Religious freedom under threat in Ukraine, Catholic leader warns

In an interview this morning with the international Catholic charity, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Fr. Borys Gudziak, the rector of the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv, warned that “in Ukraine, religious freedom is under threat.“

Even though there is no Soviet-era style violent persecution, “the disregard for civil liberties and human rights on the part the current regime as well as the extreme poverty of the population, resulting from corruption and mismanagement of the old power clans” make it impossible for families “to lead a normal Christian life,” said the university’s rector.

The dramatic poverty and unemployment rates have forced around 5 million Ukrainians to go abroad in search of work. Mothers and fathers often have to leave their families behind in order to support them with earnings from abroad.

Fr. Gudziak  has pointed out that despair experienced by so many Ukrainians has led to rampant alcoholism which has brought down life expectancy to 55, one of the lowest rates in Europe.

He also notes that under such poverty a Christian education is unaffordable.

Speaking of the upcoming elections in Ukraine, Fr. Gudziak said that “the Church stands by the people who are linking their dignity on these elections, because dignity is rooted in truth. If the true results of these elections are denied, it means that not only civil rights, but also the voters’ dignity are being trampled underfoot.”

He noted that “the peaceful protest of millions of Ukrainians in almost all of the country’s cities shows that people see their freedom and dignity jeopardised. People are now pinning their hopes on the power of truth.”

Fr. Gudziak expressed his concern over “Moscow’s open efforts to meddle in our internal affairs,” referring to rumours that Russian special forces have been in the country working to influence election results.

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