Posts Tagged ‘religion’

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(Un)Holy networks and tending the flock

September 7, 2016

A month or so ago, the blog wrote a few lines for Intersection (an all too infrequent occurrence due to lack of self-discipline on the part of the blog) regarding the increasing use of influence operations by The Kremlin (in Ukraine and further afield).

A few weeks ago, as August is a quite month with many erudite people on holiday, Intersection published it, probably for lack of anything better due to numerous holidaying authors.  It can be found here in English and here in Russian.

Within it the following prophecy was written – “The march was not without controversy with many in Ukraine perceiving the march of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchy to be nothing short of a Kremlin influence operation within the country, whether planned or co-opted.

The Kremlin has a habit of getting Ukraine seriously wrong, twice erroneously betting upon Viktor Yanukovych, the spectacular failure of Novorossiya, and the war in the Donbas has now turned into a war of exhaustion rather than providing swift leverage to actually change the orientation of Kyiv or, more importantly, the will and determination of the Ukrainian people to withstand The Kremlin.

As such, the march by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchy is far more likely to become a test of the Orthodox Church than it will be a test of the Ukrainian State.  The Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Kyiv Patriarchy, is now likely to benefit from an enlarged flock at the expense of the Moscow Patriarchy.

The march also raises prickly issues for His All Holiness Bartholomew 1, the Archbishop of Constantinople, New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch, with increased and intensified lobbying from the Ukrainian political and religious classes to remove the Kyiv church’s subordination to the Moscow Patriarch and grant it autocephaly to the Orthodox Church.  Should Kyiv eventually be successful, not only would a Kyiv Patriarchy radically reduce an instrument of influence for Moscow, there will also be many ungodly issues relating to property and earthly riches within the Ukrainian territory.”

The blog, for the sake of full disclosure is not a member of the Orthodox flock – all official institutionally archived documentation relating to matters Godly insofar as organised religion is concerned records Catholic (of the Roman variety) with regard the author.

However this entry is not about theology or religious practices, nor belief (in a spiritual sense).

What organised religion provides beyond such celestial matters is an earthly network.  An earthly network containing more than its fair share of unholy Pharisees.  A network that can therefore be employed for both good and evil.  The Nazi ratlines can hardly be thought of as a particularly divine purpose for a such a Catholic network.  Nor indeed was the KGB (now FSB) infiltration of the Russian Orthodox Church a particularly confidential environment to bare one’s soul – lest a case of sins possibly being forgiven if you trespass where and when told to as (never ending) penance.

The Presidential speech at the opening of the new Verkhovna Rada session, a speech perhaps notable for what is not present as much for what was,  robustly and directly took aim at the prickly issues within the above quoted prose.  Issues now unquestionably faced by the Archbishop of Constantinople, New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch.  President Poroshenko stating  “I think, all understand that we will not observe indifferently the interference of another state into our church affairs, its attempts to use in its own interests the feelings of the part of Ukrainian orthodox.

Dear People’s Deputies, I would like to thank you for the address of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew as a Primate of our Mother church concerning issuing Tomos of Autocephaly to the Orthodox Church in Ukraine. Such step was and remains necessary, taking into account the tradition according to which the position of the secular power in such issues is important for Ecumenical Patriarch. We took into account this tradition, and, I hope, His All-holiness heard us.

The polls that demonstrate that more and more orthodox Ukrainians would like to have, as it is in most of the orthodox countries, the only one local Ukrainian autocephalous church, were also taken into account.

At the same time, I would like to assure you that autocephaly does not mean appearance of state church. Nothing will be changed in the constitutional principles of interaction between the state and religious organizations and no one will limit the freedom of conscience. Each Ukrainian has and will have the right to believe in God in his own way and go to his church.”

His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew

His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew 1

The unfortunate Bartholomew 1 is now faced with very public and very direct advocacy from Ukraine from a sizeable number of the Ukrainian Orthodox flock, its clergy, and the very top of the nation’s political leadership – and undoubtedly he is also subject to equally robust lobbying against freeing Ukraine from both the Moscow Patriarchy and from within The Kremlin.

A Ukrainian autocephaly will have significant repercussions for the Moscow Patriarchy if such Ukrainian legitimacy from Constantinople is forthcoming.  As an agent of influence the Moscow Patriarchy would certainly diminish with a legitimate and equitable Ukrainian alternative for the devout when/if sanctioned by the Bartholomew 1.  The Kremlin will not be pleased, and neither will its security services.

However, (geo)politics and allowing the “network” to be infiltrated and/or used by the Kremlin spooks aside, there are also the vast earthly materialistic considerations of property and treasure at risk for the Moscow Patriarchy within Ukraine.  The question of “theo-politics” will raise its head over such church assets should the Moscow Patriarchy yoke be officially removed.

(Cynically, whilst the Catholic ratlines smuggled Nazis through the church network, perhaps the first indications of a favourable outcome from Bartholomew 1 for Ukraine will be when the Moscow Patriarchy clergy are caught trying to slip icons and other church valuables over the border to Russia.)

His All Holiness Bartholomew 1 has a very significant decision to make.

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“Faith Schools” for Ukraine

July 4, 2015

There are controversial issues that may surround “faith schools”, particularly those that are aggressively selective in their catchment. supported, funded and governed by parents that take being a zealot to the extreme, and thus provide a child with a home and school life that ill-prepares them to meet the society within which they live once a working life presents itself within a diverse and liberal workforce.

However, regardless of potential long-term issues, President Poroshenko has signed into law Bill 498 VIII which are amendments to various laws, thus now allowing the establishment of educational institutions by religious organisations.

The presidential website reads “According to this law, religious organizations registered according to the law can be the founders (owners) of vocational, secondary and pre-school education establishments. The changes also apply to out-of-school educational institutions, in which the activities of religious organizations are allowed under the condition that they are the founders of such kindergartens.”

It also makes clear that the law provides the constitutional right of religious parents or persons in loco parentis to the education of children in conformity with their own religious beliefs.

Whether President Poroshenko is aware or not, he has simply made de jure that which de facto exists.  Religiously orientated educational establishments already exist in Ukraine.  In Odessa to select one example of many, School 94 at 60 Marlazlievskaya, is, and has always been, exclusively Jewish in its student body.  School meals are kosher.

faith

Fortunately it is not an Ultra-Orthodox Jewish school that strictly adheres to the codes of Torah observance, whereby all would live a modest life – which can mean no television, Internet or media and thus more or less segregation from life outside Judaism.

What expectant joy – not – as a Catholic, when reveling in the thought of a hardcore Catholic school coming into being that would be little more than an apostolic mission of the Holy See where the teachings of Christ (according to catholicism) would permeate all areas of a child’s education.

Islamic schools naturally would have the same biases to the Koran as those exclusively for Jewish to the Torah, or Catholic schools to the Catholic Bible.

There is then the Russian Orthodoxy, Ukrainian Orthodoxy and Greek Orthodoxy.

How many US Presbyterian, Mormon, Later Day Saints, (whatever) missionaries, missions and schools will suddenly spring up from nowhere across Ukraine?

Lutheran educational facilities too?  Hindu or Sheik?

The policy questions relate to how much Ukrainian education can – or should – be outsourced (and struck from the government balance sheet) to the privately funded religious sector?

Should there be a State imposed quota in all “faith schools” for pupils not of that faith to insure a mainstream education?

Has there been any attempt at impact analysis in other nations where “faith schools” have been adopted into the education system, prior to passing this Bill into law?

How will the State insure that any “faith school” will not simply provide a student a lifetime of religiously biased education, producing a student fully equipped for a lifetime of religious segregation but absolutely no/limited familiarity with modern Ukrainian life or society?

How will the Ukrainian State reconcile a pious religious school (chose your faith) that will refute any form of acceptance or tolerance toward homosexuality, pre-marital sex, or abortion, with ratified State obligations to human rights, and the democratic demands of tolerance and inclusiveness?

Can Ukraine, as corrupt as the education system truly is, insure that a well-rounded national curriculum is going to be taught, more or less bias free in a “faith school”?  For the foreseeable future, the buying of qualifications will still be possible, so it will surely be possible to bribe any education inspector to give a school outstanding educational write-ups long into the future – even if its teaching warps, manipulates and undermines the national curriculum – not withstanding the minds of its students.

