One fights in the AFU, the other takes over a temple: which is a patriot?
A priest is mobilized to the front in the AFU while his village church is to be transferred to the OCU. What is patriotism and what is the UOC really persecuted for?
On May 10, 2023 priest of the UOC Georgy Zarafutdinov published a post on Facebook in which he urged the Ukrainian authorities to respect the rights of UOC believers, and more specifically – the right of his own community in the village of Borochychуe of the Lutsk district, Volyn region, to remain in the Church which they consider to be true. The absurdity of the situation is that while the OCU intends to seize (let us call things by their proper names) the church in Borochyche, its rector has been mobilized to the front and is defending his homeland there.
The priest's demand is as follows: "I, a fighter of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, ask the legislative and executive authorities to ensure the rights and freedoms of mine, my family and parishioners of the St. Elias Church of the UOC in the village of Borochyche. Do not disgrace the honour of my free country. Do not encourage religious confrontations: we all stand for Ukraine. Do not divide the citizens of Ukraine on the ground of their faith, saying that these are the best Ukrainians, and those are worse. I have the honour, respected statesmen. Christ is Risen, dear brothers and sisters.”
If we analyze the claims of enemies of the UOC, they usually boil down to the following several points.
1. Commitment to the "Russian world". But Fr Georgy speaks of Russia as a state of "Racist totalitarian lies and contempt for freedoms and human rights...".
2. Blaming Russia for being unpatriotic. In this case, it is ridiculous at all because Fr George fights for Ukraine in AFU separate mechanized brigade 24 although he had legitimate reasons not to go there. "Since the moment I received a call to the military registration and enlistment office, I’ve been a soldier of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. I did not hide behind slogans and many factors, although 100% had everything possible to do so," writes Fr Georgy. What could be more patriotic than to go and fight for your homeland, risking your life?
As we can see, neither reproach works in this case. Then on what grounds are the supporters of the OCU going to take away the temple from Fr George and his church community?
Here is a Facebook post that contains only part of the material about the deaths of UOC priests' sons at the front.
A rhetorical question: if UOC priests were for the "Russian world", if they were waiting for "liberators" from the RF, if they did not love Ukraine, would they sacrifice the lives of their sons so that Ukraine could remain free and independent? And what could be more patriotic than this sacrifice?
Supporters of the OCU like to call UOC priests "Moscow priests", but don't "Moscow priests" send their sons to die for Ukraine?
Some may say that these are isolated cases and the majority of UOC supporters are on the side of the aggressor. Some more statistics. Here is a report on the number of criminal cases for crimes against the foundations of national security dated May 1, 2023. Note that these are only those cases that involve civil servants as it is they who fall under the jurisdiction of the SBI.
At the same time, the SBU reported on its Telegram channel that "61 criminal proceedings were initiated against clerics of the UOC. In total, courts have already issued seven verdicts against individual clerics <...> including two of them used in the exchange for our [Ukrainian] servicemen". Also, according to the SBU, sanctions have been imposed on 17 UOC clerics and 19 UOC clerics have been stripped of their Ukrainian citizenship.
Compare: 1,487 criminal cases against civil servants and 61 cases against UOC clerics. The difference is impressive, isn’t it? And for some reason, we do not hear about the persecution of the state structures. And the main thing: where are the collaborators really settled?
There are 12,551 priests in the UOC today (data for December 2022). 61 priests suspected of sympathizing with the aggressor, out of 12.5 thousand, is an isolated case. And if we focus on the figure of 7 (the number of actual court convictions), the situation becomes even clearer.
At the same time, are people who seize Ukrainian churches, undermine the internal situation in the country, and set some citizens of Ukraine against others bringing the victory of our country closer? Maybe, it is the opposite?
The Gospel says: "Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand" (Matt 12:25). Hence, we can draw an unambiguous conclusion: it is not those forces that divide the Ukrainian society that are pouring water into the enemy's mill, but those who call for unity – they are the real patriots. But this division into insiders and outsiders has deeper roots than just an argument in the dispute over churches.
On April 26, 2023, in the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra, a dialogue took place between a monk named Pavel and a "priest" of the OCU from Volodymyr-Volynsky Yuri Zdebsky:
- You are a Moskal, a f@cking Moskal, a f@cking Moskal, a f@cking Moskal.
- On what grounds...
- Because I think so.
- You also said, let me remind you, that I am not a human being. I'm not human?
- That's right, you're not human.
- Why do you say that?
- Because you're a f@cking Moskal.
This dialogue is very revealing because it expresses the typical attitude of OCU supporters. They label UOC priests and believers with insulting names and do not bother with any evidence. In principle, they are right to do so, as this evidence is shattered by counter-arguments. For an example, see the post by Fr Georgy Zarafutdinov.
