At OSCE non-discrimination session in Warsaw Bishop Victor of Baryshivka delivers statement about violation of UOC believers rights

On 14 September, 2017, Head of the UOC Representation to International European Organisations (UOC IEO) His Grace Bishop Victor (Kotsaba) of Baryshivka at a working session of the OSCE in Warsaw dealing with non- discrimination (Human Dimension Implementation Meeting 2017) issued a statement about the violation of the rights of believers and religious organisations of the UOC, reports the UOC Department of Information and Education.

The statement asserted that during the years 2015-2017 numerous cases of the violation of the rights of Ukrainian Orthodox Church believers were perpetrated, including the seizure of churches, bashing of people, arson and destruction of church property. Even in high-profile cases where violations are extremely obvious and do not leave any room for doubt, law enforcement authorities did not carry out effective measures to restore the rights of the faithful. Such cases include, in particular, the bashing of people in the village of Katerynivka, Ternopil oblast, the ongoing confrontation in the village of Ptycha, Rivne oblast, as well as in thirty other criminal proceedings initiated by UOC faithful.

Other issues of 2017, such as those surrounding the attempted seizure of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the village of Kolomyia, which was done with the support of the Greek-Catholic clergymen, and violations of the rights of the religious community of the UOC in the city of Mykolayiv were also the subject of discussion at the meeting of the OSCE.

Bishop Victor especially stressed the discriminatory nature of the Draft Bills Nos. 4128, 4511 and 5309, which despite the negative conclusions from the Central Scientific Experts Office of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine (VRU), protests by the UOC faithful, and numerous critical evaluations from the representatives of the Autocephalous Orthodox Churches, were once again submitted for consideration by the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine. The unprecedented two year delay of the registration of changes to the statutes of the eparchies and monasteries of the UOC, indicates a systemic crisis in Church-State relations, and that the widespread use of the rhetoric of hatred in the mass media only promotes and exacerbates inter-confessional conflict.

Head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church’s Representation to the European International Organisations stated, with regret, that considering the current Church-State relations, one could not say that the rule of law is being observed in Ukraine. On behalf of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, he called upon the OSCE, state-participants in the meeting and the authorities of Ukraine to take urgent measures to prevent the continued violation of the rights of the Orthodox Christian citizens.

The violations of the rights of UOC believers during 2015–2017 have been widely publicised internationally, as is testified by the statements made by the international human rights organisations in support of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church during the OSCE meeting.

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