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Christian Persecution Watchdog Says Russia is Weaponizing Religion in War on Ukraine

“Russia Weaponizing Religion in War on Ukraine Says Christian Persecution Watchdog,” Global Christian Relief, July 10, 2023:

SANTA ANA, Calif., July 10, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — Russia has been waging a brutal campaign against Christians in Ukraine since the beginning of the invasion, cautions Global Christian Relief, America’s leading watchdog of Christian persecution. Russian soldiers have destroyed, damaged or looted nearly 500 religious buildings and houses of worship in Ukraine, and killed, imprisoned or tortured at least two dozen religious leaders.

“These targeted attacks carried out by Russian forces against Ukrainian Christians and religious minorities essentially constitutes a cultural genocide campaign,” said David Curry, CEO of Global Christian Relief. “Churches are soft targets, which means they are typically exposed and have little security against an invading army. They hold significant spiritual and cultural value for communities and destroying them is a deliberate attempt by Russia to demoralize Ukrainians.”

Leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church have helped justify the war by giving it their blessing and condoning the violence through rhetoric cloaked in religious language. These leaders also view the Orthodox Church of Ukraine as illegitimate, giving an additional pretext for permitting the invasion.

Religious freedom has declined in Russia since the late 1990s. Christians and religious minorities often face fines and repercussions for missionary activities that are considered illegal under unclear laws. The U.S. State Department has designated Russia as a Country of Particular Concern for engaging in systematic violations of religious freedom….

His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew said in March 2023: “The worst – at least from our point of view, from the standpoint of religion and faith – the leadership of the Moscow Patriarchate humiliated itself by submitting unconditionally to the Russian state and by unequivocally supporting the bloody military invasion. We have consistently and persistently condemned both the damaging war by President Putin and the immoral support by Patriarch Kirill, who even gave a ‘spiritual dimension’ to hostility and bloodshed, assuring innocent soldiers that they will find their reward in heaven if they subdue their brothers in Ukraine.”

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