A case against Met. Pavel: Who actually inflames religious animosity?
The prosecutor's office opened a criminal case against the abbot "for inciting inter-faith hatred". However, the President, officials and media presume by far more.
The climax of pressure imposed by special services on the bishops and priests of the UOC (the amount of calls from the Security Service of Ukraine has gone hundreds) was the opening of a criminal case under article 161 part 2 against the abbot of Kiev-Pechersk Lavra, Metropolitan Pavel (Lebed). This article provides for responsibility for “Intentional actions aimed at inciting national, racial or religious hatred associated with violence, deceit or threats, as well as committed by an official”.
This initiative of law enforcement officers pretty much surprised the Ukrainians, since in recent years, hundreds of thousands of judgments have been addressed by state officials and media representatives to the UOC, which undoubtedly called for criminal proceedings. However, neither prosecutors nor the Security Service gave a second glance to them. Let's try make it clear why this is happening.
Today, any conversation on church-related topics should begin with the definition of terms. This is necessary because, most often, our interlocutors, using this or that word, simply do not understand what is really being said. For example, the words “tomos”, “autocephaly”, “ecclesiastical independence”, which, to be honest, already makes one feel a little nauseated, sound completely different from the mouth of the practicing and non-practicing believer. Each of these words needs a detailed explanation to reveal its true meaning, especially when it comes to their Ukrainian interpretation. After all, for the majority of citizens of Ukraine, who have nothing to do with either “tomos” or “autocephaly”, these words do not basically differ from political slogans. And it is in this capacity that they are represented in the Ukrainian media space: “Tomos is the country's second independence.”
The same can be said about other terms that are widely used today by both politicians and journalists: "church", "orthodoxy", "canons", "ecumenical", "synod", "council", etc. By and large, the people who use them have no idea about their true meaning.
So, for them, the “Church” is just some kind of administrative structure that can be influenced externally and which can be used to achieve political results. The “synod” is similar to the Supreme Council, where certain parties struggle to achieve their goals. The “canons” are generally incomprehensible, while the “council” is a regular congress of clergymen who can and must unite for the “common good”.
In this situation, the strangest thing is that the same words, depending on who pronounces them, can be perceived differently. For example, if the words “Ecumenical Patriarchate”, “Tomos” and “Ukraine” are used in one sentence, this is good, because it means that Istanbul gives the Ukrainian Church a document of independence. But if the words “Moscow Patriarchate”, “Tomos” and “Ukraine” are lined in the same sentence, then this is bad, because it is taken for granted by many that the Moscow Patriarchate cannot do anything good for Ukraine and in general is its enemy. Although, in fact, it was the Moscow Patriarch back in 1994 who gave the Ukrainian Orthodox Church the Tomos on full independence in its administration, whereas the “Tomos” to be bestowed by Istanbul does not provide for the kind of independence the UOC enjoys today. But who knows about it? After all, the main thing is from whom this or that initiative comes.
And it is at this point that the so-called practice of double standards should be mentioned. From the point of view of terminology, “a double standard or double morality is a widespread but officially denied practical use of discriminatory approaches to the assessment of the actions and rights of groups of the population, countries, and races”. That is, the same actions, depending on the point of view, can receive different legal and public assessment. As American writer Gerald Seymour once said in his book “The Game of Harry” - “for one it’s a terrorist, and for other it’s a freedom fighter”. The practice of double standards is flamboyantly applied today in relation to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
The example with the criminal prosecution of the abbot of Kiev-Pechersk Lavra, Metropolitan Pavel (Lebed), who was accused of inciting inter-religious hatred, is very indicative. The reason for the accusations was the interview of the lord, which he gave to the Glavnovosti outlet. In his conversation with journalists, Metropolitan Pavel said several phrases that were incriminated to him as a violation of the law of Ukraine: “Filaret being a bitchy, violent person, will betray anyone including the President… This man is a son of lie – he has never stood in truth. He has never been in a state of peace and tranquility because he has always wanted to become a patriarch, always wanted to have power... Filaret kissed a demon and made friends with a demon. Just listen to his sermon, said in Volyn in 1991, when the Patriarch came, listen to his sermon, said in Florovsky monastery, and compare them with his today’s sermons – I must say that only a demon twist like this... ”
Can these words be viewed as stirring up interreligious hostility, and if so, to what extent? In order to answer this question you need to clearly define the terminology. So, what is “incitement of religious hatred” from the point of view of Ukrainian legislation?
