple.”

“In this regard, we believe that the actions of local government officials, religious figures and activists violate the right to freedom of religion of the UOC believers and the right to own real estate and are subject to the Criminal Code of Ukraine, which have signs of a criminal offense, and are qualified according to Art. 161 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine (inciting religious hostility and hatred). In the event that significant damage is inflicted to the rights protected by law, the actions of the official will be qualified according to Art. 364 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine (abuse of power or official position), Art. 189 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine (the commission of any property actions to restrict rights, freedoms or legitimate interests) and Art. 195 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine (threat of destruction of another's property).

Considering the above, we urge local authorities to stop inciting religious hatred in the region and ensure equal rights for believers of the UOC religious community,” the document says.

In conclusion, the UOC appeals to law enforcement agencies to protect the UOC believers from unlawful actions, conduct monitoring of violations and bring those responsible to justice.

Also, the UOC Legal Department informs that it reported to international human rights organizations about the violation of the right to freedom of religion of worshipers of the UOC religious community, discrimination, intolerance and religious hatred in Zolochiv city, Lviv region.

As the UOJ reported, earlier the Zolochev City Council said that there is no and won’t be “Moscow church” in the city, while the house of the UOC clergyman was painted with insults and Nazi symbols.

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