The parish of St. Archistratigus Michael from Butyn village, Zbarazh district, Ternopil region has existed since 1991 (when Ukraine was proclaimed independent) and appears as a sole legal successor to the rights and liabilities of the parish mentioned. There have never arisen any property disputes or claims since it is the only registered parish in Butyn village.
As a matter of fact, on February 23rd 2014 they began to implement an illegal seizure scenario by means of secret collection of signatures of Butyn villagers and making amendments to the Statute in force of the parish following a familiar practice of illegal seizure in Novostav village.
At first, the conflict of interests was aroused by village head A. Zhyla who behaved in a hostile and aggressive way blaming the beneficiary, father Vitaliy Huriev, for the fact that he prayed for the deceased but didn’t mention separately those who had died during Maidan event.
The act of provocation continued until 28.02.2014 when the initiative group of the villagers turned to the parish head and demanded that worships be performed in Ukrainian (note: the centuries-long recognized worship language of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is liturgical Old Slavic). Upon that 7 particularly Ukrainian-conscious villagers even resorted to violence making the residents put their signatures in favor of the Ukrainian language. It’s noteworthy the village gathering that took place on 28.02.2014 and was attended by 160 people didn’t keep minutes and the issue of changing the church jurisdiction wasn’t discussed then (audio record is attached).
On March 7th 2014 aggressively-minded Butyn villagers led by the village council head arrived at Ternopil bishopric demanding to meet with its chief. On the same day there was a gathering on the church grounds at which the demand of aggressive villagers to replace the beneficiary was satisfied and father Volodymyr Slobodian was appointed new beneficiary of the parish. The worships were agreed to be performed in Ukrainian. So the conflict seemed to be exhausted.
On October 5th 2014 on Sunday there began a new round of events when the church was illegally seized by representatives of the so called Kyiv Patriarchate. The entrance to the church was guarded by strange men wearing balaclavas, who called themselves “Pravyi Sektor”(“Right Sector”) and barred the parishioners and the senior priest from going inside. The police tour of duty was quietly watching the whole process. The Sunday worship was eventually sabotaged. After these unlawful actions, there were collected over 70 signatures of Butyn residents who testified their loyalty to the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church and spoke against conversion to the “Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Kyiv Patriarchate”.
To date law enforcement authorities refused to open a criminal case against illegal seizure of the church which belongs to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church because according to them “they didn’t find any acts of infringement”. This resolution of the authorities which explicitly challenges the rights of the faithful has been litigated for 5 months now. Obviously, the court procrastinates with defending the violated rights of the Orthodox congregation in Butyn village.
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”