About the CIS and Europe

9 July 2010, 12:07 | Viktor Yelenskyi's column | 3 |   | Code for Blog |  | 


 Spending the end of June in Kyiv, the head of the Synodal Department for Relations Between the Church and Society of the Moscow Patriarchate Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin met with deputies of the Supreme Council of Ukraine from the Party of Regions and the Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc. During the meeting Fr. Vsevolod noted that “…in the countries of the CIS, more and more the model of legislation on religion, typical for most European countries, is consolidating, and it foresees selective support by the society and state of one or more religious communities that play a role in the life of a country.”

Information agencies for now are not reporting if the archpriest was just informing the deputies about the main trends in developing legislation on the freedom of conscience, or if he was expressing his own satisfaction with the changes that occurred on the vast expanse, or if he decided to incite the Ukrainian law-makers into action. All, so to say, are making their way to Europe, working hard on their legislative systems, and you are lagging behind...

Indeed, many member countries of the CIS rather substantially changed their legislation on the freedom of conscience. Sometimes these changes were accompanied with heated discussions, protests in the religious circles, law defenders, and even leaders of international states (as, for example, it was during the passing of the currently active Law of Russian Federation 1997), sometimes the changes went almost unnoticed (except for those, certainly, who felt it on their skin, like, lets say, in Kazakhstan or last year in Azerbaijan).

Legislation was changed, was passed on the eve and immediately after the fall of the USSR, on the wave of rejecting the Soviet policy of uprooting religion and suffocating everything alive in the religious environment. Then few thought that churches and religious communities, which only yesterday suffered the same as the rest from the horrors “of socialist freedom of conscience,” today could be placed in unequal positions.  That some of them have to prove their right to exist, and others by the government which announced itself democratic, are openly perceived as unwanted. Even harder to imagine was that in some of the “new democratic countries” Brezhnev rebuking the religious communities would seem to be the “era of tolerance.”

To consolidate, like in the countries of the CIS “model of legislation on religion, typical for most European countries, is consolidating,” at the very least, a sufficient specific conception about what is happening in this Europe is needed, above all, certainly, in the sphere of religious freedom and church-state relations.

It is absolutely true that in many countries of Old Europe a certain church (churches) has special privileges. This happened historically and although, lets say, the Swedes decided that from 2000 the Lutheran Church should not be a state church, many western European communities expressed their support for protecting the special status of “our Church.” For some this is a part of their identity, for others it is a symbol of their national unity and manifestation of Duchness, Englishness, Norwegianness, or Hellenism. But a special status of one of the churches not only does not mean discrimination of all the others, but stipulates that religious minorities are obligated to receive equal to the majority protection for freedom of conviction and their members the freedom to express their religious sentiments.

Instead, on the territory of most countries of the CIS privileges for some is accompanied by persecution or discrimination of others. Here structures against terrorism and extremism disrupt prayerful gatherings of absolutely peaceful Baptists; deport from the country international missionaries; do not register Protestant communities, and forbid unregistered ones to operate; arrest religious activists and those who cannot serve in the army because of their religious convictions; forbid entire religious trends and very often turn a blind eye to the physical violence on religious minorities. About all the “lures” of this model, which was created on the expanse from Brest to Vladivostok and from Baku to Andijon, the Kemerovo Muslims, Ryazan Baptists, Suzdal Orthodox who are not subordinate to the Moscow Patriarchate, imprisoned Jehovah’s Witnesses in Armenia or Azerbaijanis, who decided to be baptized can describe in detail. Not even mentioning that one CIS country – Uzbekistan – is among the world leaders in the level of religious freedom restriction and the most brutal policies concerning the religious rights of a human (about Turkmenistan, which is not a member of the CIS, I will not mention now). In other words, it is difficult to say what Fr. Vsevolod had in mind when he spoke about the nearing of the CIS model to the European one...

One more European tendency of developing church-state relations and legislation in freedom of conscience cardinally opposes the one that gained strength in most of the CIS countries. Here religious freedom is being abridged; in Europe it is being extended. Privileges that once were for one church are being extending to others, including religions that are not traditional for the country and those that did not play a “special role” in the life of a country. For example, in Portugal a concordat between the government and the Holy See in 1940 with an addendum in 1971 foresaw special and very substantial privileges for the Catholic Church. In 2003 the Religious Freedom Act extended all the privileges to all recognized religious communities in Portugal.  

In Luxembourg until 1998 the Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish communities received financial support from the government. In 1998 this support was extended to the Russian and Greek Orthodox churches, and in 2003 to the Romanian and Serbian Orthodox and Anglican churches.  

