On August 28, the Center for Geostrategic Studies organized an international conference on the topic of violations of religious rights, with a special focus on the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) in the context of current events. The conference was held in the Press Center of the Association of Journalists of Serbia, in the center of Belgrade.

"In Ukraine, in front of the eyes of the entire world community, the Ukrainian authorities are destroying the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. This is a joint action of the Zelensky regime and the OCU (Orthodox Church of Ukraine), which is under the patronage of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, as well as Patriarch Bartholomew himself. Temples were confiscated and the clergy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church were subjected to violence and persecution. We are witnessing the violent seizure of one of the oldest centers of the Orthodox world, the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra and its shrines", stated the organizers of the conference.

Dragana Trifković, Director-General of the Center for Geostrategic Studies, in her introductory presentation, spoke about the continuous attacks on the clergy and believers of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church: "Until the beginning of November 2022, the Security Service of Ukraine exposed 33 alleged "agents" among the clergy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. 23 criminal proceedings were opened. This was part of a series of searches conducted by Ukrainian law enforcement agencies on the premises of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate). More than 350 church buildings and 850 people were investigated. In total, in 2022, 52 criminal cases were initiated against 55 clergymen of the UOC, including 14 bishops. The Council for National Security and Defense of Ukraine sanctioned 17 clergymen of the UOC," said Trifković.

In the final part of her speech, Trifković concluded: "On the issue of the UOC, it is not only about the violation of all human rights, but about systemic terror, which, as we can see from the description of events, intensified over time. The goal is the complete destruction and abolition of the UOC and the violent change of the spiritual code of the people, their tradition that has existed for centuries. All repressive measures are carried out in order to intimidate the clergy and believers of the UPC, to whom the only solution is to move to the non-canonical OCU. In fact, the "proxy" OCU aspires to take over the property of the UOC, but also to forcibly take over the believers, in order to break the ties between Ukraine and Russia. All this is being realized with the complete consent of the Western power centers, which, although they speak loudly in favor of protecting human rights, actually encourage state terror and the violation of religious rights, when it is convenient as a means of fighting against Russia.“

Diogenis Valavanidis, President of the Center for the Protection of Christian Identity, spoke about the influence of the American power centers and the intelligence service: "Everyone knows that in 2019 the heresy Patriarch Bartholomew I recognized the autocephaly of the so-called The Orthodox Church of Ukraine, which, in the true sense of the word, was made up of Ukrainian schismatic groups. It was a blatant example of a robber's incursion into the jurisdiction of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate. Thus the Western centers of power (CIA and State Department) began to implement a plan to sow seeds of discord, primarily in the churches of the Slavic Orthodox nations. The goal was to provoke a war, conflict and destroy the traditional values that are present in Orthodox countries. That's when the state persecution by the Ukrainian security forces began against the clergy, monks and believers of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, as well as the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra, which represents the Russian Jerusalem," Valavanidis pointed out.

Mr. Valavanidis recently presented to the public his book, Defense of the Unity of the Orthodox Church, published by the publishing house Pešić i Sinovi.

In the concluding part of the presentation, the President of the Center for the Protection of Christian Identity pointed out: "After all that has been said, I must admit that I am seriously concerned and confused by the icy silence and the absence of a reaction from the World Council of Churches. I am even more pained by the thunderous silence of many local Orthodox autocephalous churches, which, in the icy darkness of their self-sufficiency, are silent as if nothing is happening, at a time when the physical survival of the clergy and monastics, clerics and laymen of their sister canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church is threatened."

Father Jovan Plamenac, a priest of the Serbian Orthodox Church, spoke about the concept of human rights and made the following observations: "Human rights are a concept based on philosophical thinking, consideration of man's universal natural innate right, independent of legal regulations. That concept arose from a human-centric experience of reality and from a materialistic value system. That concept came to life in practice after the French bourgeois revolution, towards the end of the 18th century. And just as man was given a knife to use for the preparation and use of his food, and he uses it to kill another man, or just as he was given atomic energy to use for the benefit of mankind in this material dimensional world, and he uses it like the most terrible weapon, so it is with human rights. That's how human rights are abused, which we Serbs experienced on our own skin, when they were breaking up Yugoslavia and accused us of that, and to some extent, when they were creating Yugoslavia. We especially felt it on our skin when they bombed us in 1999 and entered into the process of seizing our holy land of Kosovo and Metohija. The Ukrainian people, together with their church, are experiencing this abuse today."

Dejan Mirović, Professor of International Law at the University of Pristina, with temporary headquarters in Kosovska Mitrovica, spoke about the legal aspects of the violation of human rights in Ukraine: "By persecuting only one church community, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Ukraine, and finally seizing the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra, the Zelensky regime demonstrated, in violation of universal human rights:

- That he is God-fearing and/or aggressively atheistic, like the one who was in Ukraine during communism

- That Zelensky's regime is under the auspices of the West, which has been applying human rights and freedom of religion selectively in practice for centuries

- That he is Russophobic and anti-Orthodox

- That he abused the state of war because it cannot be a justification for the persecution of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Ukraine

In the continuation of his presentation, Professor Mirović spoke about the fact that such behavior is not a new phenomenon – that is, that Zelensky's regime originated from the following ideological foundations and irregularities in the application of human rights: "From the doctrine of the universal validity of human rights, religious tolerance logically follows, and, a little later, in the modern age, the right to freedom of religion also arises. However, Western Europe was not known for religious tolerance. The Crusades, the Inquisition – with the burning of the unfit – Bartholomew's Night, are just some examples of mass intolerance towards different faiths and beliefs."

