Big politics and church issue: Will they sway the situation by autumn?
Are provocations possible against believers of the UOC? How not to fall into a trap of unscrupulous politicians?
The Church is Heaven on earth. It is difficult to imagine an institution farther from politics than the Church; however, it is being actively drawn into politics. This runs counter to the Gospel, since politics is essentially divisive, while the Church unites everyone in Christ. Only sin, not political preferences, can be an obstacle to being in the Church. Nevertheless, politicians are often tempted to use the Church as a bargaining chip in their political games. How is it implemented in Ukraine and what can it lead to? Let's take a look.
Why Disease Benefits Pharmacists
Our fallen world is arranged in a very paradoxical way: it is beneficial for doctors and pharmacists to have people sick; it is beneficial for lawyers to have citizens constantly argue with each other; it is beneficial for opposition political forces to have things in the state as precarious as possible. Then they will criticize the government and take its place in the next elections or during a coup. The "standard" of democracy and all the best things, the United States, is practicing the concept of "controlled chaos" in other countries. They are doing it to solve their geopolitical tasks.
In 2019, on the eve of the presidential elections in Ukraine, at one of the concerts of the 95 Kvartal Studio, it was announced from the stage that this concert was nothing more than a meeting of the Servant of the People party to nominate V. Zelensky for the presidency. It was a joke, but it became true. Vladimir Zelensky became president, while the Servant of the People Party received an absolute majority of seats in parliament. In Ukraine, a monopoly of one party over the central government emerged. An important caveat: in today's Ukraine, concepts such as power, sovereignty and independence are, to put it mildly, relative. Nevertheless, the people gave "Servants of the People" and personally V. Zelensky carte blanche for the implementation of election promises, the main of which was the end of the war in Donbass. 73.22% of the electorate, who gave their vote for V. Zelensky in the second round of the presidential election, voted namely for this.
However, more than a year has passed, but the promises have not been fulfilled. The war is still not over. Coupled with economic problems, the coronavirus, as well as the stunning incompetence of top government officials, this has led to the rapidly falling rating of the ruling party.
Poroshenko also came to power with a pledge to end the war in Donbas. Then his rhetoric was getting even more filled with nationalist notes, and towards the end of his presidency, he ended up firmly on the side of the nationalist electorate.
Almost all opinion polls show a decrease in the rating of the ruling party and a corresponding increase in the rating of the opposition. There are two opposition forces that have quite high ratings today: the Opposition Platform - For Life (OPFL) and the European Solidarity (EU), led by former President P. Poroshenko. The latter also came to power in 2014 with a pledge to end the war in Donbass. Then his rhetoric was getting even more filled with nationalist notes began to sound, and by the end of his presidency, P. Poroshenko ended up firmly on the side of the nationalist electorate. For some reason, he decided that it was this position, coupled with the founding of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU), that would help him get re-elected for a second term. However, he was badly wrong. The people of Ukraine (exactly the people, not a handful of radical activists), said a resolute "no" to such a position. Now the decline in the popularity of "Servants of the People" gives P. Poroshenko a chance for a new political future.
There are also political forces formally supporting V. Zelensky but actually willing to play a more significant governmental function. They are also interested in making things as bad as possible in the country so that the political responsibility for the failure falls on the ruling party. Recently, one can see these forces consistently discrediting the Ze-team. The more reasons for criticism the Ze-team itself gives: economic decline, inability to cope with the coronavirus, unpopular land reform, over-compromising about onerous terms of the IMF, etc., the more effective this defamation is.
However, it is impossible to take revenge merely on the drop in the rating of Servants of the People. This can be done if the situation in the country is shaken, the people are compelled to take to the streets and thus try to take power into their own hands. The easiest way to shake the situation is to use the church factor.
Church issue as a tool for stirring the situation in the country
The experience of recent years has shown that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is a very convenient target for an attack. Temples and monasteries can be seized and set on fire, priests and believers can be beaten or threatened with reprisals, the Church can be subject to whatever slander without bearing any responsibility for all offences.
Law enforcement agencies are in no hurry to defend religious rights and freedoms when it comes to the UOC. Attacks on churches and priests go unpunished, which unties the hands of radical elements. Believers can oppose this only with prayers, appeals to courts and other instances, as well as the confession of their faith, which is manifested in cross processions and prayer standings. This year, the Great Religious Procession on the day of the Baptism of Rus did not take place, but everyone remembers the column of 300 thousand people who participated in this event last year. The Church is capable of gathering and bringing to the streets hundreds of thousands of people.
Law enforcement agencies are in no hurry to defend religious rights and freedoms when it comes to the UOC. Attacks on churches and priests go unpunished, which unties the hands of radical elements.
