Protection of UOC churches as "attack on the state security" of Ukraine?
Rostislav Pavlenko, a performer of the "tomos operation", accused the Congress of persecuted UOC communities of an "enemy campaign" against Ukraine. Is he right?
On February 22, 2021, representatives of the communities of the seized temples of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church gathered at the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra. These people, according to His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry, "despite all kinds of obstacles and persecution, remain faithful to God and the true Church".
To comply with the law and treat all religious organizations in the same way, as required by the Constitution of Ukraine, and nothing more, – these are, in fact, all the wishes addressed to the Ukrainian authorities, which were voiced at the Congress of persecuted communities.
However, in the case of UOC believers, any words that government officials must respect the law can be interpreted as "an encroachment on stability and state security".
This is exactly what Rostislav Pavlenko, a people's deputy from Poroshenko's "European Solidarity" party, stated on his Facebook page, commenting on the Congress of the persecuted communities of the UOC.
He is convinced that there is no persecution, and the fact that the UOC dared to complain about it "сrosses the line". Pavlenko believes that the UOC is in a comfortable position, because the authorities did not react (!) to the Congress of the persecuted communities. According to him, the silence of the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra Reserve and the Ministry of Culture is "an example of collaboration in the framework of the enemy campaign against Ukraine". The deputy was outraged by the inaction of the SBU and other government agencies and promised to "seek clarification".
The logic, you see, is so strange that it is worth dwelling in more detail on both Pavlenko's personality and his theses regarding the UOC faithful.
Pavlenko and Tomos
Before Euromaidan, Rostislav Pavlenko was a modest teacher of political science at the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy.
In July 2014, he was appointed a freelance advisor to the President of Ukraine, and literally a few months later Pavlenko became Deputy Head of the Presidential Administration of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko.
Such an instant career takeoff, according to some Ukrainian media, can be attributed to Pavlenko’s personal involvement in maintaining Poroshenko's image. For this, Rostislav Nikolaevich constantly monitored the media and social networks, and reported on all critical materials to the head of state.
Then, in 2014, Pavlenko was entrusted with coordinating the efforts of the Ukrainian government and "Western partners" to grant autocephaly to the then UOC-KP.
In fact, from the first day of work in his new position, Rostislav Pavlenko began to promote the idea of the Tomos at all levels. He claimed that his work had nothing to do with PR, and every day not only representatives of the UOC-KP but also the bishops and priests of the UOC joined the desire to get the Tomos since the state (!) was creating a new Church – “for tens of millions of those who do not want to see themselves in the Moscow Church”.
At the same time, Pavlenko guaranteed that there would be no violence against those who did not recognize the Tomos. It was he who convinced Poroshenko that the Phanar could recognize the Ukrainian schismatics even before the Day of the Christianization of Rus’, which, ultimately, could be used as the most important PR tool for the upcoming presidential elections.
In 2014, Pavlenko guaranteed that there would be no violence against those who did not recognize the Tomos.
To speed up the process, in April 2018 Pavlenko personally took to Phanar the appeal of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine to Patriarch Bartholomew with a request to grant "independence" to the Ukrainian church. However, despite the titanic efforts of Rostislav Nikolaevich, the Tomos was not signed in the summer, and in fact, immediately after the celebration of the Day of the Christianization of Rus’, Pavlenko changed his place of work – from the Presidential Administration to the position of head of the National Institute for Strategic Studies. But even in this position, Pavlenko did not cease to be "responsible for the Tomos".
Before the notorious meeting of the Synod of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, which officially "launched" the process of granting the Tomos to the OCU, Pavlenko met with Patriarch Bartholomew, after which he said that the text of the Tomos is already ready – "it is standard, analogues can be found on the Internet".
A little later it turned out that Pavlenko had told a lie – the text of the Tomos is not at all standard and prescribes the obvious and shameful dependence of the new structure on the Phanar.
From the above, it becomes obvious that Mr Pavlenko is not only one of the main performers in the "tomos" special operation, but also an outspoken enemy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, whose believers did not want in "millions" to move to the "church" created by the state. But despite his, frankly speeking, not highly successful work, he remained in politics and continues his work against the Church and its believers.
Who is the real enemy of Ukraine?
Let us examine in more detail Rostislav Pavlenko’s theses, voiced by him regarding the UOC and believers who gathered at the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra on February 22, 2021.
Thesis 1: There is no persecution of the UOC, and it feels “pretty comfortable” in Ukraine.
