UPDATE: Freedom of Religion or Belief in Russia

MP David Anderson provides a December 2018 update on freedom of religion or belief in Russia:

Last May, the US Mission to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) reported that “raids on homes and places of worship, including those […] in Ufa […] Polyarny, […] in Vladivostok, and […] in Shuya…” were taking place and over 100 prisoners of conscience remained detained.

Russia ignored the US’ call to stop persecuting Jehovah Witnesses claiming that any “anti-extremism” measures would not “interfere with the exercise of freedom of religion.”

The persecution has not let up. This past October, the European Union urged Russia’s General Prosecutor’s Office to be open about whether crimes committed against Jehovah Witnesses will be investigated. They are still awaiting an answer.

In the meantime, tension between Russia and Ukraine continues to rise.

In a recent historic move, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church’s Archbishop of Constantinople and Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew I, announced the Orthodox Church’s right to independence from Russia. The Moscow Patriarchate has had a monopoly over Ukrainian Orthodox Christians since 1686.

The Ukrainian President, Poroshenko, called it a “victory of good over evil, light over darkness.” The move for ‘ecclesiastical independence from Moscow’ was first made by the President to Bartholomew I in 2016 and later received the backing of the Ukrainian Parliament in April. On November 3rd, 2018 the two signed an agreement establishing the independence of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

The move not only establishes religious independence, but sends a strong political message to Russia; that its annexation of Crimea in 2014 and any further military action in Eastern Ukraine is unacceptable.

The Russian Church has been strongly against the Ukrainian Orthodox Church’s independence and has warned of ‘..bloodshed if the pro-Kiev Church attempts to ta[k]e over its main churches and monasteries, such the famous Monastery of the Caves in Kiev.’

Read the report below from May 2018 for more details on Russia’s repression of religious minorities: