Global Lutheran body and UN deeply concerned about Ukraine situation

(Photo: REUTERS / Shamil Zhumatov)A religious image is hung on a back of an armed pro-Russian separatist guarding the regional administration headquarters in Luhansk June 18, 2014. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko signalled on Wednesday he aimed to put a pro-Western and business-friendly stamp on his leadership and set out peace proposals for the rebellious east involving a unilateral ceasefire by government forces. A spokesman for government forces, Vladyslav Seleznyov, said in the course of fierce exchanges of fire near the small town of Schastye in Luhansk region more than 30 separatist fighters had been "killed and wounded". Three soldiers had been killed on the government side and 9 wounded, he said. The figures for separatist casualties could not be independently confirmed. But a Reuters journalist in Luhansk saw rebels loading empty pine coffins onto a lorry which then joined a convoy heading to Schastye.

The main governing body of the Lutheran World Federation has expressed deep concern at the conflict in Ukraine saying that many of the people feel helpless and cut off from the international community.

The Council of the Lutheran World Federation, meeting in Medan, Indonesia June 11-17 said it is "deeply concerned about the conflict in Ukraine which has intensified since December 2013 and has already resulted in nearly 400 deaths."

It warned that the conflict, while centered in Ukraine, has the potential of destabilizing all of Europe.

The statement made no mentioned on the inter-ethnic conflict of Ukraine and its link to affiliation with the larger churches in the country.

The LWF statement Wednesday also came the same day the U.N. Human Rights' Commission released a new report on Ukraine detailing a breakdown in law and order in the east and that points to "worrying trends in Crimea."


A reign of fear, "if not a reign of terror" is in place where pocket groups of armed militia carry out torture, sexual violence and detention in Eastern Ukraine, said the U.N. rights official who heads the region.

Gianni Magazzeni, the U.N. Chief of the Americas, Europe, and Central Asia Branch at the Geneva-based Commission for Human Rights said the situation in pockets of eastern Ukraine is dire.

The LWF statement said Lutherans had learned from the German Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ukraine, "that many of the Ukrainian people feel helpless and cut off from the international community and that many are receiving misinformation about the reality in Ukraine."

It said Lutherans in conflict areas "have expressed fear that no one is willing to respond adequately to their situation, placing economic interests over the protection and preservation of human rights."

Therefore, the LWF Council, together with the German Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ukraine and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of European Russia, "affirms the unity and indivisibility of the Church of Jesus Christ everywhere regardless of political divisions."

They called on all churches in the LWF to "pray that God may grant wisdom to all decision-makers to establish peace, stability and common understanding between the Ukrainian and Russian nations."

This they said was payers were needed for the sake of the people of Ukraine and in order that the current conflict does not escalate or spread to other places in the region.

They also called for prayers for the German Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ukraine and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of European Russia that "they may continue to witness to unity in Christ despite political boundaries and divisions."

In Geneva U.N. rights official Magazzeni, said, "Eastern Ukraine is very big part of the country involving millions of people.

"People can be shot on site at checkpoints. They can be shot on site if they support Ukraine unity," or those carrying food to Ukrainian solders can also get shot he said.

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights issued its new report on Ukraine that describes the breakdown of law and order in the areas held by armed groups in the east of the country.


The report, covering the period from May 7 to June 7, is the third to be produced by the 34-strong UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission, since it was deployed by the High Commissioner in March.

A total of at least 367 people have been killed in the past two months, most of them in eastern Ukraine, as well as 86 military personnel said Magazzeni.

The report has increasing evidence of abductions, detentions, torture, and killings – as well as a number of "worrying trends" emerging in Crimea.

In the period covered by the report, it states that the human rights situation in the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk has continued to deteriorate.

It notes the presence of armed people and weapons has increased in both regions, and that "Representatives of the 'Donetsk People's Republic' have recognised the presence within their armed groups of citizens of the Russian Federation, including from Chechnya and other republics of the North Caucasus."

"The escalation in criminal activity resulting in human rights abuses is no longer limited to targeting journalists, elected representatives, local politicians, civil servants and civil society activists," the report states.


It refers to abductions, detentions, acts of ill-treatment and torture, and killings by armed groups that are now affecting the broader population of the two eastern regions.

These are now marked by an atmosphere of "intimidation and consequent fear."

"Residents in Crimea known for their 'Pro-Ukrainian' position are intimidated," the report states. In addition many Ukrainians there may face increasing discrimination, particularly in education and employment.

The report notes that the indigenous Crimean Tatar people, who are mainly Muslims, face prosecution and limitations on the enjoyment of their cultural rights.

"During the reporting period, the situation of all residents of Crimea has deteriorated with regard to their rights to freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly, association, religion or belief."

Regarding faith in Ukraine, on May 16, a senior official in the Moscow-based Russian Orthodox Church told Reuters news agency that religious tensions are deepening dividing lines in Ukraine's crisis.

Metropolitan Hilarion said the tension was triggered by rival churches taking political sides and Kiev slighting the Russian Orthodox Church.

Hilarion, head of the Russian church's foreign relations department, said other churches had clearly lined up behind the Kiev government and he cited religious differences for its decision to refuse him entry to Ukraine the week before.

In Ukraine there is the Moscow-backed Ukrainian Orthodox Church along with a breakaway Kiev-based Ukrainian Orthodox Church and another local Orthodox movement.

Both of the latter churches are judged schismatic by Moscow and then there is the Greek Catholic Church, linked to Rome.

The Moscow-backed church is spread across Ukraine but strongest in the east, Reuters reported.

The local Orthodox churches and the Greek Catholics are found more in the center and west, where the Ukrainian language and national sentiment are stronger.

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