WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW!
- The Ukrainian government has ordered the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) to relinquish control of the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra, a large monastery complex that includes the Holy Dormition cathedral and monastery, the church’s headquarters.
- The UOC, which is independent and not subordinate to the Moscow patriarchate, has been accused of being under Russian control and is facing escalating persecution.
- Despite appeals to the government to protect basic religious freedom, the UOC’s deadline to vacate the complex is on March 29, and fears of violent clashes with “radicals” loom.
The Ukrainian government has demanded that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) cede control of the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra, a monastery complex that has been the spiritual home of Orthodoxy in Ukraine since it was founded in 1051.
The government claims that the UOC is under Russian control, a charge that the UOC vehemently denies. The UOC has been the target of escalating persecution, which has been condemned by the church’s leader, Metropolitan Onufriy. The UOC provided significant humanitarian aid to the Armed Forces of Ukraine in 2022, and many of its churches have been destroyed by the Russian invasion.
The eviction of the UOC from the lavra marks a significant escalation in the persecution of the church. The UOC is independent and not subordinate to the Moscow patriarchate, and its leader,
Metropolitan Onufriy, has condemned the Russian invasion from the outset. The UOC has provided significant humanitarian aid to the Ukrainian Armed Forces, and many of its churches have been destroyed in the conflict.
Despite appeals to the government to protect basic religious freedom, the UOC’s deadline to vacate the complex is on March 29. Fears of violent clashes with “radicals” who have threatened to forcibly evict the UOC from the complex loom large.
The UOC is not the only target of persecution in Ukraine. The government has also gone after independent media outlets and opposition politicians. The United States provides funding to the Ukrainian government and therefore has some influence over its policies.
Unless action is taken to ensure that US tax dollars are not used to support religious persecution, there is a risk that the situation will deteriorate further. Such a scenario would likely be exploited by Russian propaganda outlets.
The UOC is an independent religious institution that has provided significant humanitarian aid to those affected by the conflict in Ukraine. Its eviction from the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra, which has been its spiritual home for centuries, is a clear violation of its religious freedom.
The situation is made more urgent by the threat of violence from radical groups. The United States and other countries that support Ukraine should take action to prevent the persecution of the UOC and other religious and political groups.