Minority religions at risk if Russia wins

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The top Ukrainian Catholic cleric in the United States warned on Thursday that religious minorities in the Eastern European country risk being “crushed” if Moscow takes control, as fighting rages over a month after the start of the Russian invasion.

Groups at risk include Catholics, Muslims and Orthodox who have broken with the Patriarch of Moscow, Archbishop Borys Gudziak said. He also cited reports that Russian forces damaged two Holocaust memorials and the misrepresentation of Ukraine by Moscow, which overwhelmingly elected a Jewish president in the person of Volodymyr Zelenskyy, as a “Nazi” state.

“What is at stake for believers is their freedom to practice their faith,” Gudziak told an online roundtable discussion on the war, organized by the Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life. from Georgetown University.

“Ukrainian Catholics, for the past 250 years, every time there has been a Russian occupation where they live and minister, they have been strangled,” he continued.

Gudziak is head of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia and president of the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv, Ukraine. He also oversees the external relations of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church based in Kyiv. The name of the church, whose members make up about 10% of Ukraine’s population, refers to its loyalty to the pope and its use of the Greek or Byzantine liturgy, which is similar to that of the majority Orthodox population of Ukraine. Ukraine.

The archbishop predicted that the Orthodox Church of Ukraine – which broke with the Moscow Patriarchate and was recognized in 2019 by the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople despite fierce opposition from Moscow – “will undoubtedly be crushed if there is a Russian occupation”.

Guziak did not specifically mention the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which is separate from the Orthodox Church of Ukraine and has remained loyal to Moscow Patriarch Kirill, a staunch supporter of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Despite this historical fidelity, Ukrainian Orthodox Church leaders have fiercely denounced the Russian invasion and, in some cases, refuse to mention Kirill’s name in public prayers, a ritually powerful snub.

Kirill backed Putin’s justifications for the war, saying the two countries are part of a “Russian world” and alleging that the United States and other foreign forces have sought to foster enmity between them.

Gudziak also cited the plight of Muslim Tatars who “have been persecuted for the past eight years” since Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula from southern Ukraine in 2014.

The US State Department has also denounced the intimidation and harassment of Tatars and other religious groups in Crimea and parts of eastern Ukraine under the control of Russian-backed separatists. The US Commission on International Religious Freedom said this month that “Moscow’s aggression against religious freedom (in these territories) is a far worse indicator that will follow…as Russia expands internationally.” ‘Ukraine”.

Gudziak dismissed Russia’s claims that it is on a mission to denazify Ukraine, where Jew Zelenskyy won the election with 73% of the vote. Such altruistic claims also ring hollow, he argued, given the reported damage to Holocaust memorials in Kyiv and near Kharkiv.

“Anyone who wants to live in freedom will lose a lot or everything. If there is an occupation, that’s what’s at stake for Ukrainians,” Gudziak said. “What is at stake for Europe, for the rest of the world, is the will is there an advance of systems, ideologies and worldviews that are crushing people?”

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