MÓNIKA PALOTAI AND KRISTÓF GYÖRGY VERES: The Destruction of Churches and Religious Communities in Ukraine Matters | Opinion
As you enter Kyiv’s Peace Temple Church’s main hall, the first thing that strikes you are hundreds of boxes from the World Food Programme, waiting for distribution to those in need. Reverend Volodymyr Kondor explained to us that not so long ago the same hall was packed with hundreds of people seeking shelter from Russian President Vladimir Putin‘s barbaric onslaught. In Ukraine, churches have become civil society’s safety net in addition to serving as houses of worship.
Arms do the job on the frontlines, while civil society, and especially church organizations, have been tackling the humanitarian consequences of the invasion—taking on the job of state authorities overwhelmed by the war. These cultural heritage and religious sites in Ukraine have been often deliberately targeted by Russian forces causing widespread destruction. The reason is twofold. Firstly, invaders are well aware that churches have been functioning as the central organizing force to mitigate damage to civil society; secondly, Russian forces presume that priests and pastors are agents of the Ukrainian government.