A broad and balanced curriculum is somewhat essential in preparing the youth for adult life in what the current elite proclaim will become a deeply integrated nation with Europe.

It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” – Aristotle

A broad and balanced curriculum should therefore challenge the beliefs behind a “faith school”, rather than conveniently insulating it and its students from any such challenge – for an educated mind to entertain a thought, even if not accepting it, it must first be allowed to entertain the thought.

Will the “faith schools” be allowed to narrow the curriculum to avoid generally accepted truths that clash with the relevant faith?  Will “creationalists” be allowed to do away with, or pervert/manipulate, parts of the national curriculum to fit their beliefs for example?

Perhaps your author is writing nothing short of heresy in questioning whether impact analysis was done prior to signing this law into being, or whether any thought of how policing the national curriculum will be done when it comes into friction with certain beliefs or overly pious religious interpretations in “faith schools” around Ukraine.

All of that said, your author has nothing against “faith schools” per se (unless they are extreme in their religious fervor)  – however the future of Ukraine will be found in a genuine democracy and is therefore by nature tolerant and inclusive.  A democratic Ukraine is thus by default somewhat more liberal than any collective “faith” parts, and certainly more liberal than that which may be taught in a school where any overly zealous parent chooses “the education of children in conformity with their own religious beliefs” in an institution that has been created and is funded by the overly zealous.

The questions here are not about the rights or wrongs of “faith schools”, but relate to the Ukrainian State and its ability to insure a general education that meets the requirements of both students, national interests and an inclusive and tolerant society in the decades ahead.  It is yet to deal with the issues it has within its existing educational institutions after all.

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Crosses to bear

December 29, 2014

This entry begins with a very necessary link to a particularly good blog entry by XX Committee entitled “Putin’s Orthodox Jihad”.  That is not to say all XX Committee blog entries are less than good, they are.  It’s just that the above linked is particularly good.

"Orthodox Jihad" photo from DNR summer 2014

“Orthodox Jihad” photo from DNR summer 2014

There is little that can be added to the XX Committee entry regarding the broad empirical brush strokes it contains.  Perhaps the only current theologian/”man of god” of real influence around President Putin failing to get a mention in the piece is Archimandrite Tikhon Shevkunov, Mr Putin’s personal cleric and spiritual advisor.

Archimandrite Tikhon Shevkunov is also a fully fledged member of the Izbork Club, a quasi-governmental advisory/think thank/NGO of sorts.  It is an entity notable for several things.  The stature and prominence of its membership within the elite of the elite Russian society, and the fact it contains clear crosscutting cleavages across the otherwise fractious clan system, consistently fighting against each other for prominence within the Kremlin walls and access to the body – President Putin.  It is also an entity to which many of the Kremlin ultra-nationalist and ultra-orthodox leaders belong.  Indeed, a click on the link above, and its logo and picture gallery underline the fusion of religion and nationalism.

To name a few members of this highly exclusive club; Sergei Glazyev, Dmitry Rogozin, Mikhail Leontyev, Aleksandr Prokhanov and of course Archimandrite Tikhon Shevkunov.  There is no need to roll out a full list, suffice to say the likes of Alexandr Dugin do not make the entry grade.  His “Yevraziya” entity having to claim a mere association to the Izborsk Club on its website on 8th September 2012.  Neither does Konstantine Malofeev feature as a full member – this despite their ultra-nationalist and ultra-Orthodox views, high profile and/or notable personal wealth.

There are few “non-governmental” contenders to the “influence throne” around, and with access to President Putin of more note.  Perhaps the Tagil Club of Igor Kholmanskikh, may make a similar, but less convincing, claim.

Whatever the case, the Izborsk Club was borne of Messrs Glazyev and Rogozin, in no small way to corral, manage and manipulate the thinking of the ultra-nationalist and ultra-Orthodox – with Izborsk becoming prominent post “Russia without Putin” protests in 2011.  The platform seemingly an to attempt to bring the swivel-eyed back under Kremlin control.

Anyway, this entry is not about the Izborsk Club per se, or its members connections to events in Crimea and eastern Ukraine – though they exit.  For those interested in a more detailed, citation loaded, academic look, there are several thousand words devoted to the subject to be found in the print edition of Eastern Europe, Russia and Central Asia 2015 (Routledge) or on the Europa World website for those that are members – penned by yours truly.

