During the 41 session of the UN Human Rights Council, which runs from June 24 to July 12, 2019 in Geneva, the human rights organization Public Advocacy raised thorny issues of violations of the rights and afflictions of canonical Orthodox Churches in Ukraine, Montenegro, Macedonia and the Middle East. The organization has sent reports on the above facts to the UNHRC, which are published on the website of the UN documentation center.
President of NGO Public Advocacy Oleg Denisov in his Statement paid attention to the Address of Ignatius Aphrem II, Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and All the East and John X, Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and All the East – the two Patriarchs of Orthodox Churches of the Middle East. Their appeal to international organizations concerns the 6th anniversary of abduction by terrorists of two Orthodox hierarchs in Aleppo, Archbishop Youhanna Ibrahim and Metropolitan Paul Yazidi. The world must not forget about this tragedy and should spare no effort to release them.
In addition, human rights organization Public Advocacy, on the basis of its consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations, held a separate meeting (side event) during the 41st session of the UN Human Rights Council, which was attended by the head of the Representation of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) to European International Organizations, Bishop Victor (Kotsaba) of Baryshevka, lawyers and representatives of archdioceses of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro, diplomats, representatives of international organizations.
The participants of the event described the circumstances of violations of the believers’ rights in their countries, including the attempts to adopt discriminatory laws, block worship services on the part of government officials.
According to the participants, the Montenegrin government supports the Montenegrin Orthodox Church, unrecognized by other Local Churches, and the violations of the rights of Orthodox believers in Northern Macedonia do not cease in this region. In fact, despite the decision of the European Court of Human Rights, this church has never been registered.
Ukraine has adopted a law on the forced renaming of the UOC; 13 dioceses and monasteries of this denomination have not been able to receive state registration for more than 2 years; numerous offences are committed against believers of the UOC, and religious hatred is fomented.
After Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople had signed the Tomos on granting the rights to a new religious denomination of Ukraine – the so-called “Local Church of Ukraine” – a new wave of violations of the rights of Orthodox believers of the UOC began in Ukraine. At the same time, the world has not yet seen the full texts of the decisions of the Holy Synod of the Constantinople Patriarchate on granting autocephaly to the Ukrainian Church, therefore, no one can be completely sure of the legality of these decisions.
The participants of the event stated that there are several ecclesiastical jurisdictions in the world now being affected by the arbitrariness and violations of human rights. These violations are caused by an artificial division of society on ethical grounds or canonical identity. In order to halt these violations, representatives of religious organizations, alongside the international community and civil society, need to make efforts to influence the state authorities of the aforesaid countries and politicians who must ensure true respect for human rights in their territories.