According to Article 161 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine, crimes under part 1 of this article are intentional actions aimed at:
- incitement of national, racial or religious hostility and hatred;
- humiliation of national honor and dignity or insulting the feelings of citizens due to their religious beliefs;
- direct or indirect restriction of the rights or the establishment of direct or indirect privileges of citizens ... on religious grounds.
Part 2 of the same article (for which Metropolitan Paul is accused) is tougher. For example, an offender can be imposed a fine from 8500 to 17000 UAH or imprisoned for a period of 2 to 5 years, if the incitement of religious hatred was combined with violence, deception or threats; or committed by an official.
We do not argue that Vladyka Pavel’s expressions towards Filaret are rather harsh, however (and this must be emphasized), he did not call for “violent actions towards another religious denomination, did not insult believers, did not humiliate the honor and dignity of another religious denomination”. Then why is the abbot of the monastery accused of inciting interfaith hostility? This is because in our country the practice of double standards is very widely used. After all, if you compare the words of Metropolitan Pavel, which he said to Filaret, and the words of state officials and politicians addressed to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, then it becomes quite obvious that it is not the abbot who should be brought to justice under article 161.
For example, the President of Ukraine, Petr Poroshenko has not cared lately about the words and expressions when he refers to the Church, whose members are millions of citizens of the country.
For example, during the “celebration” on the occasion of the “bestowal of autocephaly” on the Sofia Square on October 14, 2018, the President said that the Ukrainian government guarantees protection to all believers: both those “who choose the cross and those who choose the Kremlin star”, clearly implying by the latter paraphrase parishioners of the UOC. However, he cannot but know that the believers of our Church have never faced such a strange choice: between the Kremlin star and Christ because they are always on the side of Christ.
A few weeks later, Petro Poroshenko urged the clergymen of the UOC to leave the territory of Ukraine and "go home to Russia." Is this not discrimination based on religious principle, committed by an official? But further – even more.
So, literally the other day, speaking in Chernigov, Poroshenko in general surprised the Orthodox community with a statement that in the UOC temples "they pray for Putin and the Russian army”. He used this absurd argument to ask a rhetorical question to his listeners (and possible voters). We quote, “How can one go to church if the service of God there begins with a prayer for Kirill, for Putin, for the Russian army? What do they have to do with Ukraine?”
Needless to say that these words of the head of state have nothing to do with reality! However, only those Ukrainians who attend churches know about this. But those who do not go to church, after listening to the President, will believe that the UOC does not really pray for Ukraine, but for its opponents. And what is the result? Eventually, these people will develop a respective attitude to the Church and its believers. What is this, if not “incitement of religious hatred committed by an official”?
Actually, the farther, the rhetoric of Petro Poroshenko in relation to the Church takes very wild caricature forms. In Khmelnitsky, he said, “There will be no more grandstanding with the UOC.” Recently, it seems that Petro Poroshenko, when speaking of the UOC, finds it difficult to restrain himself from using obscene language.
It is clear that since the President allows himself such rhetoric, his subordinates will speak even more radically. For example, Zorian Shkiriak.
Currently serving as adviser to the Minister of Internal Affairs of Ukraine Arsen Avakov, he commented on the search of the abbot of the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra, Metropolitan Pavel of Vyshgorod and Chernobyl, in an insulting way on his Facebook page: “Abbot of the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra. In the vernacular "Pasha-Mercedes". A direct agent of influence of the Kremlin through the segment of the destructive activities of the ROC. A snitch of Putin-Gundiaev. Hates Ukraine, Ukrainians and everything Ukrainian. Now this Moscow ghoul is subjected to authorized searches by law enforcement officers and urgent investigative actions.”
These words are not a random statement but a system. Here is what the same Shkiriak wrote on his Facebook 3 months ago: “Gundiaev and his priests, the KGB people of the Russian Orthodox Church, reached the next final bottom ... Therefore, I will say briefly, in simple words. Fuck you, Moscow ghouls. Get out of our holy lands, washed by the righteous blood of our glorious ancestors and modern warriors-heroes of the Ukrainian land.”
And here is another statement from him, “There is sheer hysteria, mass psychosis and paranoia in Mordor. And this is clear. Again, we have threats, blackmail and long-familiar horror stories from the Russian fascists and Moscow priests. Fabulous morons ... Damn you, KGB men in cassocks. The Gundiaev-run ROC is a modern state-chauvinistic sect of imperial obscurantists. It is disgusting, it stinks. Well, Moscow, bye-bye.”
