Religion and State

Simon O'CorraJun 2, 2022

In a 2018 survey 67.3% of the population practiced some kind of Christian Orthodoxy, with the remainder adhering to Catholicism, Protestantism, Islam, Judaism, Hindu, Buddhism and with 11% non-religious or non-affiliated.

In Russia in March 2022, 150 Russian Orthodox clerics called for a halt to the invasion of Ukraine and a resumption of talks to find a peaceful settlement. Interestingly though Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Religion, and a staunch supporter of Vladimir Putin's, did not sign the letter.

St. George Skete of the Holy Dormition Svyatogorsk Lavra of the Moscow Patriarchate, BEFORE.

Still the destruction of Ukraine's churches and other religious institutions goes on unabated and with an even more targeted approach, leaving no one in doubt that Russia is seeking, not only to erase Ukraine's culture but also its spiritual life. The destruction of religious sites is, under international law, a war crime, and yet Putin disrespects these rules at every turn.

St. George Skete of the Holy Dormition Svyatogorsk Lavra of the Moscow Patriarchate,
AFTER and with a well-aimed Russian Strike.

Ruin and death are the only things that the Russian World can bring, even to those who were awaiting it. Such a pity, it was a beautiful temple. Yuriy Kochevenko, an officer of the 95th separate Airborne Assault Brigade of the armed forces of Ukraine. There are now over 100 religious sites in the Ukraine that have been damaged or destroyed. This includes four Mosques, one in Bakhmut and the others in Kostyantynivka, Mariupol and Severodonetsk.

The mosque in the city of Bakhmut before the Russian shelling which destroyed the Golden dome and the entire roof.

It is clear that the Russian Federation is trying to erase the national identity of the Ukrainian people, and in the context of this article, particularly its spiritual life. This unwarranted aggression contravenes Articles 4 and 5 of the Hague Convention for the protection of cultural property in an armed conflict and these attacks are, according to Article 8 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, deemed a war crime.

The Sultan Suleiman Mosque, Mariupol where in March 2022 it was being demolished by incessant Russian shelling despite many refugees hiding inside.

Ironically, The Russian Orthodox Church owns many of the premises that are being targeted which is bizarre in the extreme. What is at play when a country's religious body destroys itself? Something that is made actual in the beautiful golden domed churches of the Ukraine is being punished by itself. What kind of madness has infected a regime that feels this is acceptable?

Russia has ignored offers of a ceasefire during at least three important religious festivals since the invasion started and all of these have been ignored. It seems Russia's behavior is akin to an unflinchingly strict Mother's response to a recalcitrant child. Yet the Ukraine is a sovereign state, recognized everywhere, even in Russia, until recently. Where in the Russian mindset are the universal values which include that of life as an unconditional right?

Volnovakha Temple of the Orthodox Church

Legality aside, the violence shown by Russia during this invasion is in essence a desperate kind of immorality, fanaticism and intolerance. The destruction of culturally and historically significant buildings is wanton in the extreme, and begs the question in the minds and hearts of many whether humanity and sensitivity exist in the Russian psyche at present. I take you back to the words of Yuriy Kockevenko above, someone on the front line in war torn Ukraine, whose view or Russia is impacted by his close proximity to the shells and missiles which daily rain terror on the Ukrainian people and destruction on its buildings and infrastructure.

Church of the Nativity of the Most Holy Theotokos in Vyazivka.

Of course, many Russians are anti-invasionists but their voices are drowned out by the thunder of artillery and their own totalitarian state mechanisms. Interestingly, the whole tenet of this invasion has been to ‘defend Orthodoxy' and yet the systematic destruction of Orthodox churches flies in the face of that determined propaganda.

Damaged church in Donetsk

In response, many Ukrainian parishes have removed Patriarch Kirill's name from the liturgy and priests have chosen to expose Ukrainian flags. The previous pivotal role exercised by the Moscow Patriarchate is in full decline because of Patriarch Kirill's support of the invasion. The importance of these religious players is in the hands of the final outcome of the conflict, with Russia as victor imposing the Moscow style of orthodoxy, whereas with Ukraine as victor, seeing finally their own Ukraine brand. And, what of the people themselves? It is noted that many people are kneeling in prayer in city streets, finding solace where they can, even on religious phone apps. which have seen a marked increase in take up since the invasion. Rather like the early Christians, it is always possible to be with God where more than one person can meet. In war torn Ukraine that is still a possibility even though millions have fled their homeland.

Ukrainians praying in the Central Square in Kharkiv


Simon O'Corra has been a creative since childhood, working in theatre and film and also as a designer and artist. He now combines all these skills to write monologues, duologues, short and feature films and plays. He also has experience in the following: copywriting, research, mind mapping and brainstorming, script editing and mentoring. Simon is a people's person and is a great networker. He currently has a range of short and feature films in development and plays also awaiting production dates post-Covid.

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