1

Notice: Undefined index: et_header_layout in /home/hrwfe90/domains/hrwf.eu/public_html/wp-content/plugins/pdf-print/pdf-print.php on line 1258

Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type null in /home/hrwfe90/domains/hrwf.eu/public_html/wp-content/plugins/pdf-print/pdf-print.php on line 1258

Notice: Undefined index: et_header_layout in /home/hrwfe90/domains/hrwf.eu/public_html/wp-content/plugins/pdf-print/pdf-print.php on line 1259

Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type null in /home/hrwfe90/domains/hrwf.eu/public_html/wp-content/plugins/pdf-print/pdf-print.php on line 1259

Notice: Undefined index: et_template in /home/hrwfe90/domains/hrwf.eu/public_html/wp-content/plugins/pdf-print/pdf-print.php on line 1260

RUSSIA: Patriarch Kirill is in lockstep with Putin: “There’s no war in Ukraine”

Patriarch who’s in lockstep with Putin

By Stephen Minas

 

EU Observer (07.03.2022) – https://bit.ly/36PsFE5 – As Russia’s brutal war of aggression in Ukraine has escalated, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, has not said a word against Russian aggression.

For Kirill, obedient to the Russian censor’s commands, there is no “war” in Ukraine.

Instead, in his first public statement following the Russian attack, Kirill could only “deeply empathise with everyone affected by this tragedy”, as though Ukrainians are victims of a flood or earthquake.

 

Kirill’s voice matters as the head of Russia’s largest religious body – which claims Ukraine as its “canonical territory” – an which is deeply-intertwined with agenda of Vladimir Putin and that of his regime.

Kirill’s doublespeak on “the events taking place” is not just reprehensible – it could even amount to an international crime. This is because of the importance of religious propaganda and incitement in this war.

Kirill and subordinates have for years peddled claims of a conspiracy of persecution against the Moscow Patriarchate’s Church in Ukraine, following the grant of autocephaly (independence) to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine by the Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarchate.

 

Kirill has claimed to receive “a weekly report of those violations of the law, the suffering that people are experiencing … violence, beatings, fighting for churches”.

 

Kirill’s de facto foreign minister, the department for external church relations chairman, Metropolitan Hilarion, has alleged a campaign “with the involvement of the authorities” of beatings and church seizures.

 

His Church’s systematic propaganda campaign about Ukraine has been utilised in Putin’s justification for war.

In his 21 February speech on recognising the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk “people’s republics”, Putin parroted the Moscow Patriarchate’s propaganda: “Kyiv continues to prepare the destruction of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate…”

Kirill has long echoed Putin’s core claim underlying his war: denial of the existence of a distinct Ukrainian people.

Both Putin and Kirill claim that Russians and Ukrainians are “one people”. Kirill again invoked this theory as Russia bombed Ukrainian apartment buildings and hospitals.

On 27 February, while offering perfunctory remarks about praying for peace, Kirill reiterated his familiar themes on Ukraine: “the present political situation in fraternal Ukraine” with “evil forces that have always strived against the unity of Russia” and the Russian Church (the so-called “Nazi junta”?).

“God forbid that a terrible line stained with the blood of our brothers should be drawn between Russia and Ukraine” he continued (with no hint that anyone in particular is responsible for this bloodshed), adding a warning against giving “the dark and hostile external forces an occasion to laugh at us”.

He even specified that, in asking the Lord to “protect the Russian land against external enemies”, he includes Ukraine and Belarus in Russia, alongside “other tribes and peoples”.

Ukrainian defenders are battling Russian invaders but, according to Kirill, the conflict is actually between a mythically-united Rus people (“Rus” is the medieval entity from which both the modern Russians and Ukrainians descend), and “external enemies”. These powerful unnamed actors, according to Kirill, have been trying to force the residents of the Donbass to hold a “gay parade”.

 

On 3 March, the same day that Putin issued a clearly genocidal threat to “destroy this ‘Anti-Russia’ created by the West”, the Moscow Patriarchate circulated to its dioceses the text of a special prayer, “approved” by Kirill, to be read in its churches.

