Russia's Religious War: The Inventors of Disinformation Call to 'Desatanize' Ukraine, Target Moscow Jews Too
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Russia is under the microscope for atrocities committed since the start of its war with Ukraine, from the killing and torture of religious leaders to the destruction of houses of worship.
One Russian official even used the term "desatanization" to describe the plan to cleanse the nation of many religious groups.
"Desatanization should be understood as nothing less than the elimination of Ukraine's flourishing religious diversity. It moreover foreshadows the harsh treatment these groups would, God forbid, face under Russian rule," said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, vice chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.
Wednesday, members of the USCIRF met virtually to highlight how Russia's invasion of Ukraine is creating severe violations of religious freedom, especially in Russia's occupied territories.
"The Russian military has indiscriminately bombed churches, monasteries, kingdom halls, mosques, synagogues, cemeteries, and other religious sites, and Russian soldiers have abducted and tortured religious figures because of their leadership roles," Committee Chair Nury Turkel told the group.
CBN News reported firsthand on the atrocities in the city of Bucha outside Kyiv. Our George Thomas met with Christians who were forced to hide and pray as Russian troops carried out atrocities, including Ukrainian pastor Oleg Bondarenko.
"The commander said he would make me watch as he killed the others and then he would skin me alive," Bondarenko said.
One hundred sixty-seven Ukrainian Christians hid in the basement of that church when the Russian assault started. Despite their ordeal, video and pictures obtained by CBN News show church members praying, singing, and reading scriptures day and night.
Pastor Sergey Anohin believes God spared their lives because of their prayers. "It was very clear to us that God was watching over us, everything was in His hands. Like the story of how Daniel was in the lion's den, we were under God's protection," he said.
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Muslim Tatars in Crimea are also repressed by Russian authorities, many sentenced to long prison terms for principled opposition to the occupation.
Ukraine's Jewish community is also targeted. "Russian forces attacking Ukraine have also physically desecrated Holocaust remembrance sites and sadly killed Holocaust survivors," Rabbi Cooper said.
It's not just Ukraine. Since the invasion, Moscow is tightening its grip inside Russia, including religious groups. Moscow's exiled Chief Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt testified about the ongoing antisemitism faced by Jews there.
"This new situation for Jews in Russia is becoming more and more dangerous and in September I called on the Jews of Russia: whoever can leave should leave the country," Goldschmidt said. "We are worried about the state of the Jewish community there, not everyone can leave."
Rabbi Goldschmidt says 30 percent of Russian Jews have fled Russia since the war began with 50,000 emigrating to Israel.
CBN News recently accompanied a planeload of Ukrainian and Jewish refugees making Aliyah to Israel with the help of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews.
Meanwhile, former Congressman Frank Wolf recommended sending a delegation to Moscow, including the Pope, to press Russian political and religious leaders to stop the persecution.
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