A congregation “Parish of St. Archistratigus Michael” from Bashuky village, Kremenets district, Ternopil bishopric of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church has owned and continually used the church as a historical legal successor of the developers of this structure since 1946. Starting from April, 2015 aggressivelyminded individuals have repeatedly organized meetings in the village where they required that the “Parish of St. Archistratigus Michael” congregation of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church should leave the church building and transfer it to the denominantion of Kyiv Patriarchate. On being refused, the raiders resorted to pseudojuridical procedures in order to pretend they have powers to compulsorily change the jurisdiction of the Orthodox Church congregation.
There appeared publications on the site of the nationalist organization “Right Sector” which said it would “provide assistance” for the Ternopil region villagers who are eager to pass to another denomination and receive tenure of the buildings concerned. Alongside with such publications there were initiated public hearings and disputes in the village, voting by means of collecting signatures on the lists where they raised an ultimate question – “if the villagers want to see in their locality the Ukrainian Orthodox Church or the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Kyiv Patriarchate. Based on the majority of votes to accede to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Kyiv Patriarchate raiders began a forceful attempt to seize the church. In particular, on April 26th individuals with aggressive behavior broke into the Orthodox church building during the worship, began to swear and interrupted the service demanding to leave the building and crying out provocative slogans.
At further Sunday services, in particular, on 3rd, 10th, 17th and 24th of May similar events took place: representatives of the “Right Sector” came to the village dressed in camouflage uniforms with sticks and bats and explained their presence with “having to keep the public peace”. Undoubtedly, such a “show of force” was aimed at exercising psychological pressure on parishioners of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. With such “defenders” in the background aggressively charged local population and furriners were trying to muscle out parishioners from their “legal” premises. In their turn, the Orthodox congregation had to invite faithful people from other communities to come to Bashuky village for common prayer and assistance should there be any raid attempt.
Time and again the congregation of Bashuky village turned to the law enforcement authorities who personally witnessed the illegal seizure but didn’t take a single action to detain violators of public order. It’s noteworthy that militia started a criminal proceeding upon worship sabotage; however this action not in the slightest bothered the invaders who pursued with their aggressive pressure on villagers, loyal to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
Eventually, the raiders made an attempt to reregister a juridical person – i.e. congregation of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – into a different denomination. According to the statutory documents of the congregation adoption of the resolution on changing denomination and passing under jurisdiction of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Kyiv Patriarchate can be implemented by means of amending the Statute of the religious community. Such amendments can be made only at parish assembly by the empowered members who meet the criteria stated in the Community Charter.
Hence, nobody else is entitled to make decisions. Still the raiders didn’t bother to observe legal formalities. In particular, having gathered the villagers who are members neither of the religious community of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church nor of the regulatory body of this community – i.e. parish assembly – those individuals wrote minutes and made up a “protocol of parish assembly of the congregation”. By these minutes the religious community allegedly had to pass to another denomination. The documents on status change were submitted to Ternopil Regional State Administration which is currently looking into a possibility to reregister the congregation of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church into that of Kyiv Patriarchate.
The negotiations of representatives of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church with state authorities, in particular, with the head of Department on Religious Matters of Ternopil Regional State Administration proved the fact that the authorities are put under pressure by the “Right Sector” which demands to reregister the congregation of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church into denomination of Kyiv Patriarchate. Otherwise it threatens to hold actions and protest rallies near the building of Ternopil Regional State Administration.
Upon that the Bashuky congregation didn’t even receive a formal notification concerning the protocol of parish assembly of the congregation about transfer to another denomination. The congregation of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church told the Ternopil Regional State Administration in writing that its administrative body – beneficiary and parish assembly – didn’t take any decisions on passing to another denomination while the documents submitted had nothing to do with the congregation of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. At the same time during the talks the head of Department on Religious Matters referred to “poorly regulated legislation in force” and impossibility to define who exactly had taken a decision about “congregation transfer”. He stated he had to overhaul the documents.
Consequently, there is a risk for the authorities to approve an illegal resolution under the pressure of the “Right Sector” with further power collision in the village and unpredictable effects. Given an official announcement made by the “Right Sector” this organization intends to offer its “services” on the way to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Kyiv Patriarchate in other villages as well, in particular, Kuliky and Kolosovo in Kremenets district of Ternopil region. In case an illegal resolution on reregistration of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church congregation in Bashuky village is adopted by the authorities it’s highly probable Ternopil region will be hit by a largescale power confrontation on the religious ground.
To learn more about religious freedom infringements committed against the UOC believers you are encouraged to consult our detailed reports and statements:
- Collection of Information Materials and Documents “Facts, Evidence and Claims Regarding Violations of the Rights of Believers and Religious Organizations of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in 2014-2016”.
- Written Statement of the NGO “Public Advocacy” within the United Nations 28th Universal Periodic Review on Ukraine.
- Written Statement of the NGO “Public Advocacy” on the violations against the Ukrainian Orthodox Church within the United Nations 37-th Regular Session.
- Statement of the NGO “Public Advocacy”