 

This text reiterates the Russian World trope of the common baptism of the Rus people and asks for a “spirit of brotherly love”. It asks God to, “in a foreign language, scold those who want and take up arms against Holy Russia – forbid and subvert their plans”.

This war propaganda is intended to be read out in every Moscow Patriarchate church – including, grotesquely, those in Ukraine.

War-crime complicity?

It confirms that Kirill is in lockstep with Putin’s war rhetoric and further exposes the patriarch to accusations of active complicity in war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.

Recognising Kirill’s complicity, a growing number of his bishops in Ukraine are refusing to commemorate the “patriarch of the military operation” in their church services, defying threats from Moscow.

 

The words of influential propagandists can have real impact. Recognising this, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights provides: ‘Any propaganda for war shall be prohibited by law’.

International courts and tribunals since Nuremberg have attributed individual criminal responsibility not just to direct perpetrators of atrocities but also to accomplices – those who “aid or abet”.

A person who aids or abets others to commit war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide can be held criminally responsible. This is codified in, for example, the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC).

With questions over jurisdiction and criminal intent, and in the absence of any binding precedent, it is impossible to say whether an international prosecutor would consider charges against Kirill.

It is however conceivable that a prominent regime ideologist who launches a barrage of inciting propaganda before and during a conflict could be charged with aiding or abetting perpetration of war crimes or inciting others to genocide. Ultimately, whether Kirill is guilty of international crimes is a question that only a competent court or tribunal could answer.

On 26 February, Ukraine launched proceedings against the Russian Federation in the International Court of Justice, alleging genocide.

 

On 2 March the ICC Prosecutor decided to proceed with investigations into alleged crimes in Ukraine. Of course, the actual delivery of the authors of this war into the hands of international justice might be considered an even greater miracle than making a Breguet watch disappear.

In any reckoning with the criminal responsibility of the Putin regime, Kirill and his subordinates will not be near the top of the list.

Nevertheless, there is no statute of limitations for war crimes and neither priestly status nor a cassock encrusted with expensive jewellery and metalwork can confer immunity from international laws. The European Union and member states must work to ensure that there is no impunity for Putin’s propagandists.

Photo : Head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, pictured here in 2012 minus his €23,000 gold watch (airbrushed out by the official press service, but still visible in reflection on table) (Photo: Russian Orthodox Church press service)

Further reading about FORB in Russia on HRWF website





Notice: Undefined index: et_header_layout in /home/hrwfe90/domains/hrwf.eu/public_html/wp-content/plugins/pdf-print/pdf-print.php on line 1258

Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type null in /home/hrwfe90/domains/hrwf.eu/public_html/wp-content/plugins/pdf-print/pdf-print.php on line 1258

Notice: Undefined index: et_header_layout in /home/hrwfe90/domains/hrwf.eu/public_html/wp-content/plugins/pdf-print/pdf-print.php on line 1259

Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type null in /home/hrwfe90/domains/hrwf.eu/public_html/wp-content/plugins/pdf-print/pdf-print.php on line 1259

Notice: Undefined index: et_template in /home/hrwfe90/domains/hrwf.eu/public_html/wp-content/plugins/pdf-print/pdf-print.php on line 1260

EU: The European Union can do more to promote religious freedom

EU can do more to promote religious freedom

By SHARON ROSEN

 

Euobserver (30.08.2021) – https://bit.ly/3jqGuwx – Reading policy analyses and seeing terms like “religious persecution” and “religious extremism/fundamentalism” proliferate, you might be forgiven for dividing people of faith between victimised minorities and radicalised aggressors.

Indeed, this framing has influenced much (Western) international policy on freedom of religion or belief (FoRB).

Recently, however, this narrative has been challenged by the recognition of religious actors’ potential to positively influence the pressing societal issues of today – not least because, according to Religions for Peace, they are among the most trusted members of their communities.

FoRB – which includes the right to practice one’s belief, as well as the right not to believe – is a fundamental requisite for peaceful coexistence.

At their essence, peaceful societies protect all human rights and enable diversity to flourish. When religious freedom is threatened, social cohesion suffers, and conflict grows.

Many actors – including Search for Common Ground, the world’s largest peace-building organisation – now realise the valuable contributions religious actors make to societies.

