Religious representatives of two European organizations said they are appalled by the wartime destruction of religious sites and places of worship in Ukraine, including churches, synagogues, and mosques.
Such places “are vital to the country’s diverse religious communities, more than ever in times of crisis,” said a statement released 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 promote peaceful dialogue, we call on Russia to stop 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 interreligious representatives of each organization.
Those representatives included Rabbi Andrew Baker, Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairman-in-Office on Combating Antisemitism, and Ambassador Mehmet Paçacı, Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairman-in-Office on Combating Intolerance and Discrimination against Muslims.
The representatives said they mourn the victims of war and “lament the millions forced to leave their homes and their country behind, seeking shelter and safety within Ukraine, in Europe and beyond.”
“Children, women, and the elderly are particularly vulnerable. Many victims of the war suffer from profound psychological trauma,” they said.
As of April 14, the United Nations cultural organization, UNESCO, has verified damage to 102 “cultural properties,” including 47 religious buildings, nine museums, 28 historical buildings, three theaters, 12 monuments and three libraries, since Russia invaded Ukraine February 24. Some of the sites date to the early medieval era. So far, UNESCO says, no world cultural heritage sites have been damaged.
In early March, military intelligence suggested that Russian troops were preparing an air strike on the 11th-century St. Sophia Cathedral in Kyiv. So far, the landmark has been spared.