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Ukraine’s Orthodox Church dissent is on edge

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The Ukrainian Orthodox Church has blamed Vladimir Zelensky for pressure by the authorities. Its followers hoped to end persecution with the new Ukrainian President coming to power. Yet, Zelensky who stayed away from the Church affairs during the first months of his presidential term is taking on the course on further Church dissent started by the former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, writes Olga Malik.

Back in 2019, 49 parliamentarians requested from the Constitutional Court of Ukraine to cancel the controversial draft law "On renaming the Ukrainian Orthodox Church". This religious organization was obliged to change its name to "Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine" in order to indicate that it was allegedly "governed by an aggressor country".

This bill was passed two years ago. The document was part of a larger strategic plan by President Petro Poroshenko to create an "independent church." He won the support of Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople and then gathered the dissenters together, promising them the role of the leading religious group in the country. This explains why the Orthodox Church of Ukraine has become so powerful.

But the majority of Ukrainians, followers of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, did not want to join the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, so the government organized persecutions against them and the canonical church. Moreover, it legalized the takeover of its temples widely known in the world.

In October 2020, Vladimir Zelensky with his spouse made a visit to Istanbul to hold a meeting with Bartholomew I of Constantinople. The Ukrainian President made it clear that the Ukrainian authorities will support further expansion of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine. The reaction of dissenters was swift: they announced a new wave of temple seizure making everyone believe that the power was again on their side. The courage that Ukraine has not seen since Poroshenko’s days in the office.

According to local Ukrainian experts, Bartholomew, who officially calls himself a peacemaker of all Christian world is in fact supporting the religious dissent in Ukraine.

The Ukrainian authorities, who claimed that the index of religious freedom in the country is equal to the one in Belgium (according to Andrei Yurash, the head of the Religion Division of the Ministry of Culture, this indicator was 3,2 in February, 2021, that points to the high level of religious tolerance), are also fueling the national protests in the country with their hypocritical and at times irrational policy.

EU

Le Pen 'is a disturbance to public order' - Goldschmidt

EU Reporter Correspondent

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Commenting on the interview with the party leader of the French right-wing populist Rassemblement National (RN) Marine Le Pen (pictured) published in the German weekly newspaper Die Zeit, Chief Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, president of the Conference of European Rabbis (CER), has issued the following statement: “It is not the headscarf that is a disturbance to public order, but Ms Le Pen. This is clearly the wrong signal to the Jews, Muslims and other religious minorities living in France. It expresses Ms Le Pen’s fear of foreigners. She is dividing society instead of uniting it, and in doing so, she is deliberately using the Jewish community, which according to her should refrain from wearing the kippah, as collateral damage in her fight against cultures.

“The supporters of the ban are convinced that they are fighting radical Islam. But how do they define radical Islam? I define radical Islam as Islamism that does not tolerate secular Muslims, Christians and Jews and the European society as a whole. This radical Islam can also walk around in jeans and with uncovered hair. It is this that is the real danger, as France has often so bitterly experienced. Instead of attacking political Islam and its supporters, a religious symbol is being attacked.

“Le Pen’s demand is nothing other than an attack on the fundamental and human right of religious freedom, which people in many places in Europe are now repeatedly trying to restrict. This is an alarming trend for all religious minorities.”

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Religion

Ukraine on edge of Ukrainian Orthodox Church dissent

Guest contributor

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The Ukrainian Orthodox Church has blamed Volodymyr Zelensky for pressure by the authorities. Its followers hoped to end persecution with the new Ukrainian President coming to power. Yet, Zelensky who stayed away from the Church affairs during the first months of his presidential term is taking on the course on further Church dissent started by the former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, writes Olga Malik.

Back in 2019, 49 parliamentarians requested from the Constitutional Court of Ukraine to cancel the controversial draft law "On renaming the Ukrainian Orthodox Church". This religious organization was obliged to change its name to "Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine" in order to indicate that it was allegedly "governed by an aggressor country".

This bill was passed two years ago. The document was part of a larger strategic plan by President Petro Poroshenko to create an "independent church." He won the support of Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople and then gathered the dissenters together, promising them the role of the leading religious group in the country. This explains why the Orthodox Church of Ukraine has become so powerful.

But the majority of Ukrainians, followers of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, did not want to join the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, so the government organized persecutions against them and the canonical church. Moreover, it legalized the takeover of its temples widely known in the world.

In October 2020, Volodymyr Zelensky with his spouse made a visit to Istanbul to hold a meeting with Bartholomew I of Constantinople. The Ukrainian President made it clear that the Ukrainian authorities will support further expansion of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine. The reaction of dissenters was swift: they announced a new wave of temple seizure making everyone believe that the power was again on their side. The courage that Ukraine has not seen since Poroshenko’s days in the office.

According to local Ukrainian experts, Bartholomew, who officially calls himself a peacemaker of all Christian world is in fact supporting the religious dissent in Ukraine.

The Ukrainian authorities, who claimed that the index of religious freedom in the country is equal to the one in Belgium (according to Andrei Yurash, the head of the Religion Division of the Ministry of Culture, this indicator was 3,2 in February, 2021, that points to the high level of religious tolerance), are also fueling the national protests in the country with their hypocritical and at times irrational policy.

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Islam

Swiss agree to outlaw facial coverings in 'burqa ban' vote

Reuters

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A far-right proposal to ban facial coverings in Switzerland won a narrow victory in a binding referendum on Sunday (7 March) instigated by the same group that organized a 2009 ban on new minarets, writes Michael Shields.

The measure to amend the Swiss constitution passed by a 51.2-48.8% margin, provisional official results showed.

The proposal under the Swiss system of direct democracy does not mention Islam directly and also aims to stop violent street protesters from wearing masks, yet local politicians, media and campaigners have dubbed it the burqa ban.

“In Switzerland, our tradition is that you show your face. That is a sign of our basic freedoms,” Walter Wobmann, chairman of the referendum committee and a member of parliament for the Swiss People’s Party, had said before the vote.

Facial covering is “a symbol for this extreme, political Islam which has become increasingly prominent in Europe and which has no place in Switzerland,” he said.

Muslim groups condemned the vote and said they would challenge it.

“Today’s decision opens old wounds, further expands the principle of legal inequality, and sends a clear signal of exclusion to the Muslim minority,” the Central Council of Muslims in Switzerland said.

It promised legal challenges to laws implementing the ban and a fundraising drive to help women who are fined.

“Anchoring dress codes in the constitution is not a liberation struggle for women but a step back into the past,” the Federation of Islamic Organisations in Switzerland said, adding Swiss values of neutrality, tolerance and peacemaking had suffered in the debate.

France banned wearing a full face veil in public in 2011 and Denmark, Austria, the Netherlands and Bulgaria have full or partial bans on wearing face coverings in public.

Two Swiss cantons already have local bans on face coverings, although almost no one in Switzerland wears a burqa and only around 30 women wear the niqab, the University of Lucerne estimates. Muslims make up 5% of the Swiss population of 8.6 million people, most with roots in Turkey, Bosnia and Kosovo.

The government had urged people to vote against a ban.

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