Europeans beg Russia not to hit religious sites in Ukraine

Such places “are vital for the country’s diverse religious communities, more than ever in times of crisis”.

Religious representatives from two European organizations have expressed dismay at the wartime destruction of religious sites and places of worship in Ukraine, including churches, synagogues and mosques.

These places “are vital for the various religious communities of the country, more than ever in times of crisis”, according to a press release published on April 13 by members of the Council of Europe and the Organization for Cooperation and Security in Europe.

“As representatives of both organizations committed to promoting peaceful dialogue, we call on Russia to end the destruction of religious sites and places of worship, which, together with the indiscriminate killing of tens of thousands of civilians, constitute crimes against humanity,” said the statement, signed by interfaith representatives from each organization.

These representatives included Rabbi Andrew Baker, Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairman-in-Office for Combating Anti-Semitism, and Ambassador Mehmet Paçacı, Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairman-in-Office for Combating Intolerance and discrimination against Muslims.

The representatives said they mourned the victims of war and “mourned the millions of people forced from their homes and countries, seeking refuge and safety in Ukraine, Europe and beyond.”

“Children, women and the elderly are particularly vulnerable. Many victims of war suffer from deep psychological trauma,” they said.

As of April 14, the United Nations’ cultural organization UNESCO has verified damage to 102 “cultural assets”, including 47 religious buildings, nine museums, 28 historic buildings, three theatres, 12 monuments and three libraries, since that Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24. Some of the sites date from the early medieval era. So far, according to UNESCO, no world cultural heritage site has been damaged.

In early March, military intelligence suggested that Russian troops were planning an airstrike on the 11th-century Saint Sophia Cathedral in kyiv. So far, the monument has been spared.

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