The point of this entry is to zero in a little on the specific issues, more broadly raised in the XX Committee, that have already manifest themselves in Ukraine of an Orthodox flavour.

Way back on 2nd June, an entry was written relating to the prominence, and then fading of, Patriarch Kirill in the Russian media.  It raised the issue of only 15000 of the 27,000 Moscow Patriarch parishes actually being in Russia – the rest being in Ukraine.  The problem therefore being that the harder Patriarch Kirill pushed the ultra-conservative Russian Orthodox line as the Kremlin would wish, the more chance there was of some of the Ukrainian parishes defecting to the Ukrainian Orthodoxy.  Thus he was temporarily being faded out of the media for not being publicly zealous enough for the Kremlin.

This matter was briefly revisited about a month later in this entry, upon the then death of Metropolitan Volodymyr.

Unsurprisingly the gradual shift to the Ukrainian Orthodoxy and the Kyiv Patriarchy under Patriarch Filaret (regardless of Canonical validity) is underway.  It is something that was almost impossible to avoid.  The Ukrainian Orthodoxy, duty bound to defend and tend its flock, led to the inevitable requirement to publicly speak out in favour of the sovereign territory of Ukraine.  It took the side of EuroMaidan quite early on – as did the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church – and both have remained steadfast in their support of Ukraine in what came to pass thereafter.

UC

The already existing Orthodox schisms are becoming slowly but surely more pronounced with 12000 Ukrainian parishes to play for.  That is a lot of worshipers, a lot of influence, and a lot of money.  Undoubtedly the beginnings of such a manifestation were foreseen by Patriarch Kirill and the Moscow Patriarchy, and in an effort to avoid it, the summer step backward into the political shadows of The Kremlin machinery as far as was practicable was taken.

That luxury will no longer be afforded to the Russian Orthodox Church by The Kremlin.  The purity and necessity of Russian Orthodoxy and its promotion is to be a prominent part of The Kremlin play-book looking forward.  A spiritual “them” and “us”, to marry up to the political “them” and “us” – regardless of whether Russia becomes something of an “Orthodox Iran” in pursuing this policy.

This leads us to the Ukrainian Catholic churches that have steadfastly supported Ukraine.  They, amongst many issues that will irk The Kremlin, refuse to acknowledge the illegal annexation of Crimea.  Quite rightly too – we are not about to witness The Holy See legitimise Kremlin action on the peninsula anytime soon.

However, the “authorities” in Crimea seem set to pick a fight with the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church and in doing so, The Holy See.  Recently, UGCC Patriarch Sviatoslav stated “Many times it was said that the UGCC and other denominations and Muslims suffer a certain pressure. Recently, the so-called Crimean government has enacted legislation according to which all churches and religious organizations must renew their registration. There are requirements that are difficult to comply with. For example, one must specify its highest body in the Russian Federation. If not, then in order to get the right to exist in Crimea, one has to undergo religious expertise in Moscow. De facto, this is law to liquidate churches that do not comply with the idea of loyalty to the existing government.

In short, the expectation is that Catholic churches in Crimea will cease to exist – as will many mosques too.

Quite how an evermore Ottoman (with a dash of “Brotherhood’) styled Turkey will react regarding the closure of mosques on a peninsula it has a far longer historical affinity to than Russia, remains to be seen.  Regardless – a dim view is certainly likely to be taken in the Vatican.

As such, several Russian Orthodoxy “fronts” are beginning to gather momentum in Ukraine.  From ultra-Russian Orthodox fighters in eastern Ukraine, the suppression of the Tatars and their Muslim heredity, to the schisms that are becoming chasms between Ukrainian and Russian Orthodox patriarchies, to picking fights with the UGCC and ultimately the Holy See.

It is perhaps somewhat ironic that Ukraine, and thus by extension both the Ukrainian Patriarchy and UGCC, find themselves more than a little reliant upon the steadfastness of the Protestant Angela Merkel in managing and maintaining the “European position” toward events within Ukraine and the region.

