September 05, 2023

They Took His Cross and Icons


They Took His Cross and Icons
A still image from Kurmoyarov’s video. www.youtube.com/@user-xo6kk7vz7i

A St. Petersburg court has sentenced Ioann Kurmoyarov, a former priest in the Russian Orthodox Church, to three years in prison for disseminating "fakes," or false information, about the Russian army.

Kurmoyarov’s criminal prosecution arose from a video titled "Who Will Be in Hell and Who Will Be in Heaven?" which he posted on his YouTube channel Virtualny Pravoslavniy Prichod (Virtual Orthodox Parish). In the video, he discussed Christian doctrine and asserted that Russian soldiers killed in Ukraine would not ascend to heaven but instead descend to hell. 

"In paradise, the ‘blessed are the peacemakers,’ ‘peacekeepers’ are found. Do you comprehend the problem? Those who initiated aggression will not find a place in paradise," he said.

Throughout his trial, Kurmoyarov maintained his innocence. In his closing statement, he emphasized his unwavering commitment to pacifism and his profound distress regarding the war. "I was particularly affected by the notion that Orthodox individuals were involved and suffering on both sides of the conflict," said the former priest.

Years ago, Kurmoyarov lived in Ukraine and served in the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. In 2017, he drew the attention of the Security Service of Ukraine for displaying a St. George ribbon, a pro-Russian symbol, on his social media. Subsequently, he relocated to Russia, became a priest in the Russian Orthodox Church, and became chair of the Theology Department at Novosibirsk Seminary. In 2020, he publicly criticized the Main Cathedral of the Russian Armed Forces in Kubinka, characterizing it as a "pagan temple." After that, the Novosibirsk Mitropolit temporarily prohibited Kurmoyarov from serving in the church, and the priest decided to leave the ROC.

Following Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Kurmoyarov began denouncing the war publicly. On his channel, he released videos criticizing Russia’s aggression from a Christian doctrinal perspective. In June 2022, authorities detained him, confiscating his electronic devices, two icons, a wooden cross, and a cassock. The Human Rights Center Memorial subsequently designated Kurmoyarov as a political prisoner.

The case of the former Russian Orthodox Church priest is not an isolated incident. According to OVD.Info, nearly 700 individuals in Russia face penal persecution due to their anti-war stance, with most of them targeted under legislation addressing the "dissemination of fakes."

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