10/31/2016, 09.45
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Kiev Orthodox and Greek-Catholics excluded from the Inter-religious Council of Crimea

by Nina Achmatova

The decision of the Russian authorities on Black Sea peninsula sparks debate. The Crimea is adapting to Russian legislation, which recognizes only  'traditional' Buddhism, Judaism, Orthodoxy and Islam.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - After a year and a half of discussions, the Russian authorities in Crimea - Ukrainian peninsula, annexed by Moscow in 2014, following a referendum not recognized by the international community - "have decided that not all religious organizations are equal in the eyes of the new administration".

 This was revealed by Religiia v Ukraine website, republishing the news from Novocrimea.ru. The reference is to the decision to include only religious organizations "of historically traditional confessions, operating on the territory of the Crimea at least 100 years" in the Council for Interreligious Relations, led by the city of Simferopol.

The initiative thus excludes Greek-catholic and Ukrainian Orthodox Church representatives from the new Council as well as other religions present in the peninsula since the early twentieth century. The Crimea is adapting, in this way, to Russian legislation according to which, the "traditional" religions are Orthodox Christianity, Islam, Buddhism and Judaism. In Russian Federation, not even Catholics or Protestants are part of the Inter-religious Council, a public organization that since 1998 has united the leaders of four religious traditions of the country.

The decision of the Simferopol authorities of represents a change from what had been decided in February 2015. Then, Religiia v Ukraine notes, local authorities had established that in interfaith Council would include all "religious associations", without specifying " traditional religions".  The detractors of the initiative claim that it was not officially explained why the "new" faiths were dropped and emphasize that it is not even proven that Buddhism was present in Crimea, already 100 years ago.

In December 2014, the Archbishop of Simferopol and Crimea of the Kiev Patriarchate, Kliment, had complained in an interview that the concept of "traditional" and "non-traditional" Churches does not exist from the religious and legal perspective.

"It is the opinion of some officials - he said - We were told that the Patriarchate of Kiev is not traditional. What does this mean? From an administrative or spiritual point of view? If we talk of the Patriarchate as an administrative entity, then this confirms again that the current authorities are violating the Constitution of Crimea, and the orders of the same Putin over civil society. From the spiritual point of view, however, if they tell us that we are not traditional, then this means that the same Orthodoxy in Russia is not traditional and therefore it is also the Moscow Patriarchate. "

Both Greek-Catholics and the Orthodox Patriarchate of Kiev immediately opposed the annexation of the Crimea to Russia have criticized the aggressive policies of the Kremlin in the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.

Concerns about respect for religious freedom in the peninsula on the Black Sea are also caused by the treatment of the minority community of the Muslim Tatars, historically present in these lands, and opposed both to the referendum and annexation. For the past two years there has been a real pressure campaign of kidnappings, prohibitions, searches and trails against their leaders, defined by many as politically motivated.

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