‘Christians Suffering In East Ukraine As Russian Forces Move In’
By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
KYIV/BUDAPEST (Worthy News) –
In a report seen by Worthy News on Thursday, religious rights group Forum 18 said “freedom of religion and belief is severely restricted” in areas controlled by pro-Russian separatists.
The group said its survey showed that the situation is dire in the rebel-ruled Luhansk People’s Republic, which cooperates with the Donetsk People’s Republic.
Both territories were recognized this week by Russian President Vladimir Putin as independent states despite Western protests.
Forum 18 told Worthy News in a statement that separatist rulers have been “rendering illegal all Protestant and non-Moscow Patriarchate Orthodox communities.”
It noted “repeated denials of permission to a Roman Catholic priest to live in the region,” among recent religious rights violations. That meant “the repeated inability of Catholics to receive Communion at Mass, a central part of the Catholic faith,” Forum 18 noted.
Besides “repeated denials of permission to a Catholic priest resident in Luhansk since 1993 to continue to live in the region, nuns could not return to a parish,” it added.
Baptists and other churches were also raided or denied registration, and believers were refused access to places of worship under controversial religious legislation, investigators said.
“This resulted in all Protestant and non-Moscow Patriarchate Orthodox communities being denied rebel permission to exist,” stressed Forum 18. Religious Jews, as well as Jehova Witnesses and Hare Krishna followers, are among others reportedly being targeted.
Also, “social welfare activities carried out by unregistered religious communities being stopped,” Forum 18 explained.
The “cutting off gas, water, and electricity supplies to all places of worship
owned by unregistered communities” was another rebel measure, the group said.
Yet, “surveillance of local religious communities” and other policies of the Luhansk Peoples Republic rebels created “a climate of fear about discussing human rights violations,” stressed Forum 18.
The group suggested that non-Orthodox believers are increasingly isolated as “contacts with fellow believers of any faith elsewhere in Ukraine being made difficult or impossible.”
The Russian Orthodox Church has had close ties to the Kremlin, while other denominations have reportedly faced difficulties.
With rebel regions expected to become part of Russia, that trend was due to continue in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region.
Yet, Christian broadcaster Trans World Radio (TWR) said its radio waves could still reach Ukrainian Russian faith communities and nonbelievers.
“The news isn’t all bad in Ukraine and Russia despite reports of airlines canceling flights, shelling of a preschool, and warships massing in the Black Sea,” TWR said.
TWR told Worthy News it has “close connections with partners” in Ukraine and Russia, “providing listeners with the good news of Jesus Christ in their local languages over multiple media platforms.”
TWR Ukraine’s director was quoted as saying: “We continue to produce programs (radio and videos), communicate with our listeners, and plan our future work.” And, “this hasn’t stopped even though the country is nearly surrounded with threats of war.”
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