The Ukrainian Church just begins realizing its public role

The problem of relations of religious organizations and politics has been troubling the society long since, but during the recent presidential election in Ukraine it was aggravated the most – representatives of churches were actively involved into the presidential campaign, the government used the authority of church as a tool of political struggle.

In February, after the presidential election, in Kyiv a round table took place, dedicated to the problem of participation of church activists in politics, where representatives of governmental structures, many confessions and research experts gathered together to work out recommendations for the process of depoliticization of religion and declericalization of politics in the Ukrainian society. 

On April 25 at the press-conference in the “Ukrinform” participants of the round table presented the book “Church and politics; from the presidential elections of 2004 to the parliamentarian elections of 2006” and presented to the society generalized suggestions of participants of the round table regarding improving the situation in relations of the church and government.

As participants of the press-conference said, representatives of religious organizations treated the fact of presence of the church in the society differently, especially in its political life. However, despite the pluralism of views, all participants of the round table condemned the use of churches in political electoral campaign in support of one of the presidential contenders.

In the opinion of Liudmyla Fylypovych, director executive of the Center of religious information and freedom, the head of the chair of the Religious studies department of the National Academy of sciences of Ukraine, Doctor of Philosophy, the round table clearly showed that the Church is now on the way of revision of its place and new function in the society. “Subjects of the state-church relations can reach mutual success only if they are partners, when both the church and state will have the same responsibility and won’t interfere into affairs of one another”, – she supposes.  

The problem of involving the Church into the political life of Ukraine during the presidential election was caused, in the opinion of experts on religion and representatives of religious confessions, first of all by imperfectness, indistinctness of the Ukrainian legislation regarding regulation of the religious issue. Therefore within the framework of the round table recommendations of its participants were suggested concerning amending the acting legislation presented in the systematized form to the people present at the press-conference. 

Among others, the new version of the law “About freedom of conscience” is to fix the character and forms of admissible activity of religious organizations in the society and determine the conditions when a priest can participate in political life as a citizen. It is also necessary to determine responsibility of the both, religious organizations and the state, for violation of legislative norms in the domain of separation of the Church and politics. 

The issue of liquidation of the State committee for religions (formally liquidated by the decree of the President dated April 23) was also mentioned.

There were many viewpoints of participants of the press-conference regarding who is to take its functions (fully or partly), but the majority were inclined to the opinion about the necessity of a special body for mediating relations of the church and state, protecting interests of churches before the society.

It is essential that the new structure should pay more attention to working out preventive mechanisms of using the church in political interests of the state and make conditions when religion and politics can develop parallel and influence the society only within its authorities. 

Olena Holiuk


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