The religious situation in Ukraine is entering upon a critical stage. The situation is a three-vectored issue that involves Constantinople, Moscow, and Kyiv. The Russian Orthodox Church has always been a tool in the hands of the tsars, the commissars, and the new bare-chested star of the Kremlin. After the fall of the USSR and the ideological vacuum that this created in Russia, the Church was again pulled into an intimate relationship with the Kremlin, especially under Vladimir Putin, to offer a conservative and nationalist vision known as “the Russian world”.
Russia failed to anticipate that its invasion of Ukraine in 2014 would cost it one of its most powerful levers of influence over its neighbor: the formal authority of the Russian Orthodox Church over its Ukrainian counterpart. But it has done so, and that unintended consequence could lead to others: a decline in Russian influence within the Eastern Orthodox world, a deeper division in the Orthodox community—and even perhaps the largest schism in Christianity since 1054. The international community has a key role in determining how this unfolds and must act to ensure the worst scenarios don’t come to pass.
By: M. Zuhdi Jasser
Part 1: Historical Context
The plight of religious minorities, particularly Christians and Yazidis, in Iraq has the world asking: How did a land where Christianity existed for millennia become the world’s most dangerous place for Christians and other minority faiths? The spread and growth of the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (Levant) (ISIS) has placed the existence of Christian and Yazidi faithful and other minorities at risk like never before. Yet, ISIS did not come out of thin air. It is the result of a perfect storm—the 50-year trajectory of historical, political, and sectarian religious forces in both Syria and Iraq meeting the wake of the ongoing Syrian Revolution.
By: Engy Abdelkader
From parts of Europe to Nigeria to Myanmar to Iraq, women and girls often experience religious freedom violations in ways that are similar to as well as distinct from male co-religionists. Still, while protecting international religious freedom and advancing women’s rights globally represent core US foreign policy objectives, respectively, their inter-relationship remains a generally under-explored area of inquiry meriting attention.
By: Andrew Doran
In January 2009, a few days before President Barack Obama was sworn into office, a colleague at the State Department emailed our office a speech by future Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice. The speech pointed to poverty as the primary cause of violent extremism. What, I asked my colleague, might account for the presence of so many wealthy and educated among the ranks of so many terrorist organizations? He had no response.