11 July 2016

Today, at the initiative of His Beatitude Metropolitan Onufriy, Ukraine is holding an unprecedented spiritual event, the Sacred Procession of Orthodox believers traveling from Pochaev and Svyatogorsk to Kiev to demonstrate their aspiration for peace and unity in the country. During their pilgrimage, 20 thousand believers will be joined by thousands of others to demonstrate their position and to jointly call upon the Lord to end the war and fratricide, and to return peace and stability to our land.

I resolutely declare that I wholly and fully support the initiative of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which is the only Church to show a true union of the East and the West of the country, and I share the hopes of tens of thousands of pilgrims participating in this religious procession and of all Orthodox believers in Ukraine.

Prayer is the only weapon of the procession's participants. There will not be any violence, any use of force or calls for the overthrow of the current regime. The procession is peaceful in nature and is intended to show our commitment to peace, not to escalate tensions. We want to live in a united country and strongly condemn any acts aimed at the dismemberment of our country or limitation of its sovereignty.

However, hysteria has been deliberately whipped up around the Sacred Procession. Provocative statements about the political nature of the Procession appear on social networks and in the media. Attempts are being made to present believers as enemy agents, to threaten the participants of the Procession with methods of force, and to intimidate them with threats of violence.

The low-point of this campaign was the statement by the Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada, Andrey Parubiy, at today's Coordinating Board Meeting of the Parliamentary Factions. At the meeting, Parubiy openly called for a crackdown against those citizens who support the Ukrainian Orthodox Church’s peaceful, non-political initiatives. The Verkhovna Rada Speaker's statement was interspersed with blatant lies about some mythical "Cossacks and supporters of the Russian world with St. George ribbons" allegedly accompanying the believers on their way. This statement, voiced by the leader of the supreme legislative body of the state, is another piece of proof that the current authorities shamelessly trample on the Laws of Ukraine. They consider slander and discrimination against our citizens based on their religious position as a normal practice.

Mr. Parubiy's appeal to the law enforcement bodies looked even more cynical when considered against the background of the fact that since the end of 2014 neither the law enforcement agencies in particular, nor the authorities in general, have given any clear response to the raider attacks and takeover attempts on churches belonging to the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Indeed, they even acted as instigators and promoters of these illegal acts. Let me remind you of the laypeople defending their constitutional right for freedom of conscience. The authorities continue to ignore the stirring of inter-confessional strife in Ukraine, and criminal cases are being quashed.

All this suggests that the “Party of War” is interested in maintaining the status quo. Through its ridiculous and clumsy attempts to "mobilize" the electorate, it is deliberately fanning the flames of war, intolerance and hatred in an already charged Ukrainian society. The authorities understand that this is their trump card. They are scared. Yet, I believe that sooner or later, with the Lord's help, peace and harmony will be restored in Ukraine, and then people will call the leadership of the “Party of War” to account for everything: for the complete impoverishment of our people, for the collapse of the economy, for draconian tariffs, for corruption and finally for their total inability to run the country. In the meantime, I urge all reasonable citizens of Ukraine to ignore their statements, because the real strength of Ukrainians is in unity, harmony and peace. I believe in the triumph of reason and common sense.

As for Mr. Parubiy, I believe that after this he is not worthy of holding the senior position of the Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada, a body that is designed to represent the interests of all citizens of the country. Our faction has initiated the establishment of a special parliamentary commission that will assess the statements by Parubiy with respect to the facts of incitement of inter-faith, inter-ethnic and inter-regional hatred. In addition, we intend to start collecting signatures for his resignation in the near future.

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