Let's turn to the facts. Thus, according to the report of the head of the UOC Representation to European international organizations, Bishop Victor (Kotsaba), in recent years, 122 churches have been forcibly taken away from the Ukrainian Orthodox Church with many violations of law and 220 parishes have been illegally re-registered to the OCU.
The head of the Legal Department of the UOC, Archpriest Alexander Bakhov, said that about the illegal seizures of religious communities and churches, lawyers filed about 400 lawsuits, in which they opened about 250 criminal proceedings. Note that this is not just someone's words or reasoning, this is a specific fact.
In Ukraine, the seizures of UOC churches are ongoing, believers are beaten, discriminatory laws are passed against the UOC, and various media outlets create an image of an enemy from our Church.
Here are more specific examples.
On the night of May 4, 2020, adherents of the OCU tried to seize the temple in Zadubrivka. Moreover, it happened on the day of the death of its rector. During the seizure, supporters of Dumenko used tear gas against the believers of the UOC, one of the parishioners was stabbed in the head.
Here is the most typical story of one of the congress participants, Kristina Valushchak from Zadubrivka: “On the day when our Father Leonid died, they came with grinders and cut down the locks. I saw with my own eyes all those people, I saw how our fellow villagers, who were right under the doors, suffered when they attacked. There were 40 hired men, they (the defenders of the temple - Ed.) were severely beaten. Our lads were bleeding on the benches, and the OCU members urged: ‘Don’t beat them, kill them’.”
On December 12, 2020, supporters of the OCU came to seize the UOC temple in the village of Mykhalche with brass knuckles, sticks and tear gas. On November 1, 2019, during a divine service on the occasion of Dimitrius Parental Saturday, in the same village of Mykhalche, OCU activists used a homemade ram to knock out the door of the UOC church.
In Zolochiv, the gate of the house where the cleric of the Lviv Eparchy of the UOC lives was painted with insults and Nazi symbols, an anti-UOC veche was held near his house, and the priest himself and his family were proposed to leave the town. A little later, masked militants smashed the fence of the priest's house of the UOC.
On May 12, 2019, in Mnishin, OCU activists beat up UOC believers and seized a church.
In September 2020, in Kyiv, several armed ATO officers beat up a priest of the UOC just because, in their opinion, he did not belong to the "correct Church".
Believers of the UOC, precisely because they are faithful to the true Church, were beaten with brass knuckles, bats, bars, sticks, fists in Mykolaiv, Ptyche, Bogorodchany, Berestye, Gnezdychno, Galuzyntsi, Rakiv Lis, Novozhyvotiv, Mashcha, to name a few. And this is only a small part of the lawlessness towards the UOC.
To say after that that there is no persecution against the Church, and that it feels “rather comfortable”, is the height of cynicism or an outright lie.
Thesis 2: The Сongress of representatives of the persecuted communities at the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra is an "an encroachment on stability and state security ", it is a "hit parade of hatred".
It follows from these words of the people's deputy that a victim who complains that he/she is being robbed and nearly killed violates public peace and threatens the stability of society. That is, according to Pavlenko's logic, the victim simply has no right to complain! Because if a victim of a robbery, for example, turns to the competent authorities for help, he/she is trying to put pressure on the court.
This is exactly how Pavlenko wrote, interpreting the assembly of believers of the UOC at the Lavra: “it is obvious that this is an attempt to put pressure on the judicial branch of government at the time when the Constitutional Court began the procedure for confirming the constitutionality of laws regarding the believers’ rights adopted in 2018 and 2019”.
We recall that these laws, which Mr Pavlenko considers "constitutional", openly violate Article 35 of the Constitution of Ukraine, Article 9 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, Article 18 of the UN International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights (1966), Article 18 of the Universal Declaration Human Rights (1948). In 2017, the Main Scientific and Expert Directorate under the Parliament of Ukraine stated that anti-church bills do not meet the norms of a democratic society, and in April 2019, the District Administrative Court of Kyiv stopped the process of forcible renaming the UOC. In December of the same year, the Supreme Court of Ukraine allowed the UOC to retain its name.
Does Mr Pavlenko know about this? Of course, he does. Then what kind of "constitutionality" are we talking about? After all, it is the believers of the UOC who are currently defending the main Law of Ukraine, and not vice versa.
Thesis 3: At the Lavra, "there were open calls for disobedience and taking ‘millions of the disaffected’ onto the streets".
Firstly, surprising is the negative to possible acts of civil disobedience performed by the people's deputy and official who fell into his chair on the wave of Euromaidan, when this very disobedience became the basis of state ideology and the protesters on the Maidan turned, without any exaggeration, into cult figures.