It is said that we all have our crosses to bear.  Some of those crosses are likely to become increasingly heavy and burdensome very, very soon.

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A matter of faith

July 7, 2014

With the death of Metropolitan Volodymyr over the weekend, a very simple question arises regarding the future of the Ukrainian Orthodoxy – its schisms – and its continued relationship and subordination to the Moscow Patriarch – or not.

Митрополит_Владимир_(Сабодан)

It is something touched upon about a month ago, when Patriarch Kirill suddenly left the media limelight – as it became clear Ukraine was not about to simply role over and accept The Kremlin vision of its future.

Metropolitan Volodymyr assumed the role of Metropolitan of Kyiv and All Ukraine 2 years after it was granted autonomy in 1990 and given the circumstances, did a particularly good job.

The Church in Ukraine is strong – or at least it was until recently.  The Kremlin shenanigans leading up to, and following, the flight of ex-President Yanukovych became a public religious wrangle rather than the behind the scenes interfaith political normative that didn’t effect most Ukrainians or how and where they expressed their belief.

Since then there seems to be a notable gathering societal momentum that is rallying behind the Kyiv Patriarchy headed by Patriach Filaret – considered a schism and canonically invalid by Metropolitan Volodymyr and the Moscow Patriarch.  This unholy public wrangling has led to societal conscious decisions at a congregational cost to the Metropolitan of Kyiv and All Ukraine.

Canonically invalid or not – any empty church is just a building.  Canonically invalid or not, a Patriarch Filaret with large and growing societal belief in his validity and the Kyiv Patriarchy presents a difficult problem for the Moscow Patriarchy and the next Metropolitan of Kyiv and All Ukraine.

One has to suspect that any efforts to pull Ukrainian society toward Moscow via The Church, given an already popular alternative, is likely to be met with the very same societal refusal that other Moscow led political and economic mechanisms have received.

 

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The politics of belief – Ukraine

June 2, 2014

Rarely does this blog touch upon anything “Godly” – it is not a blog that debates theology and never will it.

However organised religion, big or small, is subjected to internal policy and politics, as well as influence from external policy and politics in some regions of the world.  And in this arena it is safe to say this blog wanders about all things Ukrainian, prodding and poking at issues.

Whether you believe in God or not, organised religion is a man made construct, lest it would not be organised.  With organisation comes a hierarchy, and with a hierarchy comes power and influence.  We all know how such things work.  Often the reach of organised religion is far greater than the political reach of leaders for it crosses national borders.

With that in mind, it is noticeable that Patriarch Krill, advocate of “The Russian World” since the early 1990’s has become far less front and centre in the Russian (and Ukrainian) media since the annexation of Crimea compared to his high visibility during Maidan and leading up to the Crimean annexation.

In fact he has become either media-shy or has been deliberately sidelined by the media since the events in eastern Ukraine began to grab the headlines.

Why?

It probably has much to do with the religious pyramid upon which he sits atop.

The Moscow Patriarch parishes number about 27,000.  Only 15,000 of those are in Russia – most of the rest are in Ukraine.

As it seems more and more unlikely that The Kremlin will annex The Donbas or Luhansk, and even less so any reconstituted “Novorossia” that would also include Kharkiv, Kherson, Odessa etc., in the near future, Patriarch Krill has to think carefully about maintaining the influence of the Moscow Patriarch – and the income from it – within Ukraine.

Unlike The Kremlin, if he fails to tread a far more sensitive path, the 7 million or so Ukrainian Patriarchy worshipers will rapidly grow in number, whilst the number of Moscow Patriarchy worshipers will radically shrink within the territory of Ukraine – and a lot of his religious empire sits on the Ukrainian side of the border.

Therefore Patriarch Krill’s cause is not in the least helped by incidents shown above wherein alleged Russian Cossacks attacked a Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Perevalnoie,  just outside Simferopol, damaging Orthodox relics, the cars of parishioners and assaulting those attending, together with religious leaders.

Whether Russian Cossacks consider the Ukrainian Orthodox Church nothing more than a schism of the Moscow Patriarch or not, is going to be somewhat irrelevant to the Orthodox masses in both Ukraine and Russia when Orthodox relics are trashed and Orthodox parishioners assaulted.  Without doubt such incidents will undermine Patriarch Krill and the Moscow Patriarchy on both sides of the border.

