Crimea: Is religious freedom violated or not?

  • Crimea
  • 20.Aug ‘19
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On June 5, 2019, the media received information about the arrest of believers in the Sevastopol section of the Jehovah’s Witnesses religious organization. #JW

A few days later, there was information about the detention of 8 members of the Hizb ut-Tahrir al Islami in Crimea. Moreover, news about the detention of supporters of the latter has repeatedly appeared in the media since the beginning of 2019. Some publications reacted quite aggressively, claiming the oppression of the rights of believers in Crimea. Let’s try to figure out what is going on in Crimea. When Crimea was part of Ukraine in the status of an autonomous republic, the Ukrainian authorities did not pay too much attention to these territories. The research conducted showed a low level of support for the current authorities among the local population, a high level of protest sentiments, as well as an active growth of pro-Russian sentiments.As a result, the detachment of the central government allowed the local religious communities to look for ways to develop. One of these ways was the “path to the South”: the main aim was strengthening contacts of representatives of the Crimean Tatar community with Islamic leaders in Turkey. Often, when considering religious processes in the Crimea, the focus is on Islamic issues, while in fact, Protestant Christian religious communities are developing most dynamically there.

If you refer to the official statistics, you can see the following:

At the beginning of 2014 in Crimea there were 2083 religious groups of different types. Among them 1409 were registered as legal entities, and 674 acted without registration. As a percentage, the communities were distributed as follows: Orthodoxy – 42.7%; Islam – 29%; Protestantism – 20%. Of the total number the organizations 953 shall be Christian, 353 are Muslim, 13 – Jewish, 9 – Karaim, 6 – Orientalist (5 neo-Hindu and Buddhist), 15 new religious movements, (NRM), and 17 – other religious organizations. In Sevastopol, Protestants appeared to be even on the second place (Orthodoxy – 53.3%, Protestantism – 27%, Islam – 5.8%). It stands out that there are a large percentage of Protestant communities in Crimea. So how did it come? Generally, in Crimea Protestantism has existed at least since the 19th century, but it has not played a significant role in the life of the peninsula until recent times. The active mission, the youth-led style of worship, individual attention to each parishioner, and active social work (especially for the rehabilitation of drug addicts) attract residents to the communities that now exist even in fairly small localities.It is obvious that the political factor also plays its role in the wide spread of Protestant communities. Probably some groups receive the support of private organizations, which in some way or another are in contact with some special services. The benevolent attitude of a part of the inhabitants towards modernized and European Christianity can at the right moment play its positive role for these services. After 2014, the legislation regulating the activities of religious organizations in the Crimea has changed, which led to some enhance of monitoring. Which consequences did it have?

1) Rr-registration according to new standards for the religious organizations.

2) The authorities have become stricter in monitoring the implementation of the established norms in the case when a religious organization is not registered, but still operates. As it was with the International Union of Evangelical Baptist Christian churches in October 2017, and with the Church of “Grace” in February 2019.

3)Has appeared a list of organizations, whose activities are prohibited on the territory of the Russian Federation (mentioned above Hizb ut-Tahrir al Islami and others).

The result of this work was the halving of the current religious communities in Crimea. As at 2018, 750 out of 1409 registered religious organizations remained on the territory of the peninsula.

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