Secondly, the rules of a democratic society, to which Ukraine is striving, provide for the right to so-called “civil disobedience” in the event that the country's authorities violate the rights of their own citizens. “Civil disobedience” is purely peaceful. In the case of the Church, this is not just the appearance of “millions of disaffected people on the streets” but religious processions and prayer. Montenegro showed the whole world an example of what can happen in a state that has decided to openly go against its own citizens and believers. And this is exactly what the representatives of the UOC are talking about. Moreover, such an initiative, like the initiative to gather at the Lavra, comes from the believers of our Church themselves. Do they have the right to do so? According to the law of Ukraine, yes, they do. But according to Pavlenko, no, they don’t.
Thirdly, there were no "open calls for disobedience" at the congress, but demands were made that the government should stop dividing people. Here are the words of one of the congress participants: “I want to ask the authorities – do not divide people. We are all citizens of Ukraine. And I am also a citizen of Ukraine. My children are citizens of Ukraine. We talk, we communicate at home in Ukrainian. We sing Ukrainian songs every other day. And why am I then a "Moscow traitor"? Just because I have not betrayed the faith? According to the Constitution of Ukraine, we all have the right to faith. By conscience. Whoever wants to – keep their faith. Here even Satanists can pray, Muslims can pray, right? And Orthodox Christians of the Moscow Patriarchate, as they call us, have no right to even normally bury a person in their village! Why?!
We have had a case in the village recently. We buried an elderly woman, who was 100 years old. And when their "priest" (of the OCU – Ed.) was passing by, he asked whose funeral that was. And they answered him – that of Moscow died. Has she ever been to Moscow in her 100 years? What kind of Moscow is she?! She is Ukrainian. She devoted her whole life to Ukraine. I want to ask the authorities – do not divide people, give us the opportunity to pray. Look – how many churches were taken – after all, no one took them back by force, right?"
I want to ask the authorities – do not divide people. We are all citizens of Ukraine. And I am also a citizen of Ukraine. My children are citizens of Ukraine. We talk, we communicate at home in Ukrainian. We sing Ukrainian songs every other day. And why am I then a "Moscow traitor"? Just because I have not betrayed the faith?
Participant of the Congress of the persecuted communities of the UOC, Mother Ulyana Taborovets
Thesis 4: The assembly of believers at the Lavra is an "anti-state event" and "a hostile campaign against Ukraine".
Let's first define who can be considered the enemies of Ukraine? It seems that the enemies of Ukraine are those who are trying to divide the state, who are directly discriminating against its citizens, who in every possible way destabilize the situation inside the country, initiate confrontations between its inhabitants, and do everything to destroy the state. Can any of this be attributed to the believers of the UOC? No, indeed.
Our Church all the time emphasizes its peaceful goals, speaks of the need for unity, stands on the position of territorial integrity, opposes any violent actions against anyone, and tries to somehow bind the country torn apart by the war. Our believers constantly emphasize that they are citizens of Ukraine, that none of them has anything to do with "Moscow".
The position of the Christians gathered at the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra was best expressed by a simple woman, Maria Formanets from the village of Ptycha, where the confrontation between the faithful of the UOC and representatives of the now OCU has been going on since 2014: “We want only one thing from the authorities – not to interfere with us. Let the state remains the state and let us decide the church issues. If we are law-abiding citizens of our Ukraine, then please – obey the law. If we won the trial, then give us the opportunity to pray in our temple. We don't want anything else from the state – just do not interfere with us and execute the court decisions. How many confrontations we’ve had, how much we’ve survived, how many attacks there have been, but not a single person from our community has moved to the UOC-KP”.
Is it possible to say that those people who take away churches by force, who beat up their compatriots and fellow villagers, who divide our people into "friends" and "foes", into the "right" and the "wrong", are doing everything possible to destroy Ukraine?
The question is, as they say, rhetorical.
So, it turns out that our country through the activities of some politicians and "patriots" is becoming more and more similar to the Oceania described by George Orwell, in which the whole ideology is built on the concept of “doublethink”, the main motto of which is the words: "War is peace; Freedom is slavery; Ignorance is strength".
According to Orwell, "doublethink" consists in the fact that a person can "tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just so long as it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality and all the while to take account of the reality which one denies ... A Lie is always one step ahead of the truth".
I would very much like Orwell's words to remain only on paper, and not to be firmly and reliably incorporated into our lives. This can be done only by getting rid of "doublethink" and double standards. It will not be possible to build a legal state otherwise.