A report published October 28 by a London-based think tank analyzes efforts by Orthodox Churches to expand their spiritual and temporal influence in Armenia, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. The constitutional separation of church and state has been “watered down” in all four countries, the report contends.
The report – titled Traditional Religion and Political Power: Examining the Role of the Church in Georgia, Armenia, Ukraine and Moldova – documents how, in some instances, positions espoused by Orthodox clergy are at odds with basic tenets of Western liberalism, especially tolerance of minority rights. It repeatedly cites the vigorous opposition of most Orthodox Churches in the former Soviet Union to LGBT rights.
“To varying degrees in all four countries, the churches are determined to defend their newly won status in society against cultural challenges, such as potential competition from liberal secularism,” states the report, which was produced by the Foreign Policy Centre.
In addition, the report examines the role of the Russian Orthodox Church as an instrument of the Kremlin’s foreign policy in Russia’s “near abroad.”
“We have chosen to release this … report on the increasingly unholy relationship between the church and politics in Georgia, Armenia, Ukraine and Moldova at a time when religion has never been more central to the future of these countries,” Adam Hug, the report’s chief editor, told EurasiaNet.org in an emailed statement. “Western policymakers need to understand the growing political power of the church as a conservative, often anti-Western force in these societies, as it’s a message Moscow has heard loud and clear.”
The report makes several recommendations, including calling on regional governments to strengthen regulatory frameworks concerning church activities, and urging the EU to adopt a more vigorous stance on the protection of minority rights in countries that are seeking to integrate with Brussels. Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine have all signed association agreements with the EU that provide for closer cooperation as a step toward possible membership.
“At present many of the [Orthodox] churches are open to the charge of being institutions that were oppressed [by Soviet authorities] a generation ago, but are now the oppressors of minority faiths and sexual minorities, failing the ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you’ golden rule of Christian teaching,” the report asserts.
The Open Society Institute in New York provided assistance for the production of the Foreign Policy Centre report. EurasiaNet operates under OSI’s auspices.