According to data presented by the Kyiv-based Institute for Religious Freedom, almost 500 religious sites have been damaged in the first year of the war.
“As a result of the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine, at least 494 religious buildings, theological institutions, and sacred places were wholly destroyed, damaged, or looted by the Russian military”, has said the Institute for Religious Freedom in a report.
The entity, based in Kyiv (Ukraine) found that most churches, mosques, and synagogues were destroyed “in the Donetsk region (at least 120) and Luhansk region (more than 70)”.
The Kharvkiv region, with another 50 destroyed temples, has also seen many attacks against freedom of worship.
[photo_footer]Data and graph: IRF.in.ua
The seizure of religious buildings since the start of the Russian invasion ordained by President Vladimir Putin, on 24 February 2022, led in many cases to the “use as Russian military bases or to conceal the firing positions of Russian troops”.
The religious denomination that suffered most destruction was the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (affiliated with the Moscow Patriarchate), with 143 buildings affected.
But the combination of evangelical churches even surpasses that figure. At least 147 evangelical temples have been damaged or destroyed since the start of the invasion. 75 of them were of Pentecostal churches, 49 of Baptists, and 22 belonged to “other evangelical churches”.
[photo_footer] Data and graph: IRF.in.ua
Other confessions such as the Jehova’s Witnesses (94) and Orthodox Church of Ukraine (34) and the Seventh-Day Adventists (24) also documented a loss of their buildings.
In the presentation of the report in Washington D.C. on 1 February, the executive director of IRF, Maksym Vasin, stated that believers and clergy often became targets for the Russian occupation authorities because of the Ukrainian language, belonging to a different denomination than the orthodoxy of the Moscow Patriarchate, or for any other manifestation of Ukrainian identity.
“During the Russian occupation, believers of evangelical churches in Ukraine are particularly affected”, the IRF said. “Russian soldiers repeatedly threatened the total physical destruction of all evangelical believers, calling them ‘American spies’, ‘sectarians’, and ‘enemies of the Russian Orthodox people’”.
Read more about the report of the IRF, including testimonies of church leaders in Ukraine, on the Institute for Religious Freedom’s website.
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