From vandalism – to terrorism: how impunity breeds lawlessness
Robberies, arson attacks and acts of vandalism against the temples of the UOC have long acquired a large-scale character.
Back in 2016, the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine reported that annually about 150 burglaries of temples are committed! Rivne, Odessa (every tenth church) and Sumy regions are harmed most by vandals.
Let us recall the 10 most resonant arsons of churches of the UOC for the last 4 years:
On the night of 3 December 2014, an attempt was made to set fire to the temple of the icon of the Mother of God "Joy of All Who Sorrow" in the park "Babi Yar". The perpetrator threw a bottle of incendiary mixture through a broken window. And though the fire was extinguished, attempts to destroy this temple did not stop. On the night of 27 January 2015, the vandals threw six Molotov cocktails into the altar part of the wooden church. And on April 22 of the same year, unknown persons again set fire to the temple, dousing one of the walls with patrol, as a result of which it burned through.
On the night of 27 January 2015, Martyr Tryphon’s Church in Troeschina (the Desniansky district) was set fire to. At the scene of the arson, an unknown person left a printed leaflet with the text: "Get the Moscow Patriarchate out of the Ukrainian Land!"
On November 19, 2015, an act of vandalism and robbery was committed to the Holy Trinity Church in the village of Rokitnoye of the Rovno region (the Sarny eparchy of the UOC). The intruders stole the church cash and set fire in five places, resulting in the vestments and the church curtain burned down. Also, the Holy Gospel was сaught in flames and the floor of the temple was damaged. The attempted arson attack was repeated on November 30.
On the night of January 5, 2016, unknown persons set fire to the temple of the icon of the Mother of God "Softening the Evil Hearts" and St. Peter Mogila in Kiev. "The arson was committed at about 2 am in the most inconspicuous place. Probably, with the help of flammable substances – a strong smell of petrol was felt at the arson scene," said Father John Tronko, the rector of the church.
On the night of February 22, 2016, the temple of the icon of the Mother of God "Wear My Sorrows" in Nikolaev, Lvov region, suffered from an arson attack.
On the night of April 24, 2016, an attempt was made to set fire to the UOC temple of St. Agapitus of the Kiev Caves, located in Pushkin Park in the city of Kiev. The police recorded the fact of arson.
On the night of August 26, 2017, the wooden Epiphany Church of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church under construction was burned down in the Korabelny district of Nikolaev.
On January 25, 2018, the radicals attacked the Tithe (Desiatinny) Monastery, and at night tried to commit arson. As evidenced by the video posted on the Web, the nationalists who threatened the monk shouted: "I'll burn you, wretch! You're a KGB agent. I'll kick you now, okay? You are a creature that has no place here, I tell you this in Russian. To you, clowns in skirts, there is no respect."
On the night of February 3, 2018, in the Lvov-Sikhov micro district of Lvov, the St. Vladimir Equal-to-the-Apostles Church was set fire to. Earlier, on January 28, radical activists had blocked the temple. The believers insist that the arson was committed by right-wing radicals, who had arranged pickets at the walls of the Prince Vladimir Equal-to-the-Apostles Church before. There could not be spontaneous combustion in the church, because it wasn’t electrified.
On the night of March 10, 2018, unidentified persons, using a Molotov cocktail, set fire to the Church of the Transfiguration of the Lord in Obolon, Kiev. This was not the first attempt to burn the temple: on the night of May 23, 2016, intruders broke into the church through the entrance doors. They set fire to the temple inside and out and escaped from the crime scene.
Finally, on the night of March 14, the unidentified persons committed a repeated arson attack on the territory of the temple of the icon of the Mother of God "Joy of All Who Sorrow" in the "Babi Yar". According to the rector of the church Protopriest Igor Temnik, this is the seventh attempt to set fire to the temple since 2014.
As we can see, since the beginning of 2018, the number of arson attacks has increased dramatically. At the same time, it is difficult to recall that someone has been brought to criminal responsibility. If criminal cases are initiated, they freeze for a long time. Instead, in the public space, open excuses for such actions began to sound, which gives them a clear terrorist nature.
On February 13, on the air of a political talk show on the ZiK television channel, a well-known radical Dmitry Reznichenko bluntly stated that setting the temples on fire "is the only possible option". In his view, if the state does not fight a "hostile organization", this should be done by activists. Isn’t it an open manifesto of terrorism? And it's not some kind of kitchen small talk, it's a public call for lynching on the air of the fairly big social medium!
Even more shocking is the fact that Reznichenko referred to Andrey Yurash, Director of the Department for Religious Affairs and Nationalities, who was also present in the studio: "Andrei (Yurash) said right that when there are no legislative mechanisms to restrict the activities of a frankly hostile organization ... nature does not tolerate emptiness, it means that if the state is not going to fight a hostile for the state organization, this must be done by the society."
Think of it: a notorious scandal-maker known for his radical views (who attacked an elderly AFU veteran, striking him in the face with the head) is sitting at the same table with a high-ranking official of the Ministry of Culture! It would seem that an official of this level should take care of his reputation and disdain communication with such persons. Moreover, the official who is directly responsible for such things as freedom of religion and the rights of believers.
The most horrible thing is that Yurash neither resented nor objected to Reznichenko’s words or the statement of the arsonists of the Tithe Monastery about "the opening of the religious front". This can mean only one thing: he consciously encourages the terrorist habits of the nationalists. No one has long doubted that the Lvov religious scholar has a conflict of interests. Being a believer of the Kiev Patriarchate, he, according to experts, is openly engaged in the protectionism of the schismatics and coordinates repressions against the UOC.
Already a few years ago, seeing how aggressively the UOC was marred and defamed, it could be assumed that sooner or later there would be open calls for violence, arson attacks and murder. "Now, there are quite many people who want to set fire to our temples, drive us from here, and even kill us. This is the general trend of our current society, which for two years has been feeding on TV hatred and this poison, which has been injected from TV screens into our society," Father Valentin, the rector of the damaged church of the capital, said back in 2016.
Archbishop Theodosius of Boyarka also believes so:
"I think that the reason (for arson attacks on temples – Ed.) is the constantly aggravated aggression against the UOC by the media and radical political forces in the society. Arsons in Kiev, Odessa, Lvov, and other cities is one of the links of this aggression against the canonical Church in Ukraine. For such actions in a legal society, those who incite inter-faith hostility should have been deprived of broadcasting licenses or parliamentary immunity and brought to criminal responsibility long time ago. It would be so in any civilized European country. There is a corresponding article in the Criminal Code of Ukraine, but in practice it's the opposite."
"And here is the result: even reports of arsons of churches are no longer unusual," stressed the hierarch of the UOC.