One might think that the OCU counts only priests and hierarchs of the UOC as "Moscals", while they have a completely different attitude to ordinary believers. However, this is not true. Here is the statement of the OCU "metropolitan" Hilarion Protsyk of May 8, 2023: "We still tolerate the Moskals who live nearby." And these words are said in reference to the criticism of a mother who, having buried her son who died at the front, continues to pray in the UOC. "She buried her son today and then goes to the basement of the Resurrection Cathedral (the UOC – Ed.), where the Moscals pray, and smashes her forehead on the floor, so she prays for that very damned Kirill. Where is the truth, where is the mind, where is the heart of that mother?" wonders Protsyk.
Can you think of anything more cynical? A mother gave up her son to defend Ukraine, and the "metropolitan" of the OCU refers to her as a "Moscal" who lives "nearby" and whom he still tolerates!
At the same time, the head of the OCU Serhiy (Epifaniy) Dumenko said in an interview with Gazeta.ua that the UOC priests and believers who pray at the Kyiv-Pechersk and Pochaiv Lavra are parasites, whose expulsion depends only on the will of the authorities. Quite: "However, they (the Lavras – Ed.) continue to be used by those who do not really love the nation. For they do not truly love our language and culture, do not know and do not want to know our true history and in unison with the Kremlin do not recognize our right to state and church independence. When and how these people will stop parasitizing on our holy places depends on the Ukrainian government and its determination in this really important for the state issue.”
And when asked about the unification with the UOC, he said: "We do not need collaborators who hate everything Ukrainian.” Let us reread once again the reports of the deaths of the sons of UOC priests' sons at the front. Are they collaborators?!
In fact, the picture is as follows:
The OCU supporters are putting UOC believers in the category of "Moskals" and "collaborators" without any evidence or justification. At the same time, they call themselves patriots and supporters of Ukraine. Also, without much evidence.
And the obvious manifestation of patriotism – the defence by UOC believers of their homeland – is simply ignored in the OCU. Why? Because it does not fit into their racial theory.
Facts of patriotism and self-sacrifice by the UOC believers are much more than facts of collaborationism. There are only 7 court verdicts for the UOC priests. Thus, the adherence to the "Russian world" or work for the enemy is not the reason for the negative attitude to the UOC by the followers of the OCU. The reason is the very belonging to the Church. It is on this basis that people are divided into two conditional "races". If you sympathize with the OCU, you are a "correct" Ukrainian, a patriot, and a hero. And it does not matter where you are: at the front, or at home on the couch. You can believe in God or wear a T-shirt with Satanic symbols. You can be a pagan or just a non-believer, you can keep God's commandments or consider them anachronistic. The main thing is that you have spoken out for the OCU, spat at the "Moscow priest" or done similar things, and you are already a conditional "Aryan", a representative of the "superior race".
And vice versa, you can shed your blood at the front, freeze in the trenches, donate to the AFU, help refugees, make trench candles and give them to our soldiers. But if you are a UOC believer, you are a "Moskal" and a "collaborator", a member of the "inferior race". The Constitution of Ukraine no longer applies to you, you can no longer enjoy those human rights that are written down there. You are no longer protected by the law enforcement bodies, and attacks on your health and property by representatives of the "inferior race" in many cases remain unpunished. Moreover, illegal decisions of local authorities to ban the UOC only encourage lawlessness towards UOC believers.
Any racial theory is based on the fact that the division of people into superior and inferior takes place not according to any objective criteria (there simply cannot be any, because all people are born equal), but according to the arbitrariness of the representatives of the "Aryans”. If they wanted to declare someone subhuman – they did. If they wanted to label someone – they did. Why? "Because I think so", see the dialogue above.
However, historical experience proves that no country in which there has been a racial theory in any of its varieties has been successful. If the arbitrary division of people into the "right" and the "wrong" stops in our country, Ukraine will have a future.
If we allow ourselves to slip into such a racial theory, if we allow ourselves to divide people into first and second classes, we will have no future.
And sooner or later the authorities will have to answer the questions of UOC believers who have gone through the war: why is their right to faith being taken away from them?
"In this connection, I, my family, and all UOC believers have questions to the President, the Verkhovna Rada, the Cabinet of Ministers, the Service for Religions headed by Mr Yelensky: what country are UOC believers fighting for if their right to faith is being treated this way? Is this such equality? While a fighter is at the front, to declare him an enemy and take away his right to religion? What country are they dying for?" (from a Facebook post by Archpriest Yuri Zarafutdinov).
We want to believe that the truth will prevail in our country and that everyone will be free to believe as they see is right and belong to the Church they believe to be true.