People around the world are deeply concerned about the recent situation in Ukraine. For all parties involved, the situation appears to have been portrayed in a manner contrary to the original intentions. Reports have emerged of failures, underestimations, uninformed outcomes, and false news, which are indeed alarming. As the Russian invasion of Ukraine enters its second year, the issues of family separation and a war-torn country are escalating. The conflict initially began with Putin's pretext of de-Nazification in Ukraine and assistance for the persecuted Russian or Russian-speaking minority in eastern Ukraine. However, it has become evident that the reality is far from what was initially presented.
Religious issues have started to surface in the conflict, prompting many to question whether the Russian invasion of Ukraine is also evolving into a religious war. The extent to which the current conflict can be described as a religious war remains speculative, and further evidence is required to draw conclusive conclusions. Therefore, the key question is how we can determine if the situation in Ukraine exhibits the characteristics of a religious war and what its implications are. Initial observations indicate that religion has likely become a significant factor in the ongoing war, contributing to the increasingly intricate situation on the ground.
In Russia, Christian sentiment has begun to play a significant role in the reactions of the Russian public. Patriarch Cyril of Russia, speaking at the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in the country's capital, stated that the war in Ukraine was seen as the restoration of "human civilization." He further expressed that Russian soldiers who perish in Ukraine would be absolved of their sins through their participation in the conflict against the West. The Patriarch also conveyed the belief that the West harbored concealed plans to impose "joyful parades" on the Russian world. It is worth noting that it was not only the Russian patriarch who endorsed these ideas; many government officials have made public statements supporting the militarization of Russian society in favor of the war.
Suspect developments have begun to be observed in the West. The Archbishop of Canterbury, along with the Anglican Bishop in Europe and other religious leaders representing Catholic, Muslim, Buddhist, and Hindu communities, traveled to Ukraine to engage in Ukrainian political and church affairs. Concurrently, Catholic bishops started calling on the Russian patriarch to urge his country's authorities to immediately halt hostilities against the Ukrainian people. These actions were regarded as scandalous by many Russians. Additionally, some officials in Brussels proposed working together to ostensibly prevent further escalation of the war.
However, the Russian authorities considered their actions interference in their internal affairs. Furthermore, the Acting Secretary General of the World Council of Churches (WCC) called on the Patriarch of Moscow to denounce the military developments. It has been reported that Russian Patriarch Cyril reacted strongly to these calls, but under pressure, he reluctantly participated in online meetings. Surprisingly, the participants in these meetings included the Archbishop of Canterbury, the head of the Anglican Church, and Pope Francis, the head of the Roman Catholic Church, contrary to expectations.
Despite numerous attempts to engage the Russian Orthodox Church through Western channels, Patriarch Kirill remained resistant and often employed Kremlin rhetoric. He continued to view the conflict as a clash between the West and Russia, asserting that Western "political forces" conspired to turn brotherly nations into enemies through their use of Ukraine. Furthermore, he condemned all Western efforts to integrate Ukraine, viewing them as part of a geopolitical strategy aimed at undermining Russia's strength.
However, the situation took an unexpected turn for the West. Complaints started to arise, questioning Western intentions, especially since the Ecumenical Patriarch of Orthodoxy in Constantinople was disregarded, and instead, there were discussions of inviting Pope Francis to visit Ukraine. However, due to concerns and potential reactions, the pope's advisers decided to withdraw the idea of a visit. As an alternative, they proposed a neutral location for a meeting with Patriarch Kirill, possibly in Jerusalem.
Meanwhile, in Europe, the situation became increasingly chaotic. Television broadcasts began to disseminate alarming and frightening messages. Some claimed that extremist groups with religious affiliations, particularly Bible extremist groups, posed a greater threat than radical Islamists. These broadcasts suggested that these groups were behind planned actions and specifically targeted Christians, including certain para-religious groups or organizations associated with different Christian denominations such as the Orthodox and Protestants. While the broadcasts urged people not to confuse terrorist organizations with Christian fundamentalists, they cautioned individuals to be vigilant and prepared for signs of Christian extremism, advising them not to panic but to remain alert.
What do they want to say?
Perhaps some explanations are related to Nazi developments in Ukraine, which have raised concerns among the public in Germany. By issuing warnings, authorities have attempted to inform the country about the potential threat posed by certain suspicious Christian groups that are allegedly involved in international issues such as Ukraine.
If the concerns of some German Protestants are verified, then something serious and potentially evil is taking place involving certain fanatics and their partners in Ukraine. A hidden collaboration aimed at targeting Orthodox Christians is gradually being revealed, necessitating an early response from the international community. The conclusion is shocking: there are groups orchestrating plans to influence or attack Orthodox Christians. The religious aspect of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, with the support of the Russian Orthodox Church, seems to have solid grounds. A forgotten but alarming scenario is beginning to emerge.
Western stakeholders are now realizing that their social framework is ineffective in conflict situations like Ukraine's. The changing religious landscape in the West, with the gradual replacement of existing populations by non-Christian populations, has undermined intervention plans. The declining presence of the Christian community in the West has also diminished the perception of morality in the eyes of the Russian people, who are predominantly Orthodox. They perceive Western indifference towards the Christian concerns of the predominantly Orthodox people in Ukraine. From Russia's perspective, the lack of Christian morality in the West raises credibility issues. They believe that certain Western religious organizations, primarily from market-oriented societies, are interfering in their Christian affairs in a peculiar manner. It is not inherently negative to embrace the contributions of markets in our societies or to support technological progress, but being Christian entails distinct values and beliefs.
Therefore, to better understand the Russian reaction, we must first address the effectiveness of the various self-described religious organizations in the West. The West needs to urgently assess its capabilities to respond to a conflict that is increasingly taking on religious dimensions. Without adequate response mechanisms, the prolonged duration of the conflict will likely lead to further religious engagement while Western morality continues to erode. The Russian invasion of Ukraine is likely viewed by some as a religious war, necessitating not only political and military responses but also genuine religious intervention. Additionally, the Jewish leader in Kiev appears indifferent to the Christian concerns of the predominantly Orthodox population in Ukraine.
NOTE: It is worth mentioning that the problems can be traced back to the end of the 16th century. It is believed that Poland occupied Russian lands and imposed Latinization, displacing Orthodoxy from those territories. This historical context lies at the core of the religious conflict. A concept central to this conflict is the Russkiy Mir, or "Russian world," which promotes the idea of Russia playing a central and religious role in rescuing the perceived decadent Christian civilization of the West.