It seems therefore a far more conciliatory tone from the Moscow Patriarchy is required to retain its faithful on the Ukrainian side of the border, and pacify those on the Russian side who will be appalled by Orthodox artifacts being damaged – not to mention protecting the Moscow Patriarchy assets and its income, from Ukraine.

It is though, perhaps, a conciliatory tone that may need to be far in excess of that which The Kremlin would prefer to hear.  A diversion of Kremlin and Church interests at this juncture.

This would perhaps explain the apparent “second tiering” of Patriarch Krill in the Russian media since the Crimean annexation.  He is no longer zealous enough.  It will also explain and nuanced changes in rhetoric as to what actually constitutes “The Russian World” from an Orthodox perspective over the coming months.

 

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A slip of the tongue or a slippery tongue?

April 28, 2014

A few days ago, the “Mayor” of Slavyansk called the captured OSCE Mission monitors prisoners or war.

It prompted my immediate tweet as follows:

An interesting choice of words.  Not hostages, nor detainees.  Not suspects nor even human shields – Prisoners of war.

It would suggest either a serious lack of understanding of the consequences employing the term – or that behind the scenes sits somebody pulling the strings of a military bent that uses that terminology and that the “mayor” of Slavyansk has either noted and liked or was told to use.

Yesterday, as the Ukrainian SBU have asserted for some time, a video interview with either current or certainly ex-Russian GRU officer Igor Strelkov appeared on YouTube.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8mGXDcO9ugw

If nothing else, amongst the myriad of information and disinformation swirling around the media, it did at least confirm the Ukrainian SBU statements that Igor Strelkov was masterminding events on the ground in Slovyansk.

The reappearance of Strelkov did not get missed by The Chechen Press.  Igor Strelkov managed to garner himself something of a reputation in Chechnya when serving with the 45th Spetsnatz Regiment there.

During the aforementioned interview, Igor Strelkov states that at least one third of those actively participating in the current unrest there are indeed Russians – and considering the small number actually actively involved in the unrest in Slovyansk, without those numbers it would seem improbable that such control could be assumed on the ground.

Now of those responsible for the current uprising in Slavyansk it has to be recognised there is a very diverse make-up.  Discounting professional Russian GRU and spetsnatz on the ground – which there undoubtedly are – there are also numbers provided by the regional criminal fraternity, the religious ultra Orthodox (many of those with long beards), those being paid who would be otherwise unemployed or underemployed, and a few unpaid local patriotically challenged people too.

Considering the composition of these people it is therefore hardly surprising that some acts are clearly highly professional and others somewhat comical in their execution on the ground.

Somebody has to coordinate this mix and match small group of radical people – and it appears to be Igor Strelkov and not the self proclaimed “mayor” of Slovyansk.

The question then arises whether it was on the instruction of Strelkov that the OSCE Mission monitors were captured, or whether some overzealous less aware radicals decided it was a good idea and he then was left to deal with the aftermath?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vqaSakthib0

Was it his decision thereafter to have them called prisoners of war, and thus accord them with certain rights that are probably being deprived to the dozen or so journalists, SBU officers, and randomly accused spies?

Why in particular were the OSCE Mission monitors called prisoners of war, when all others detained/kidnapped/held have not been given that specific label?

Do the radical elements and Russian backers see  international prisoners of war as likely to gain more leverage in prisoner exchanges than the other international “detainees”?

Is their negotiation worth genuinely increased because they are representatives of a formal international regional body, rather than domestic legal institutions or media outlets, or is their capture a far greater liability?

Perhaps they will be released very soon – but not before the very simple message that snoopers – international or domestic – will not be tolerated unless they are useful idiots who will advance the cause.

Was the use of “prisoners of war” a slip of the tongue or the deliberate use of a slippery tongue?  The law of unintended consequences or very deliberate consequences anticipated?

I do find it very interesting that this phrase was publicly used for the first time – and of course, any continued use has implications.

 

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Keep off the grass – Politics and religion, Ukraine

January 14, 2014

Firstly I should make a disclosure before readers continue – I am a Catholic.  Not a good one, not a practicing one, but raised one nonetheless.  God-fearing I am not.  God-respecting, or at the very least respectful of those that are far more devout than myself, regardless of the theology they follow, I am.

