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

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6 ESV)

Exaltation of the Cross

Save Your people, O Lord, and bless Your inheritance; * grant victory to Your Church over her enemies * and protect Your commonwealth by Your Cross. (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.

Willingly lifted up on the Cross, O Christ God, * bestow Your compassions upon the new commonwealth that bears Your name. * By your power grant joy to Your Church, * granting her victory over her enemies. * May she have your Cross as the weapon of peace * and the invincible ensign of victory. (Kontakion - Tone 4)

The Church celebrates the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross on September 14th.

Nativity of the Mother of God

Your nativity, O Virgin Mother of God, * heralded joy to all the world; * for from you has dawned the Sun of Righteousness, Christ our God, * and, having annulled the curse, He gave the blessing * and by destroying Death He granted us eternal life. (Troparion - Tone 4)

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

Through your holy nativity, O Immaculate One, * Joachim and Anna were freed from the reproach of childlessness, * and Adam and Eve from the corruption of death. * Delivered from the guilt of sin, your people celebrate this as they cry out to you: * "The barren woman gives birth to the Mother of God, the Nourisher of our Life." (Kontakion - Tone 4)

The Church celebrates the Feast of the Nativity of the Mother of God on September 8th.

Random Proverb

"One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want." (Proverbs 11:24 ESV)

Pray Without Ceasing

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

Wisdom from the Church Fathers

Our distresses are notorious, even though we leave them untold, for now their sound has gone out into all the world. The doctrines of the Fathers are despised; apostolic traditions are set at nought; the devices of innovators are in vogue in the Churches; now men are rather contrivers of cunning systems than theologians; the wisdom of this world wins the highest prizes and has rejected the glory of the cross. Shepherds are banished, and in their places are introduced grievous wolves hurrying the flock of Christ. Houses of prayer have none to assemble in them; desert places are full of lamenting crowds. The elders lament when they compare the present with the past. The younger are yet more to be compassionated, for they do not know of what they have been deprived. All this is enough to stir the pity of men who have learnt the love of Christ; but, compared with the actual state of things, words fall very far short....

Saint Basil the Great
(Letter 90)