A case in point is the conflict between the government and the Church in Montenegro. More than half of the country's adult population came out to protest against the authorities' anti-church policy. In addition, the results of the elections, which took place on August 30, 2020, showed that Djukanovic's anti-church policy was a mistake, and his almost 30-year monopoly on power came to an end.
It is easy to see that attacks on the Church, which, in general, did not stop, have flared up today. Moreover, this is no longer due to the struggle for the Tomos, the desire to take away a temple for worship, or some “written-off” unfounded accusations.
Zolochiv as a touchstone
If you look through the prism of swinging situation in the country, for example, using the examply in the city of Zolochiv, Lviv region, you can find out interesting things. The city council votes for the ban on the construction of the UOC church (which never happened), a “veche with a sledgehammer” gathers near the priest’s house, threats of physical violence are uttered alongside calls to evict a citizen of Ukraine from his legal home. Then activists break the fence and set up a video camera to monitor the courtyard dwellings of the priest. All the above is a crime falling under several articles of the Criminal Code: threats to life and health, damage to property, illegal entry, obstruction of religious rites, illegal collection of information, hooliganism, and so on.
But it is especially interesting that the Zolochiv authorities speak plainly – the matter is not in the legality or illegality of the construction of a particular church (we reiterate the fact that there was no construction of the temple at all), but in the fact that they, the authorities, are fundamentally opposed to the existence of the UOC in the city and throughout Ukraine. The Zolochiv City Council sent an appeal to the President and the Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada to ban the activities of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church throughout the country. The governor of the Lviv region Maxim Kozitsky spoke out in the same vein – it is immoral to build churches of the UOC in the Lviv region.
Are provocations of believers before the elections possible?
The question arises – why are such openly inciting statements and illegal actions being made? The answer suggests itself: all this is aimed at provoking a response from believers.
Of course, one case in Zolochiv is a drop in the bucket, but what if this is just the beginning? What if many more attacks of that ilk await Orthodox communities? What if the rhetoric and actions get tougher? Will Ukrainian Orthodox Christians come out to defend their churches and priests? They will surely come out and they will justly accuse the authorities of lawlessness – President Vladimir Zelensky and his "Servant of the People" Party. Is it possible to have such a reprise? Certainly!
In general, the scheme is simple: political forces wishing to take (return) power into their own hands, on the eve of the autumn political season, provoke a new round of persecution against the Church and direct the people's righteous anger to the current government, thereby further weakening it. In addition, if it is possible to organize or provoke street riots – it will add to the anticipated success. The Church is the best tool for discrediting, if not overthrowing, the government.
The scheme is simple: political forces wishing to take (return) power into their own hands, on the eve of the autumn political season, provoke a new round of persecution against the Church and direct the people's righteous anger to the current government, thereby further weakening it.
The Ukrainian Orthodox Church might face a difficult dilemma. On the one hand, the clergy and believers cannot but react to possible persecution, and on the other hand, this reaction can be used by political forces to solve their tasks of seizing power.
How to escape being caught in a trap?
First, one should remember the words of the Apostle Peter: “Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit” (1 Peter 3: 9). One cannot respond to violence and injustice in a “tit-for-tat” way. A faithful person cannot oppose radical activists by using similar methods. All actions on the protection of churches and church property must be carried out within the framework of the law.
Secondly, one should refrain from supporting certain political forces or, on the contrary, criticizing other forces. This can take place in the public sphere but not in the Church. Relying on certain political parties is dangerous not because these parties can lose, but because it is not relevant with the goals of the Church in this sinful world.
One cannot respond to violence and injustice in a “tit-for-tat” way. A faithful person cannot oppose radical activists using similar methods. All actions on the protection of churches and church property must be carried out within the framework of the law.
Thirdly, it is necessary to rally around the hierarchy and the Primate of the UOC, His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry, and not allow any actions or statements that would run counter to the conciliar opinion of the episcopate. I have repeatedly heard from both our hierarchs and representatives of other Local Churches the words that the all-good Providence of God bestowed Metropolitan Onuphry upon our Church in our difficult times as a zealous and sensible Archpastor who, with the help of God, can guide the Church ship along the waves of the raging worldly sea and not let it perish. It is through him, as well as the entire episcopate of the UOC, that God leads His Church in the right direction.
Probably, not everyone took the decision of His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry not to hold the Great Cross Procession this year on the occasion of the Baptism of Rus unambiguously. However, we believe that this was the right decision, to which God inspired our Primate. In the future, we must show filial obedience, even if the decisions of the hierarchy seem wrong to us.
But the main thing, of course, is to remember that the Church was created by God and “the gates of hell will not prevail against Her ...” (Matthew 16, 18). Nor will they prevail against us if we belong to the Church.