Report: US State Department points to religious problems in Ukraine

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Aug. 1, 2012, 12:59 p.m. | Ukraine — by Interfax-Ukraine

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton answers questions from the press during a press conference with her Indian counterpart following the US-India Strategic Dialogue at the State Department in Washington, DC June 13, 2012.

The U.S. Department of State has published its International Religious Freedom Report for 2011, which points out problem in this sphere in Ukraine.

In particular, according to the report that is available on the Web site of the Department of State, the government did not demonstrate a trend toward either improvements or deterioration in respect for and protection of the right to religious freedom, while local officials at times took sides in disputes between religious organizations.

"There were reports of societal abuses or discrimination based on religious affiliation, belief, or practice. These included cases of anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim discrimination as well as discrimination against some Christian denominations. There were also reports of vandalism of religious property," reads the document.

According to the report, the Spiritual Directorate of Muslims of Ukraine reported some difficulties with registering new religious communities in Crimea due to what it considered the political biases of some local authorities.

Members of the Mejlis, the central executive body of the Crimean Tatars, and Crimea-based human rights groups continued to criticize the Crimean government for permitting schools to use textbooks that contained inflammatory and historically inaccurate material about Crimean Tatar Muslims, despite government promises to address their concerns.

"Crimean Tatars claimed that propaganda campaigns, particularly by pro-Russian groups, promoted hostility against them among other inhabitants of Crimea," reads the report.

The document also mentions that local authorities reportedly remained unwilling to allocate land for some churches, in addition land conflicts emerge, and there are problems with seizures of land and property. In particular, Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, as well as Jewish and Muslim communities face such difficulties.

"There were several reports of anti-Semitic vandalism, including the August 12 desecration of a Jewish cemetery in Pavlohrad, the defacement of a Jewish community building in Sumy on October 12, the November 17 and November 19 desecrations of Holocaust monuments in Kirovohrad and in Sevastopol, and the December 9 defacement of a synagogue in Sumy," reads the report.

The document also recalls that in September the nationalist political party Svoboda organized a march called "Uman without Hasidim" to protest the pilgrimage of Hasidic Jews to the grave of a prominent Rabbi buried in Uman. Despite a court order prohibiting the protest, approximately 100 protesters still showed up.

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