KYIV – During his official visit to Kyiv on March 4, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met with representatives of the Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations and praised their peacekeeping efforts and the active civic role played by churches in Ukraine, reports the Institute for Religious Freedom.
Kerry also commended the Council’s position denouncing the separatism provocations in Crimea and other cities of Ukraine, and their condemnation of military intervention on Ukrainian territory. The meeting between the U.S. Secretary of State and religious leaders took place on Instytutska Street in Kyiv, where the participants gathered to lay flowers and commemorate the activists—called Heaven’s Hundred—who died. John Kerry and the Ukrainian church representatives also visited the other barricades on Maidan.
According to the website of the UGCC [Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church—Ed.], the American diplomat spoke directly with many ordinary people on the barricades. People had the opportunity to express their views on events in Ukraine over the past three months, and especially on February 18-20, during which almost 100 innocent people were killed.
Secretary Kerry recognized the huge peacekeeping role of Ukrainian religious institutions in the events on Maidan, stating that during the very complicated period Ukraine has recently experienced, Ukrainian Churches demonstrated their critical and active role in ensuring peace and harmony in Ukraine among the different churches, the different regions of Ukraine, and the various peoples who inhabit them.
Religious leaders assured Secretary Kerry that Ukraine has no problem with religious rights and freedoms and no interfaith or interethnic conflict. They also pointed out there is no threat from the new Ukrainian government toward the Jewish community in Ukraine. Kerry responded “Yes, I can see that.”
Archbishop Sviatoslav (Shevchuk), Primate of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, thanked Mr. Kerry for coming to Ukraine and asked for international support for the Ukrainian people and the Ukrainian government.
During his meeting with Kerry, Jacob Dov Bleich, Chief Rabbi of Kyiv and Ukraine and president of the Union of Jewish Religious Organizations of Ukraine, called on the international community to support Ukraine more effectively and proposed a summit of the Group of Seven (G7) in Kyiv.
The rabbi said that despite escalating claims by Russian mass media, practically no anti-Semitic actions in Ukraine have been reported. He also pointed out that the first act of anti-Semitic vandalism in Crimea occurred after the arrival of Russian troops.
The following religious leaders also attended the meeting with the U.S. Secretary of State: Patriarch Filaret (Denysenko), Primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kyivan Patriarchate; Metropolitan Mefodiy (Kudryakov), Primate of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church; Viacheslav Nesteruk, chairman of the Evangelical Baptist Union of Ukraine; Mykhailo Panochko, senior bishop of the Church of Christians of Evangelical Faith of Ukraine; Sheikh Akhmed Tamim, Chairman of the Spiritual Directorate of Muslims of Ukraine, and other religious figures.
The Institute for Religious Freedom, Ukraine
Translated by Anna Mostovych, edited by Maksym Vasin and Robin Rohrback