In Belgium the salary and pension of the clergy, the price for construction and renovating religious buildings, other privileges of the Catholic Church, were extended to the Protestant, Jewish, Anglican, Islam, Russian and Greek Orthodox churches, and also,  to the Association of Secular Humanists and the Philosophic Association of Belgium.

In Italy the privileges that the Catholic Church are being extended to other religious communities, which are concluding special agreements called Intesa with the government. Besides, the absence of such an agreement in no way can restrict the freedom of religious conviction by the believers of this or that community. And, of course, if the community of a certain religion does not want to register its status, the prosecutor’s office, security service, or police will not persecute this community, and its leaders will not be fined eight times the average monthly income, as was the Baptist pastor Oleh Voropayev from the Kazakhstan city of Pavlodar along with other Baptists. Besides, even in those western European countries where the governments are not in exaltation from the activity of some religious groups, their members nevertheless receive the proper protection. So, amongst others, the judicial system works exemplary and it cannot be imagined that its decisions will not be executed.

In 2009 a very authoritative research center Pew Forum, which specializes in studying religion in its global communities, political and economical manifestations, researched the restrictions of religious freedom in the world. One hundred and ninety-eight countries of the world were studied on how the individual and collective human rights to believe in that which a person feels is worth believing are protected and how they are persecuted. For objectivity in the analysis, 20 indicators were used that concern the character of the legislative restrictions, degree of interference by the government in the activity of religious organizations, the possibility to publically express religious convictions, for missionaries, changes in the religious independence, existence/absence of discrimination on the religious grounds, and so on. From the gathered data for the Government Restrictions Index was compiled. The more ‘yes’ responses to questions about various restrictions, the higher the index, and thus, of course, a lower level of religious freedom. The result: For western European countries the index ranged from 0.1 (San Marino) to 4.6 (Greece). In the Netherlands the index was 0.4, in Portugal – 0.6, Finland – 0.8, Sweden and Switzerland – 1.0, Norway – 1.2, Spain 1.9, Austria – 2.7, Great Britain and Italy – 2.2, Denmark – 2.4, Germany – 3.2, France – 3.4, Belgium – 3.9.

And now to compare this index with that of the one from the members of the CIS: Armenia - 4.0, Moldova - 4.6, Kazakhstan - 5.0, Azerbaijan - 5.1, Tadzhikistan – 5.5, Russia - 6.0, Belarus - 6.1, Uzbekistan – 8.0. According to level of restrictions the countries are classified into four groups – from 6.7 to 8.4 – very high restrictions, from 4.5 to 6.6 – high, from 2.4 to 4.4 – moderate, from 0 to 2.3 – insignificant.

Ukraine has an index of 2.6. Rather decent, even if to take into consideration the numerous and well-known problems in legislation and in the relations between religious organizations and the government (especially the local government). Herewith, in Ukraine there are churches that played a special role in the history of the country and in forming the Ukrainian culture. They truly need legislative changes, but hardly those that would worsen the situation for other religious communities. Repressing some does not mean the flourishing of others. Parliamentarians are capable of helping the most influential churches by laws that would guarantee the presence of religious organizations in the public sphere; justice in returning to them property that was estranged by the Soviet government; support in protecting and help in developing the theological, artistic, and architectural heritage created; the maximally decrease the dependence on the government. Churches, finally, to an even greater extent need laws which would curb corruption in the country, give it just legal proceedings, strengthen civil freedoms, bring it from the shadow economy. In such a case law-makers truly end up in the European, and not the CIS trend.

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  • firemark | 6 July 2010, 11:46
    comment comment

    Дуже цікаво. А що нас чекає в найблищі 2-5 років? Бо зачастив до нас патриарх Кирил.

  • Паломник | 3 July 2010, 22:29
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    Цю статтю потрібно було назвати "Про Азіопу і Європу",бо так воно більше відповідає дійсності.

  • dima | 2 July 2010, 20:00
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    все вірно

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  • Ігор Затятий | 8 April 2020, 23:23

    КПЛ -джерело зарази?!

  • Ігор Затятий | 6 April 2020, 05:08

    Грішний, дуже грішний Паша Мерседес. Бог сприяв його захворюванню через його "людський гріх".

  • sai | 5 April 2020, 11:50

    Лубідя ?

  • Paraeklezyarh | 5 April 2020, 09:21

    Можливо хоч випадок інфікування ієрарха заставить "віруючих" серйозно ставляться до рекомендацій влади щодо збереження свого здоров'я та своїх близьких. А у поважних представників

  • bopa | 4 April 2020, 15:26

    Для вірних поважного віку ситуація не так уже й незвична. Вони пам'ятають, коли міліція, у формі і без, пильно слідкувала за участтю вірних у святкових богослужіннях. Вже не говорю про вірних

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