Updated: Aug 15
(By Guest Contributor, Tony Nastas, Chernivtsi, Ukraine. Tony is a preacher, a businessman, a husband, a father of two sons, a patriot and a sincere follower of Jesus Christ.)
As an Ukrainian who has lived his whole life in Ukraine, I was very surprised to see what is being told in the United States about what’s going on in Ukraine.
Some commentators and reporters seem to know the situation in Ukraine better from behind the Atlantic ocean. I am really amazed by their gift of perspicacity.
Their claims were that President Zelensky started persecuting church in Ukraine. Knowing that this matter is of vital importance for many people in the United States, I can boldly say that nothing could be further from the truth.
The situation is quite simple.
There are two kinds of Orthodox churches in Ukraine. One is totally Ukrainian and the other one is Russian-Ukrainian as it has had its headquarters in Moscow since the times of the USSR. They did some rebranding a few years ago and deleted some words from their official name to pretend they have nothing to do with the state that kills Ukrainian people today.
This Russian Ukrainian Orthodox church has always been ruled by Moscow through their own appointed high-priest in Ukraine. Their top highest priest in Russia by the name of Kirill strongly supports the war in Ukraine, encourages it in his sermons and blesses the Russian soldiers to kill Ukrainians in our own country. He is a great supporter of Putin and does everything possible to deceive the Russian people to go to Ukraine and fight unfaithful people who betrayed their historical Orthodox faith because they claim that the Russian Orthodox church in Moscow is the only true church and the mother of all Orthodoxy on the territory of the former Soviet Union.
So, this Russian Ukrainian Orthodox church rented a huge Orthodox complex on the territory of the Ukrainian national reserve.It consists of many historical temples on the beautiful banks of Dnieper (Dnipro) river in Kyiv.
This whole complex belongs to the Ministry of Culture of Ukraine. Last December this Russian Orthodox Church was informed that their rent is not going to be prolonged for the next year and they need to leave by March 29, 2023.
Of course, they didn’t like it. This place has always been a place of attraction for tourists and orthodox believers. Abandoning this complex will cut off a big chunk of their income from selling tickets to see the 122 relics of the holy people and monks that were buried there centuries ago. Also they sold precious icons, candles and books, provided paid services there like baptism, weddings and funerals. It is very prestigious to have these kinds of ceremonies in a sacred place like this. The local priests are also providing special prayers for any need you might have. For a nice fee/donation, of course.
To make things short - they started blaming the government for being thrown out of this historical complex and being persecuted by President Zelensky. As this is a Russian church, Russia and its news reporters and some western reporters that do not know the real story picked these claims up to show that there is some kind of persecution in Ukraine.
In Ukraine there are dozens of different Christian denominations. And all of them have such freedom of religion and faith that not many western countries can brag about. We can preach and teach the Bible on the streets, in parks and squares, in any community and concert halls, in prisons and jails, orphanages and nursing homes. And yes, in public schools too… More and more private Christian schools are being started every year and Ukrainians love that! Many parents are ready to pay for their children to go to a Christian school rather than to a public school which is free of charge.
Let me be very clear on this point, Zelensky supports Christianity in Ukraine like no other previous president. His speeches for the Ukrainian people contain Bible verses. He supports Christian morality throughout his all presidential cadence. His Christmas speeches for both groups of Christians that celebrate it on December 25 and January 7 (by Orthodox people mainly) were outstanding. God answered our prayers and we have the best freedom of speech and freedom of religion in Ukraine ever. I am telling you this with the authority of a Christian who was born in the times of the Soviet Union, lived through many KGB attacks on our little Baptist church, imprisonment of our preachers, illegal searches in our apartment (because we were involved in underground Bible and Christian books printing). I know what persecution is all about. I experienced it personally.
So, if a religious organization doesn’t want to leave a property that doesn’t belong to it, that is not even close to any kind of persecution. On the contrary, this Russian Orthodox church in Ukraine supports the aggressor state, and sends huge finances earned in Ukraine to its headquarters in Moscow. And what Moscow does with it, you know already…
Is this Democracy under attack?
I understand the times and circumstances Americans live in today. Very tough times. But supporting freedom and democracy has always been a priority for all descendants of your great forefathers. They wanted freedom for you. And we, Ukrainians, were finally able to get that freedom 32 years ago when we announced our independence. And we had to protect it and fight for it ever since. This war clearly shows that our eastern neighbor wants to enslave us back into the new Soviet Union. Today we are paying for our freedom with the blood and lives of our best sons and daughters.
We are not settled in democracy as strong as you are. But we definitely have it. We, the Ukrainian people, elected Zelensky as our President by 73% of all the votes. Would you like to have a President with such support? Recent surveys show that the support of Zelensky reached 92% last fall because of the war. We have strong opposition, we have dozens of different parties that have equal rights to be elected to our parliament.
Zelensky used to be a comedian. It was a shock for most of the people around us, especially the Russians. That means that anybody, including me, can become a president! It doesn’t matter what you are. If Ukrainians vote for you, you have all the chances. It’s unthinkable for many!
Vladymyr Zelensky was elected by the Ukrainian people because he wasn’t a part of the old crooked professional politicians that were well rooted in corruption, lies and populism. He is one of us. He was not imposed by somebody from outside to make him do what the majority politians do. He is just a simple guy. But he built more roads and highways in Ukraine in just two years than previous presidents couldn’t do in thirty years. Ukraine just started blooming, but the brutal war brought destruction to our land.
But Zelensky has not become our idol. We criticize him, we can tell good and bad things about him anywhere we like, but right now we are proud of him. He didn’t flee, he took a stand and the Ukrainian people stood up with him to fight the invaders. The world was surprised.
In two years we may have another president. And that is totally fine. We may have the same president which is also Ok. But he will stay there not longer than two presidential terms according to our Constitution. Unlike some everlasting dictators like Lukashenko in Belarus and Putin in Russia none of our presidents will become a dictator. We are done with them!
This is what democracy is about. We fight, we make mistakes, but every day we become stronger as free people. Freedom is what we value the most. I think we have proved that many times throughout our recent history. And we want to stay together with the free world, with you, dear Americans, all together.