The Australian Federation of Ukrainian Organisations (AFUO) strongly condemns the Government of Ukraine’s threatening of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC) with court action and being banned from carrying out its religious activity.
The Deputy Minister for Culture Mr Kochan in a letter dated January 3, 2014 to the head of the UGCC Patriarch Sviatoslav warned the Church faced court action and being banned from performing religious activity in Ukraine if it did not cease its religious activity at the Euromaidan.
Clergy of various denominations lead daily prayers and offer Liturgy in tents constructed around the Euromaidan.
The clergy have indicated that they see this as their role to serve their communities, provide spiritual support and be with them at this time of peaceful protests.
In response to the Government’s threat Patriarch Sviatoslav held a press conference today and referred to a letter received from His Holiness Pope Francis regarding the teachings of the Church stating that the clergy must smell the scent of their sheep – their congregation.
Patriarch Sviatoslav compared this to the smoke of Euromaidan, the smoke from fires keeping people warm, as being the scent of the community and where the Church must be.
“The actions of the Ministry of Culture and through it the Yanukovych regime is another indication that the current regime must be removed. Its methods of thuggery, heavy handiness and threats cannot be tolerated by the Ukrainian people nor should it be tolerated by the international community,” Mr Stefan Romaniw Chairman of the AFUO said today.
“The UGCC is a church of martyrs. It was a church which operated underground, in the catacombs during the Soviet years of communist oppression and survived .
No doubt it will not only survive this absolute heinous attempt by the current regime to silence it , but it will grow stronger,” Mr Romaniw said
“President Yanukovych and his regime continue living in a time warp believing they can recreate the terrorism of the former Soviet Union. They fail to fathom that the world in now watching.” Mr Romaniw said
“The AFUO calls on the Australian Government to condemn this latest action of trying suppress religious freedoms.” Mr Romaniw said
“The AFUO also calls on the Australian Government to introduce sanctions against the leadership of the Ukrainian Government . This will send a strong message that the Australian and international way is truth, democracy and freedom of speech and religion. Australia will defend these principles and enforce sanctions against those who attempt to take away or threaten these principles.” Mr Romaniw said