A second Russian Orthodox priest is facing criminal charges for opposing Russia’s war against Ukraine.
‘I have committed no crime,’ says Father Nikandr Pinchuk. ‘I am a priest and have the right to denounce evil, regardless of who is involved in the political situation.’
According to Norway-based Forum 18, Father Nikandr described the war against Ukraine as a ‘mortal sin’. He pointed out that the Russian Federation was also purposely destroying Orthodox churches.
He is now under investigation for ‘discrediting’ Russia’s armed forces.
He is the second church leader to face prosecution for opposing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on religious grounds. It’s claimed the first was Nina Belyayeva, a Baptist and Communist municipal deputy, who has since had to flee Russia.
She denounced the invasion as a war crime which had ‘nothing in common with Christian beliefs’.
She believes she could face a jail sentence of up to 17 years if convicted, and intends to appeal.
As other Communist deputies tried to shout her down Nina Belyayeva spoke out at a municipal meeting: ‘A Christian is not someone who wears a cross,’ she declared, ‘but someone who follows Christ, for whom the word of God – the authority of Christ – is much higher than the authority of the president.’
She later told the Moscow Times: ‘If I kept silent, I would not be able to respect myself. I wouldn’t be a true Christian and human being.’
Other Russian Orthodox priests are also under arrest or investigation.
Father Ioann Kumoyarov, was arrested in June for disseminating ‘knowingly false information’ about the Russian military. He’s being held in detention at St Petersburg’s Kresty prison.
And Father Ioann Burdin, was fined a month’s wages for making remarks online and at a Sunday sermon condemning the invasion of Ukraine. He stressed the importance of the commandment ‘thou shalt not kill’. He has now left Russia.
Eight people who quoted from the Bible or used religious imagery in public protests against the war have also been fined for ‘discrediting’ Russian armed forces. Two others have been charged.
According to one human rights agency, more than 16,000 Russians have now been detained for opposing the war. Even so, clergy and others continue to protest on religious grounds. ‘They often face detention, prosecution, and the loss of their jobs,’ says Forum 18.
The rights group says the Russian authorities have blocked a Christian website recording deaths and kidnappings among Protestant church members in the Russian-occupied city of Mariupol.
Despite the clampdown, Forum 18 say small numbers of clergy and others continue to protest.
Please pray for Christians in Russia who take seriously the biblical injunction to: ‘Speak up for those who have no voice.’ – Proverbs 31:8
Pray for courage and wisdom, and that the voices of those who speak truth to power will be heard in high places.