While a secular organisation, over the past decades we have worked with hundreds of thousands of religious actors across five continents, and recognise the strategic importance of constructively engaging such a large and influential sector of society.

We also understand that engaging religious actors can be daunting. Decision-makers in secular institutions like the EU may not see the benefits of involving them, or feel uncomfortable doing so.

Indeed, it would be naive not to acknowledge the sensitivities and challenges of engaging certain religious actors. As the Pew Research Center notes that 84 percent of the world identify with a religious community, it would be equally naive not to take them into account, it would be equally naive not to engage with them at all.

The appointment of Christos Stylianides as the new special envoy for the promotion of freedom of religion or belief reaffirms the EU’s role as a major international advocate for religious freedom.

As the new special envoy takes office, here are three ways the EU can take action to acknowledge the key role FoRB plays in wider social issues.

Three ways

Firstly, FoRB must be understood as a fundamental right like any other, rejecting the trend to see it as inimical to women’s or LGBTQI rights, or freedom of expression – or, obversely, superior to other rights.

Recognising FoRB’s interconnection with other rights enables us to address overlapping concerns and intersectional claims.

Search will take such an approach as part of a new secular and interfaith partnership: the Joint Initiative for Strategic Religious Action (JISRA).

JISRA will work with religious actors, including women and youth, across seven conflict regions in Africa, the Middle East, and South-East Asia to strengthen their ability to engage in dialogue on religious tolerance and peace, as well as support them in their advocacy around FoRB.

Secondly, FoRB must be acknowledged as a key component of peaceful and resilient societies.

The EU’s Global Exchange on Religion and Society reflects a growing understanding of the value of engaging religious actors on a wide range of societal issues.

In addition, the Council Conclusions on an EU Approach to Cultural Heritage in conflicts and crises, adopted in June, highlight the need for interfaith dialogue and the inclusion of religious minorities as part of the EU’s external push for peace, democracy and sustainable development.

Our years of experience organising inter-religious freedom round tables in Sri Lanka, Uzbekistan, Jordan, and Lebanon, or advocating with faith leaders for the protection of holy sites in Jerusalem and Nigeria, confirm their importance.

As with all approaches to FoRB and peace-building generally, women, youth, and other vulnerable groups like religious minorities, need to be included in these exchanges.

These groups often experience unique violations of their rights and, when included, bring new perspectives and unforeseen solutions to conflicts.

Thirdly, EU institutions and staff must receive adequate training on FoRB, and specifically on its role in conflict transformation.

Increasing their faith literacy as well as their understanding of religious engagement’s value would be in line with the 2013 guidelines on the promotion and protection of freedom of religion or belief which committed the European External Action Service to developing training materials for field and headquartered staff.

Trainings such as the joint Search for Common Ground and the US Institute for Peace’s recently launched free online course on Religious Engagement in Peacebuilding – A Common Ground Approach provide an introduction for anyone interested in religious engagement and FoRB in conflict contexts.

Neither peace-building nor advancing FoRB are linear processes. Setbacks require patience, steadfastness and a long-term belief in the possible.

But with its new special envoy at the helm, the EU can play a significant role in effectively moving us towards a world where our diversity of beliefs is valued and respected by all.

Photo : Former European Commissioner Christos Stylianides is appointed special envoy for the promotion of freedom of religion or belief. (Photo: European Commission)

Further reading about FORB in EU on HRWF website


Notice: Undefined index: et_footer_layout in /home/hrwfe90/domains/hrwf.eu/public_html/wp-content/plugins/pdf-print/pdf-print.php on line 1308

Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type null in /home/hrwfe90/domains/hrwf.eu/public_html/wp-content/plugins/pdf-print/pdf-print.php on line 1308

Notice: Undefined index: et_footer_layout in /home/hrwfe90/domains/hrwf.eu/public_html/wp-content/plugins/pdf-print/pdf-print.php on line 1309

Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type null in /home/hrwfe90/domains/hrwf.eu/public_html/wp-content/plugins/pdf-print/pdf-print.php on line 1309

Notice: Undefined index: et_template in /home/hrwfe90/domains/hrwf.eu/public_html/wp-content/plugins/pdf-print/pdf-print.php on line 1310