The persecution of religious groups has begun in Crimea and in the territory of Eastern Ukraine occupied by pro-Russian separatists. The main engines of persecution are Religious Militancy and Ecclesiastical Arrogance (which is different from the other territories of the former Soviet Union, where Totalitarian Paranoia and Islamic Extremism are the main engines).
We identified the following drivers of persecution:
- Religious leaders of the Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate
- Fanatical movements, such as the Russian Orthodox Army
- Pro-Russian separatists (revolutionary groups)
In the period from April to September 2014, we observed hundreds of abductions of believers in territory controlled by pro-Russian separatists in Eastern Ukraine. The primary motive for the abductions has been the membership of the victims in a Christian denomination other than the Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate. All the believers that we interviewed who had been held hostage asserted that they had been subjected to torture solely on religious grounds. Some of those abducted were released (very often in return for a ransom), but all who had been held captive suffered various degrees of injury. It has been established that all were subjected to beatings, and many also came back with stab wounds, broken bones, dislocated joints, and burns from being tortured with electric shocks.
Over the same period, we uncovered four deliberate killings, on religious grounds, of Evangelical ministers. This took place in Slovyansk. Dozens of believers are listed as missing, and to this day their fates are unknown.
In addition, in the past six months, we've been informed about the takeover and/or destruction of 54 church buildings of various Christian denominations. The arson of churches has been documented in Eastern Ukraine and Crimea. Large buildings belonging to Protestant churches and schools have been confiscated and used by the pro-Russian separatists as barracks, warehouses or weapons emplacements. Some buildings have been singled out and transferred to the Orthodox clergy of the Moscow Patriarchate. For example, on July 9, armed militants seized the territory of Donetsk Christian University, and on Wednesday, August 13, members of the so-called People’s Republic of Donetsk (DPR or DNR) took over the worship hall of the Word of Life Church.
In the occupied territory of Eastern Ukraine, about a hundred churches, Christian missions, orphanages, rehabilitation centers, educational institutions, research centers and charities have been closed. Today, tens of thousands of believers in eastern Ukraine and Crimea live in fear of being kidnapped, tortured and killed. And in Mariupol, Republic Pilgrim, one the most well-known centers for orphans, has been evacuated due to the continuous threat of a Russian invasion.