An analyst on religious liberty declared that Russia's invasion of Ukraine will endanger the latter's freedom of religion.
In her article on The Christian Post, Arielle Del Turco shared about Russia's oppression of the churches in the areas it gained control, such as the Crimea and Donbas region - a predicament that is bound to happen to Ukraine if Russia succeeds in its conquest.
Del Turco is the assistant director of Family Research Council's Center for Religious Liberty, analyzing the effective policy solutions on international religious freedom. She graduated from Regent University, earning her master's degree in Government and bachelor's degree in Politics and History.
"The full scope of the consequences of Russia's invasion is still unknown. But one thing is clear: any control that Russia or Russian-backed forces have over Ukraine is dangerous to believers not affiliated with the Russian Orthodox Church," she said.
Del Turco revealed that the churches unaffiliated with the Russian Orthodox Church in Donetsk, Luhansk and Crimea are being persecuted. In Luhansk, worshipers are punished for simply gathering without permission. Moreover, houses of worship are raided and some Christian literatures are banned. While in Crimea, the properties belonging to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church are confiscated and demolished, among other forms of persecution.
Given Russia's restrictive policies towards religion and its current action on Ukraine, the assistant director suggests that the Ukraine Religious Freedom Support Act, which was introduced in January 2021 in the United States House of Representatives, must be prioritized.
Observing Vladimir Putin's statement on Ukraine last month, calling it "an inalienable part" of Russia's "spiritual space," Del Turco pointed out that he is "eager to reassert" the influence of the Russian Orthodox Church and Kremlin on the country it is invading.
Further, she revealed that Putin has been using the Russian Orthodox Church in promoting his political agenda. In return, the Kremlin has given the church prominence in the country. The church, however, has lost its independence. Reportedly, its leadership has even appeared to endorse Putin's position in the invasion of Ukraine.
"Ukraine's shared values with the West, including religious freedom, are worth defending. Ukrainian Christians and others are wholeheartedly joining the fight. Western leaders should take every reasonable step to contribute to their success," Del Turco stressed.
In conclusion, the assistant director reiterated the importance of Ukraine's victory against Russia in order to uphold the religious freedom in the country. Sharing the statement of George Kovalenko, a priest of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Del Turco urged the people to join him in prayer.
"We pray to God to provide us with wisdom and strength to defend good against evil," Kovalenko stated.
In April 2021, Putin signed Russia's amended Religion Law. In the changes, the missionaries, religious teachers and clergies educated abroad are required to receive additional education relative to the federation's "basics of state-confessional relations."
But the majority of the religious organizations in the nation expressed their concern over the law's threat to religious freedom. Olga Sibireva, the head of Religion in Secular Society Project, said that the law is merely Russia's attempt "to strengthen its ability to interfere with the internal activities" of religious groups.