JWilsonUkraine

Unresolved Questions Remain

In 1996, the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and religious organizations (AUCCRO) was created in order to “unite the efforts of the Churches and religious organizations for the spiritual revival of Ukraine, the coordination of inter-church dialogue, both in Ukraine and abroad, participation in the drafting of regulatory acts on issues of state-confessional relations, the implementation of comprehensive charitable events.”

On January 26, 2017, the All-Ukrainian Council of Religious Associations (AUCRA) was established with similar goals. All confessions that have joined it can be described as either longstanding but minor denominations in the religious space of Ukraine, those registered by the State not long ago or just relatively new cults and modernist-progressive movements that have separated from more traditional religions.

The Ukrainian Association of Religious Scholars (UARS), which is also a part of AUCRA, is intended to ensure closer familiarity of other members of the organization with each other, to establish cooperation between them and to involve religious associations in dialogue with society.

According to the AUCRA members, the potential of many religious associations existing in Ukraine is yet to be achieved and used more effectively. Meanwhile, these organizations have significant capacities for the development of Ukraine, especially in social and charitable fields, establishing international connections (since they have millions of believers and supporters in the world),” UARS Vice-President Prof. A.Sagan said.

The members of the AUCRA emphasize that their organization’s distinction from the AUCCRO, which they call the “mezhdusoboychik” (closed-door deal), is its inclusiveness, readiness to accept new members, and, by the words of religious scholar L.Filipovich, its adherence to postmodernist values in general that were manifested in Euro-Maidan. “What percentage of people took part in the Maidan? Let’s calculate: it’s ten percent,” she notes. So, – according to L.Filipovich’s words at the press conference in Ukrinform news agency on January 26, – the task of this Council is to “upgrade” our society, our people and other religious organizations to form a new vision of the world and to fit into the context dictated by modern life.

Will representatives of larger denominations respond to this appeal? Highly unlikely. And I doubt that even the mediation of UARS will help to engage them in the work of the new organization. The declared pursuit of modern philosophical trends that requires religious denominations to accept the diversity and equality of various faiths, contradicts the very nature of religious consciousness.

Besides, there are no extra-religious unifying factors, because the “mainstream” confessions and marginal minorities have very different problems and tasks in the relationship with society and the state. The aim of the AUCCRO members is to bring the voice of believers as a significant part of society to the authorities, and the goal of the members of the AUCRA is to somehow draw attention to themselves.

Note how the members of the AUCRA represent themselves in the booklets on their site (except the missing booklets of OSIDU RUNViry (Society of the Ukrainian Native Faith) and UARS). Three of them write about their pro-Ukrainian position and express support for the Maidan and democratic values. Three organizations write about the fight against the “destructive legacy of the past”. There are also three writing about their connections with believers abroad. Two entities emphasize their adherence to tolerance and mutual respect between the confessions. Two focus on their differences from other churches of the same religion. One organization details their faith. Indeed, why bore the audience (mainly patrons from the Presidential Administration (APU) and the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine, I guess) with excessive content!

It is striking that in addition to the booklet with general information about the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is, like those of other AUCRA members, there are six more pages on the Baha’i Faith on the AUCRA’s website. Moreover, the booklet of the Hare Krishnas is for some reason placed in the SlideShare account of the Baha’i Community of Kyiv. All this separates the Baha’is from other members of the Council. The Bahais pose themselves as fighters against “rudimentary and obsolete traditions and rituals, dogmas and prejudices, legacy of previous religious teachings and doctrines”.

Thus, we can suppose that they play an active role in the AUCRA. Overall, it does not seem surprising: the religious syncretism of the Baha’is is so akin to religious scholars! And their struggle with traditions is quite in line with the ideas of L.Filipovich. The only thing that may be of interest is whether such a fight meets the norms of interfaith relations proclaimed in Ukrainian Law “On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations”. And anyway, how on Earth can such tolerant Baha’is and especially religious scholars dare to determine which religious teachings are “obsolete”?

The results of the meetings are also noteworthy. The meetings are the main form of the AUCRA’s activity and should be held every three months. At the moment, we only know about the inaugural meeting on 01/26/2017 and the meeting on 06/01/2017. It was also reported about the meeting of the Council’s Secretariat held on 03/23/2017. The decisions taken at these events were primarily about the promotion of the organization itself, April 2 interfaith “Prayer for victory and peace”, the fate of religious scholar Igor Kozlovsky held captive in the “DNR”, and the death of Cardinal Lubomyr (Huzar).

How can we expect a great contribution to the development of international relations, social and charitable spheres in our country from those whose goal is attracting public attention and who is still unable to produce high-quality content about their confession, not mentioning the preparation to meet as prescribed in the adopted Provision?

Obviously, the main task of the AUCRA is to artificially increase the role of renewed, liberal religious minorities by drawing attention to them and promoting their ideology in public sphere with the aim of religious reinforcement of the post-Maidan rhetoric and in order to distract attention from the economic demands of the Revolution of Dignity.

Well, AUCRA builds the authority of the marginalized religious organizations acting as a strictly public association and not the State entity. However, one of AUCRA’s founders, Alexander Sagan has previously served as a scientific consultant to President Yushchenko, advisor to the Presidential Secretariat for Humanitarian Affairs and head of the State Committee for Nationalities and Religions. And even now he is being included by the officials of APU and the Ministry of Culture in the discussion on issues related to the activities of religious organizations. So, with a high status of a 2nd rank public servant and being an expert on the political science of religion, Mr. Sagan can’t be unaware of political magnitude and consequences of such meddling into the system of social values. Thus, he deliberately and purposefully tries to transform the religious space of Ukraine, quite possibly with an unofficial approval or even request of the state authorities.

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