GATHERING OF THE HEADS OF THE EVANGELICAL CHURCHES OF UKRAINE ON THE RELIGIOUS PERSECUTION IN THE DONETSK AND LUHANSK REGIONS
Since the onset of the activization of the East Ukrainian separatist movements and the so-called proclamation of the Donetsk and Luhansk "people's republics" (DNR and LNR), Christians in the eastern regions, especially evangelical religious denominations, are increasingly the victims of religious persecution.
Targeted attacks have been carried out by armed militants against evangelicals, accompanied by abductions, beatings, torture, threats of execution, pogroms in places of prayer meetings, seizures of houses of worship, rehabilitation centers and other places of worship along with support facilities, with bodily harm inflicted on pastors and priests and damage to their personal property.
There is factual documentation of the capture and beating of evangelical pastors and ministers occurring in May – June 2014 in Slovyansk, Gorlovka, Donetsk and Druzhkovka. DNR and LNR terrorists not only have been preventing the religious activities of evangelical Christians, they are also taking over the houses of worship to accommodate their own staffs, hospitals and gun emplacements. These incidents have occurred repeatedly in Donetsk and Gorlovka, as well as in Slovyansk, Shakhtersk, Druzhkovka, and Torez in the Donetsk Region and in Luhansk.
Moreover, on June 14 in a terrorist attack on the bridge in Mariupol, DNR militants killed Pastor Sergey Skorobagach from the Vivification Church, who also served as the Chairman of the City Council of Churches.
The Council of Evangelical Protestant Churches of Ukraine condemns any discrimination and religious persecution of believers in the Donetsk and Luhansk Regions, whatever the motives may be to justify them.
Intolerance and hostility on religious grounds are not inherent in Ukrainian society, where over 50 representatives of various faiths have peacefully coexisted and fruitfully cooperated for over 20 years. Freedom of religion is the achievement of an independent Ukraine, thanks to which inter-religious peace and harmony have been established in our country.
We call upon the international community, including the monitoring missions of the UN, OSCE, the Council of Europe and the European Union to make efforts to prevent the continuation and escalation of religious intolerance in the territories of Eastern Ukraine controlled by armed separatists. We are convinced that the entire world community must condemn the oppression of religious freedom in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, which has reached the level of physical violence against those with dissenting viewpoints, including real mortal threats to evangelical Christians in Eastern Ukraine.
We ask believers around the world to join us in our prayers for peace in Eastern Ukraine, that terrorism and bloodshed may end, and that we see a restoration of normal life and to the fullness of the rights and freedoms of Ukrainian citizens living in Donetsk and Luhansk regions, regardless of their nationality, religion, language and worldview.
Signed by the members the Council of Evangelical Protestant Churches of Ukraine and promulgated in Kiev on 07/08/2014:
- · Anatoly Gavriliouk, Senior Bishop, Center for Independent Charismatic Christian Churches of Ukraine (Full Gospel);
- · Valery Antoniuk, Chairman, All-Ukrainian Union of Evangelical Chirstian-Baptist Churches
- · Michael Panochko, Senior Bishop, Church of Evangelical Christians of Ukraine;
- · Vasily Raychinets, Senior Presbyter, Union of Free Churches of Christians of Evangelical Faith of Ukraine;
- · Sergei Shaptala, Chairman, Brotherhood of Independent Churches and Missions of Evangelical Christians-Baptists of Ukraine;
- · Sergei Datsko, Chairman, Association of Missionary Churches of Evangelical Christians in Ukraine;
- · Nicholai Salamakha, Deputy Senior Bishop, Ukrainian Christian Evangelical Church;
- · Vyacheslav Gorpinchuk, Bishop, Ukrainian Lutheran Church;
- · Anatoly Kalyuzhniy, Bishop, Council of Independent Evangelical Churches of Ukraine.
Source: Institute of Religious Freedom, Kiev