Daniel Kovalik, Professor of Humanitarian Law from the United States, spoke about the fact that he learned a lot about the Ukrainian regime's attacks on the UOC during his recent visits to the war zone in the Donbass: "Essentially, any church or monastery that refuses to transfer from the Moscow Patriarchate to the Kyiv Patriarchate risks being destroyed by the Ukrainian authorities, and many of them have already been destroyed. I learned that the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra – which is a very important spiritual center for the entire Orthodox world – is in danger of being looted by the Ukrainian authorities and its relics being handed over to other European countries.

The first time I visited Donbass, I was in a delegation with people who deliver humanitarian aid to the monasteries, which are on the front line and have been under fire for years, and in which many monks have died. I met Sergej, who served in a church in Kharkiv, which was destroyed by the Ukrainian authorities because the priests refused 15 times to come under the control of the Kyiv Patriarchate. During my last visit to Donbass, I also visited a church and a monastery near the airport in Donetsk, and those buildings were destroyed by Ukrainian forces back in 2014. What is the actual meaning of the destruction of UOC and its sanctuaries? First of all, I want to say that the Western media completely ignores these documented facts. This is not only an attack on holy places – Orthodox churches – but also on the Russian-speaking population and ethnic Russians. Ukrainian authorities have been attacking the Russian-speaking population since 2014, and I think we can call it genocide. After the coup in Kiev, the forces came to power and launched a war against the Russian-speaking population. That was long before the special military operation. Two million people from the eastern region of Ukraine had to leave their homes and seek refuge in Russia. I think they want to completely or partially destroy the ethnic Russians in Ukraine, which they are doing, and that is the definition of genocide. Destroyed churches and monasteries, just because they are under the administration of the Moscow Patriarchate, are evidence of this genocide being carried out," said Professor Kovalik.

"What is disturbing is that all this is happening with the huge support and help of Western countries. We could see the same in Syria and Iraq. So, what is happening in Ukraine is not an isolated act. The West is waging a war to destroy history and culture," concluded Daniel Kovalik.

Anton Eggendorfer, Master of Theology from Austria, drew attention to the fact that this is not the first time in the history of Europe that something like this has happened, but that history often illuminates such events in a positive way. He cited the example of Oliver Cromwell and the Irish Catholic Church. Egendorfer believes that the violent interruption of continuity and tradition in the church has a negative effect on its believers. The UOC and ROC are connected by deep ties, but they must not be targets for attack in war.

At the end, Egendorf concluded: "We can hear from the West that Ukraine supposedly represents progress and modernism, while Russia represents the past, tradition and the like. In the future, this can cause serious consequences in the Orthodox Church, as we have seen it in the Catholic Church for the last 20-30 years. We have been modernized, our teachings have been distorted, and through modernization, various topics that we are not interested in have entered the church, such as transgenderism and the like. The same can happen to the Ukrainian Church if it is too close to the EU or the USA".

Konrad Rekas, a journalist and politician from Poland, believes that one cannot talk about a crisis of Orthodoxy: "On the contrary, we are experiencing a merciless attack that aims to break our community from the inside, intimidate believers, take over and desecrate temples and spiritually colonize the Christian East and South. Ukraine is another front in this war, as Bosnia, Kosovo and Syria were before. The destruction of the Church is the eternal and unchanging goal of the Antichrist, whether he uses bombs and rockets, demoralizing anti-culture or false traditions and hypocritical missionaries. The war in Ukraine is also a religious war and its spiritual aspect cannot be omitted in any analysis".

In the continuation of his speech, Rekas pointed out the problems that Orthodoxy is facing in Poland: "I see with increasing concern that the threats that so seriously affect Ukraine and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church have already penetrated into Poland. Over 5 million displaced people from Ukraine have arrived in Poland in the last 18 months alone. They came with the intention of settling permanently and enjoying numerous political and financial privileges, transforming my country into a bi-national state. Newcomers behave brazenly, trying to dominate existing structures, including church ones. They call for the "Ukrainization of Polish Orthodoxy" on the canonical territory of the Polish Autocephalous Orthodox Church. They try to create an alternative hierarchy directly subordinate to the Dumenko-Poroshenko-Zelensky sect. Polish Orthodox bishops are accused of "co-operation with Moscow". The use of the Russian language in sermons and Old Slavonic in the liturgy is condemned, with a loud demand to replace it with Ukrainian (even in Polish and Belarusian parishes).“

Other participants from Austria, Serbia, Bulgaria, Ireland, Italy and France also took part in the work of the conference.

Dragana Trifković, General-Director of the Center for Geostrategic Studies, thanked all the participants of the conference at the end, noting: "The Center for Geostrategic Studies has also addressed international institutions regarding the violation of people's religious rights, such as the UN, the Human Rights Commission of the Council of Europe, Red Cross, etc., but the institutions did not react. After the end of this conference, the Center for Geostrategic Studies, together with all the participants of the conference in Vienna that we organized last month, as well as this conference, will create a joint letter of address with the conclusions of the conference and send it to international institutions.“

Source: Center for Geostrategic Studies

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