The involvement of Protestant Christians as well as Greek Catholics in the recent political developments in Ukraine causes concern to Russians as well as to the Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church.
Not only is the new acting Ukrainian president, Aleksandr Turchinov, a Baptist, but there are a number of people belonging to other Protestant denominations playing a major role in the new government, writes Paul Goble, a longtime specialist on ethnic and religious issues in Eurasia, in The Interpreter magazine (March 25).
Among all former Soviet countries, Ukraine is reported to be the one where evangelicals have been the most successful; it has sometimes even been described as the ‘Bible belt’ of the region, although there are fewer than 1 million Protestants out of 45 million inhabitants. Ukraine sends more evangelical missionaries abroad (starting with Russia) than other post-Soviet countries.
The perception that Ukrainian Protestants are growing and that they are allegedly encouraged from the United States makes Russians nervous. Many in Russia fear Protestant influence on political changes, Goble adds, making it a potential enemy of both the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian State. It remains to be seen how far such topics might be used by Russians for propaganda purposes against Ukraine. If this would be the case, it could also have a potential for a backlash against evangelicals in Russia itself. Another significant concern revolves around the role of Greek Catholics.
Uniates have long been seen with much suspicion by Orthodox Churches. The fact that pro-Western feelings are the strongest in those areas where Uniates are strong only confirms such fears. The head of the Department of External Relations of the Russian Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Hilarion, has accused their leaders of calling for the West to intrude into Ukrainian affairs, reports Orthodoxie.com (March 27).
(The Interpreter, http://www.interpretermag.com – Orthodoxie.com, http://www.orthodoxie.com.)