Patriarch of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate (UOC-KP) Filaret has called on the international community to help prevent the UOC-KP from being expelled from the Russian-occupied areas in Donbas, eastern Ukraine.
Filaret wrote an open letter, addressing the countries participating in the Minsk peace process, the United States, the European Union, the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), which is titled: "On a Growing Infringement of the Rights of Believers of the Kyiv Patriarchate and other religious organizations in certain regions of Donetsk and Luhansk regions," the Ukrainian portal 112.ua reported, citing the letter posted on the UOC-KP website.
Filaret informs that the self-proclaimed republics in Donbas ruled that religious communities working in the occupied areas should be registered under "local legislation."
Thus, the priests of the UOC-KP in occupied Donbas were informed that they have one month to register their religious communities "under the law of the republics."
The religious communities without the "registration" will be deprived of rights to own their land and property, including temples, while their activities will be "outlawed" and the priests will be "expelled from the republics' territory."
"Making the religious organizations working in the occupied territory 'register according to the republican legislation' is unacceptable and this cannot be done as this would violate the legislation of Ukraine," Filaret wrote.
He has appealed to the countries participating in the Minsk peace process and the international community to take urgent measures to prevent an "even greater violation of the principles of religious freedom in that region."
"In particular, I'm asking the Russian Federation, which de facto controls those areas, as well as the Moscow Patriarchate, which has significant representation and influence in those areas, to stop the de facto authorities' provocations there," the letter said.