Secondly, writing about policy, politics, governance and democracy daily, I deliberately and where ever possible, try to avoid any smudging of the necessary secular/laicite dividing lines required/desired for a modern “western styled” democracy.

Quite simply put, democracy works most smoothly if both politics and religion keep from striding rudely and heavily across the manicured lawns of the other – just as it does with the other pillars of democracy such as rule of law and the media.

Each pillar of democracy generally has a “Keep off the grass” sign planted outside it that is widely and attentively adhered to by the other pillars – certainly within established, consolidated liberal democracies – which Ukraine as yet is not – and has never been.

Late August/early September last year I had to be in Kyiv on a matter of personal bureaucracy.  As is normally the case when there I try and catch up with friends amongst the diplomatic corps of various nations.  Naturally many conversations that bore my good lady to tears ensue.

In fact the only fun I can remember her having during such an occasion was the guided tour of a certain embassy outside Ukraine last year, during which she was confronted by a larger than life white bust of Lenin wearing a UK police officers helmet!

Naturally I will not identify the nation to which the embassy belonged, nor the nation in which it is situated – Certain readers who have been graciously allowed similar access, however, will know exactly about which I speak and to whom this eclectic display belongs.

Anyway, back to late summer 2013 in Kyiv and a topic my thoughts were asked to turn toward – flattery to think my opinion was asked indeed.  It was, at the time, the immediate prelude to a belated pro-EU Association Agreement propaganda/visibility drive.  A lengthy discussion relating to approaching “The Church” in Ukraine to look favourably upon – and discretely promote – the AA took place.  Pros and cons explored and all that.

Again the nationality of the senior diplomat will necessarily be subject to the Chatham House Rule.

Suffice to say I could see the obvious attraction to such a tactic in what is a fairly conservative and god worshiping nation – with the caveat of “treading lightly on grass”.  After all, every election cycle has Ukrainian  politicians of every party wheeling out a priest or pope in their propaganda displays for (re)election – so why not for the pro-EU movement too – if tactfully done?

All of this brings us in a round-about way, to yesterday’s very crude shot across the bows for the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church and its presence at Euromaidan.

church 1church 2

Threats to deprive it of its legal status due to priests attending Euromaidan and make-shift churches therein?

Whilst the political elite may, through various mechanisms, not entirely rely upon the masses to retain power in a transitional or stalled democracy – if labeling Ukraine kindly – “The Church” in Ukraine does indeed rely on the masses to remain relevant, and it thus follows that where there is a significant societal movement one way or another, The Church will respond (readily or begrudgingly) by moving toward that societal goal.

Last time I checked, societal demands for greater democracy where not deemed “ungodly” by the current Catholic Pope or any other Christian denomination.  Where would the Abrahamic religions be without freedom of association or speech?

As far as I am aware, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church has not called for the overthrow of the current authorities.  It has not called for revolution.  It has not called for any resignations of the current leadership.  In short, whilst present at Euromaidan, it has been very careful not to tread too heavily on the political grass.

Yet it appears the plan of the State is not only to out-wait Euromaidan whilst chipping away at its edges by various nefarious means, not only to engage in hollow calls for dialogue with the opposition and civil society, not only to tighten, rather than release, its grip on the democratic space – but it is now to take on the Holy See and its 4.5 million (10% of the population) followers in Ukraine?

Somebody thought this to be a wise and ultimately effective policy?

Really?

Seriously?

Was whomever had this idea smoking an entirely different type of “grass”?

Undoubtedly Catholicism is a cross cutting cleavage that does not respect party lines in Ukraine – and thus the  probability for this policy to be counterproductive internally of Ukraine amongst the voting constituency must be blatantly obvious to even the most retarded of policy makers.

Externally, for the Ukrainian leadership to get into a public spat with The Holy See so unnecessarily would appear to push the boundaries of stupidity beyond belief – whether you are a “believer”, or not!

Fortunately it seems somebody is beginning to realise just how erroneous and counterproductive this threat of prosecution has been – a rowing back from a very stupid policy position is apparently underway.

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