Here is another one: “At least three or four times as many believers came to the cross procession on the occasion of the celebration of the 1030th anniversary of the Baptism of Rus-Ukraine, which is held by the UOC of the Kiev Patriarchate, as yesterday at the ROC event! ... This is another failure of the Putin-Gundiaev camarille in our country ... The nail into the "coffin" of the Moscow KGB priests in Ukraine is driven deeper and deeper every day! The Tomos on granting autocephaly to the Ukrainian Local Orthodox Church is to be!”
Tell me, is it not incitement of inter-religious enmity, committed and carried out on an ongoing basis by an official? Is this not a call for violence? Then why is the Ministry of Justice silent? Why doesn’t the Security Service of Ukraine conduct searches of Mr. Shkiriak? This is because in Ukraine, like in Orwell’s book, "all animals are equal, but some are more equal than others."
Also, it was quite possible to bring another representative of the Ukrainian political activist to criminal responsibility, namely – Anton Gerashchenko, who without any argument stated that “the Moscow Patriarchate controls the appointments of priests and provides ideological coloring for setting accents during the sermon. And he who owns souls and minds of people influences the situation." According to him, even though the separation of the Church from the state is provided for in Ukraine, the state cannot “calmly watch when there is outspoken anti-Ukrainian propaganda in the churches”. Gerashchenko also said that the Moscow Patriarchate, being an instrument of influence of Russia, is responsible for the deaths of 10,000 people in the Donbass: “Go to the Mirotvorets (Peacemaker) database – how many Moscow Patriarchate servants are there?” There are several hundred of them there! Those people who posed with machine guns on the background of our dead soldiers, who did preaching in order to detach a part of Ukraine and attach it to Russia. All these people violated the law and are deemed criminals.”
Deputy Prime Minister Viacheslav Kirilenko echoes them, having written on his Twitter account the following: “There is an impression that ... the decision of the Council of the UOC MP was written in the Kremlin. What else can explain the non-recognition of the canonical decisions of Constantinople, the reluctance of Tomos on autocephaly for the Ukrainian church and the fear of meeting with the President of their country? Only dependence on another country.”
Not far behind them is another MP, Igor Mosiychuk, who wrote on Facebook that St. Andrew’s Church should not be transferred to the Constantinople Patriarchate, but instead of it “some of the churches, which are now in use by the sect of schismatics of the UOC MP.” In fact, these words can be regarded not only as offensive to millions of believers of the UOC, but also as a direct call for violence and the seizure of temples. He himself understands this perfectly well, therefore he says the following: “Simultaneously with the preparation for the unification council of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, the Ukrainian parliament should adopt a law, according to which, after the council, the remnants of the UOC MP should be re-registered into the Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine. Then this sect will lose its lavras, monasteries, churches ... The believers themselves will take them away from the schismatics. This will be the coffin of the ‘Russian world’.” Nevertheless, for some reason no one brings him to justice, conducts searches, starts a criminal case on the fact of inciting religious hatred.
Radicals proceed even further than representatives of the Ukrainian government, politicians and MPs. For example, the notorious leader of the S14 group, Yevgeny Karas, in the Goloseyevo monastery addressed the brethren with the words, “What is your name, bitch? What are you called, nit? I’m asking because when the power changes, I will come to you again.” Here we can see both an insult, and a threat of physical violence, and much more. But again, the representatives of the law are silent inasmuch as they are silent on the statements of another radical Dmitry Korchinsky, who claimed on the ZIK channel that “the Ecumenical Patriarchate is, after all, the Church, and the ROC is a special service. And so now in Ukraine there is an opposition of the Church and the special service.” In another post on his FB page, Korchinsky urges free access to personal data of the UOC priests for further reprisals on them: “The data will be uploaded online and offline, so that not only a few percent of citizens, who surf on the Internet, know.”
Without any exaggeration, these few examples are just a drop in the bucket. Such rhetoric by politicians, state actors and radical groups can be cited infinitely. In the same context, one can speak about the plots of the majority of Ukrainian TV channels, media resources and Internet sites. In addition, some representatives of the UOC KP, the UAOC and the UGCC often do not refrain from direct appeals to physical violence against the UOC. But let us repeat once again: no one is putting forward claims to them. It is not only because in our country there is a system of double standards but also because, apparently, there is a desire and a guideline of certain forces to do everything to kindle this religious confrontation. However, these forces would be better off remembering the words of the wise Ecclesiastes: “Whoever digs a pit may fall into it; whoever breaks through a wall may be bitten by a snake.” (Eccles. 10, 8)