risu.org.ua - The US Department of State released the 2016 International Religious Freedom Report. “This report is a requirement pursuant to the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 – legislation that upholds religious freedom as a core American value under the Constitution’s First Amendment, as well as a universal human right”, said Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson during the press conference.

The release of the 2016 International Religious Freedom Report details the status of religious freedom in 199 countries and territories, and provides insights as to significant and growing challenges. 

Analyzing the situation in Ukraine, the report starts with the political statement: “In February 2014 Russian military forces occupied Crimea. United Nations General Assembly Resolution 68/262, adopted on March 27, 2014, and entitled “Territorial Integrity of Ukraine,” states the Autonomous Republic of Crimea remains internationally recognized as within Ukraine’s international borders. The U.S. government does not recognize the attempted annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation and considers Crimea still to be a part of Ukraine.

It mentions different issues and developments in Ukrainian religious landscape, church-state relations, legal initiatives, difficulty and rivalry between the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Kyiv Patriarchate. 

The report pays special attention to the situation in Russia-occupied eastern Ukrainian territories, self-proclaimed Luhansk and Donetsk People’s Republic.

“Russian-backed separatists continued to control parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts. Authorities in the “Donetsk People’s Republic” (“DPR”) detained and imprisoned members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses as well as other religious leaders. Following the passage of a law banning “sects,” “DPR” representatives seized many Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Kingdom Halls as well as a Seventh-day Adventist church. Russian-backed separatists also continued to occupy religious buildings of minority religious groups and use them as military facilities”. 

It also takes into consideration all violations of religious rights and violence 

“There were reports of physical assaults on members of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church (UGCC) and Jehovah’s Witnesses, as well as one attack on a Jewish journalist. Although there were threats of violence directed against the UOC-MP, the UOC-MP pilgrimage march from the Donetsk oblast to Kyiv celebrating St. Volodymyr’s Feast Day was peaceful, despite some acts of harassment. The UOC-KP pilgrimage march for St. Volodymyr’s Day, the UGCC pilgrimage to the Zarvanytsa Icon, and Jewish community pilgrimages to Uman and other Jewish burial sites, were all peaceful. UOC-MP leaders stated the UOC-KP continued its efforts to seize churches belonging to the UOC-MP; the UOC-KP said it was parishioners and not the UOC-KP who had initiated the transfers of affiliation. The Jewish community remained concerned about the continued existence of Lviv’s Krakivskiy Market on the grounds of an ancient Jewish cemetery. There were reports of acts of vandalism at Holocaust memorials, synagogues and Jewish cemeteries, as well as at Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Kingdom Halls along with a few reports of attacks on UOC-MP, UOC-KP and UGCC churches”.

Executive summary on Crimea describes that the “religious and human rights groups reported Russian media continued to engage in a campaign to create suspicion and fear among religious groups, especially targeting the Crimean Tatar community and the UOC-KP and the UGCC. Muslim religious properties reportedly were vandalized and Muslim leaders said police were slow to investigate”.

The full text on Ukraine https://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/irf/religiousfreedom/index.htm#wrapper and Crimea https://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/irf/religiousfreedom/index.htm?dynamic_load_id=268880&year=2016


Teachings of Christ

“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account." (Matthew 5:11 ESV)

Theophany

When You were baptized in the Jordan, O Lord, * worship of the Trinity was revealed, * for the Father's voice bore witness to You, calling You His “beloved Son”, * and the Spirit in the form of a dove confirmed the certainty of these words. * O Christ God, * Who appeared and enlightened the world, glory to You! (Troparion, Tone 1)

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen.

You have appeared to the whole world today, * and Your light, O Lord, is signed upon us, * who with knowledge sing praise to You: * "You have come, and You have appeared, O Unapproachable Light." (Kontakion, Tone 4)

Random Proverb

"Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest." (Proverbs 6:6-8 ESV)

Pray Without Ceasing

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Wisdom from the Church Fathers

Self-accusation before God is something that is very necessary for us; and humility of heart is extremely advantageous in our lives, above all at the time of prayer. For prayer requires great attention and needs a proper awareness, otherwise it will turn out to be unacceptable and rejected, and 'it will be turned back empty' to our bosom.

Martyrius of Edessa