Voices from Russia

Friday, 31 July 2015

Re-Registration of Religious Bodies in the LNR Won’t Interfere With Services

00 lnr lugansk peoples republic official roman cherneshenko 300715


LNR Advocate for Cooperation with Religious Organisations and Spiritual Issues Roman Cherneshenko spoke with us about sensitive questions such as registration of religious organisations, rumours about alleged religious persecution, interaction of church and state, sects, and spiritual education.

Lugansk Information Centre (LITs) 

What’s the situation with registering religious organisations?

Roman Cherneshenko

Today, we’re ready to re-register and license religious organisations. For example, we have some serious questions about previously issued Ukrainian documents. Earlier-archived files seem to have disappeared. Apparently, someone wanted to cover their tracks. Only a few important documents remain. Therefore, the State Committee on Religion and Spirituality will address all questions on compliance regarding the issuance and verification of previously issued documents. From the start, [Chairman Plotnitsky] gave a clear understanding to all traditional and non-traditional religions, to all religious bodies, that we don’t intend the Committee’s activities and work to be punitive. We’re not going to close down anything or anyone. However, we won’t allow any religious group in the LNR to carry out actions harmful to our Republic, nor shall we allow any subversion against it, nor shall we allow anyone to attack the values underpinning the cultural and spiritual foundations of our society.


The spiritual foundation of our society is Orthodoxy. Does the Committee consider that?


Of course, the LNR recognises this fact. We have a high regard for the work and activities of the Orthodox clergy in our Republic. We can safely say that our priests proved themselves an extremely worthy lot during the period of active hostilities. There are plenty of examples.


What do you think of the schism in the Church? What would you say about the destructive activity of the Kiev Patriarchate and some of its bishops?


Here, [Chairman Plotnitsky’s] position and my stance as his advisor is clear… we believe that the Church should stay out of politics. Simply put, our foundational principle is that the secular state shouldn’t interfere with spiritual life. Of course, in reciprocal fashion, churches shouldn’t interfere with the secular state. Accordingly, there’s never been a question raised about any intervention in or closure of any of the churches or parishes of the so-called “Ukrainian Orthodox Church Kiev Patriarchate (UPTs/KP)” in the LNR. In fact, it’d be easy for us to do just that… just as our opponents are doing to the parishes of the UPTs/MP in the Western and Central Ukraine. They hope that we’d do just that, however, we wouldn’t let that happen. The people will make up their own minds about the Church. If they want to go to a particular church, why, let it be. We aren’t a punitive body.


Okay, but what about the Uniates?


As far as Uniates go, our position is very simple. In fact, we understand that many religious bodies left the LNR during the phase of active hostilities. It’s certainly distressing when clergy leave their flock. However, what happened, happened. We have no evidence about illegal activities by Uniates or their priests. Accordingly, their claims about hindrances to their work are false. We ask them to tell the truth, that no obstacles to their free work exist here. We ask ourselves all the time, “Why don’t they tell the people in the Western Ukraine that everything’s normal here?” On the contrary, they constantly yak about ballot stuffing, that we want to vilify them, to take them over, and so on. They’ve flooded the internet with horror stories about Cossacks and our soldiers. I checked out such information personally, I went to each site, saw things for myself, and none of this talk has any confirmation. We heard no complaints from parishioners about any shenanigans.


What about other denominations and religions?


Our religious mosaic is incredibly rich as we have many denominations and faiths. Re-registration will give us a clear picture of the number and composition of religious groups now present in the LNR. We’re preparing draft regulations now, and we’ll submit them for consideration and approval by the LNR Peoples Soviet. One should understand that the procedure of re-registration wouldn’t hinder the work of churches and parishes. We pose this question to our opponents, “In your opinion, are we or are we not engaging in repression and confrontation?” Really, we’re not going to do it. We’re going after no one; we’re closing no one down. We listen to everybody and everybody’s cooperating. For example, we actively coöperate with the Muslim community. We have complete mutual understanding with them. We meet with believers from all churches. We all listen to each other; we all find a common language.


Yes, but what about totalitarian sects and destructive cults?


As in any country, there is the unconditional rule of law and the statutes. Sects and cults aren’t new… they’ve been around for centuries. They’ve always been, they are, and they’ll always be… that we know right well. If a group’s actions are destructive in nature, if they pose a danger to life or health, or if they undermine the foundations of the state and society, then, surely, we’d take action. We’d use the law enforcement agencies… the MVD and the MGB… and the courts would take part, too.  We’re fully capable of giving a legal response to any destructive activities. I won’t rest until I uproot all the totalitarian sects and cults. In addition, we have should create an independent advisory panel to give us a qualified expert assessment of any sect. After all, LNR universities have Faculties of Theology and Religious Studies; we have scholars and theologians with a competence in these areas. In any case, before we made a particular decision, we’d empanel an independent commission to avoid any insinuations of bias or insufficient study in respect to any religious body.


What can you tell us about religious culture and education?


Our main task is to introduce into our schools’ curriculum a syllabus based on [the Russian] Fundamentals of Orthodox Culture and Ethics. This year, our Ministry of Education introduced several Russian courses [in this] as a part of the Fourth Class during the second semester. There were about six programmes available, but we chose the one that seemed most suitable to us. By order of [Chairman Plotnitsky], acting under recommendations from clergy, the LNR Ministry of Education will introduce these courses [in all schools] effective 1 September, the start of the new school year. We also have to deal with training instructors. The Dahl University theological faculty is now gathering a body of instructors [to teach educators how to present this course]. In addition, Archangel Michael Lugansk Theological University and the Academy of Culture are working on this, too. We appreciate these efforts; we offer them our maximum assistance so that we’d have enough properly trained qualified specialists and theologians. Another important issue concerns advanced training of the clergy. Therefore, this year, Metropolitan Mitrofan Yurchuk of Lugansk and Alchevsk blessed a number of young priests to study in secular universities. I’d also like to speak to parents, who so often try to pass on the basics of simple faith. If you want our children to succeed in life, they need peace, kindness, and love… give them the space to decide for themselves whether they want to believe or not. Two thousand years of Christian culture undergirds our civilisation. If our kids don’t learn that, they’ll plunge into incivility and ignorance. Give your kids the possibility to have the best chance at spiritual growth and cultural development.

29 July 2015

LITs Lugansk Information Centre



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