War in Ukraine: Covering the conflict’s religious contours

Gloomy picture of church on a hill in Kyiv, Ukraine.
As Russia invades Ukraine, reporters explore religion's role in the conflict.

Religion often plays a role in violent conflicts. Entangled with ethno-national, economic and territorial issues, religious actors, leaders and institutions can exacerbate and ameliorate both the causes and course of a conflict. While some religious actors provide care and appeal for peace, others contribute to the brutality and provide faith-filled fuel to already tenacious confrontations.

The warfare currently engulfing Ukraine is no exception. Religion played a role as the specter of Russian invasion grew over the last several years. Now, after Russian forces began their aggressive assault on Feb. 24, 2022, religious communities within Ukraine, Russia and across the globe are responding.

This edition of ReligionLink provides background, resources and expert sources to help journalists cover the religious features of a war whose impacts will reverberate around the world.

Background information and related research

The following includes a mix of statistical data, expert analysis and in-depth looks at religion in Russia, Ukraine and the current conflict:

Related stories

With new reporting coming out every day, this is a brief list of reporting over the last two years:

Potential sources

  • Dmitry Adamsky

    Dmitry Adamsky is professor at the Lauder School of Government, Diplomacy and Strategy and is a head of the B.A. honors track in strategy and decision making at Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya in Israel. His research interests include international security; cultural approach to international relations; and American, Russian and Israeli national security policies.

  • John P. Burgess

    John Burgess is a professor at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary (and a Presbyterian, of all things) who has spent years covering the revival of Orthodoxy in Russia.

  • Tarunjit Singh Butalia

    Tarunjit Singh Butalia serves as executive director of Religions for Peace USA. He has been active in the interfaith movement for over two decades. He has been a member of the board of trustees of Parliament of the World’s Religions for 12 years as well as North American Interfaith Network. He is also a founding trustee of the Sikh Council for Interfaith Relations and serves on the advisory committee of the Global Sikh Council.

  • Jose Casanova

    Jose Casanova is professor emeritus at Georgetown University, where he previously taught in the department of sociology and the department of theology and religious studies. He is head of the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Politics. 

  • Kathryn David

    Kathryn David is Mellon Assistant Professor of Russian and East European Studies at Vanderbilt University. She specializes in the history of Soviet Ukraine and Russia.

  • Caroline Dunbar

    Caroline Dunbar of the Yale MacMillan Center’s European Studies Council researches church-and-state relations in 20th-century and post-Soviet Ukraine and Russia; Soviet anti-religious policy; and the historical role of Eastern Orthodoxy in the development of Ukrainian cultural identities.

  • Taras Dzyubanskyy

    Taras Dzyubanskyy is director of the Institute of Religion and Society at the Ukrainian Catholic University.

  • Mark Hetfield

    Mark Hetfield is the president and CEO of HIAS, or Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society. HIAS is active on the ground in Poland and Moldova coordinating with Jewish organizations in those countries who have been taking in Ukrainian refugees. Arrange an interview through Bill Swersey.

  • Wasyl Hrynkiw

    Wasyl Hrynkiw is pastor at St. Vladimir Ukrainian Catholic Church in Hempstead, New York.

  • Juliet Johnson

    Juliet Johnson is professor in the department of political science at McGill University. Her research focuses on the politics of money and identity, particularly in post-communist Europe.

  • Mark B. Levin

    Mark B. Levin is Executive Vice Chairman and CEO of National Coalition Supporting Eurasian Jewry (NCSEJ) since 1992. He is an expert on national and international political and legislative issues. Mr. Levin travels extensively throughout the former Soviet region on a frequent basis.

  • Peter Mandaville

    Peter Mandaville is a professor of international affairs and a senior fellow at the Ali Vural Ak Center for Global Islamic Studies at George Mason University in Virginia. He writes on political Islam and the origins of mainstream Islamism. As a senior visiting expert at the U.S. Institute of Peace with the religion and inclusive societies team he has written on the ongoing conflicts between Russia and Ukraine.

  • Elisabeth Palugyay

    Elisabeth Palugyay was in charge as migration officer and head of section for refugee aid and migration for the Red Cross Austria in Vienna when she started her cooperation with the International Dialogue Centre KAICIID and became a founding member of the Network for Dialogue.

  • Serhii Plokhii

    Serhii Plokhii is Mykhailo S. Hrushevs’kyi Professor of Ukrainian History at Harvard University and director of the Ukrainian Research Institute. His research interests include the intellectual, cultural and international history of Eastern Europe, with an emphasis on Ukraine.

  • Viktoriya Sereda

    Viktoriya Sereda is a research fellow at Friedrich Schiller University in Germany; senior researcher at the National Academy of Science, Ukraine; and professor of sociology at Ukrainian Catholic University. Her research focuses on urban sociology, memory studies, nationalism, migration and identity studies, and she has led or participated in more than 30 sociological research projects on Ukrainian society and its regional dimensions.

  • Meylakh Sheykhet

    Meylakh Sheykhet is director of the Union of Councils for Jews in the Former Soviet Union, in Lviv, Ukraine.

  • Malkhaz Songulashvili

    Malkhaz Songulashvili is the metropolitan bishop of Tbilisi, Georgia. Songulashvili is the leader of the Evangelical Baptist Church of Georgia and a professor of comparative theology and religious ethics. As leader of the Peace Cathedral in Tbilisi, he has been outspoken on Russian aggression in post-Communist states.

  • Chrissy Stroop

    Chrissy Stroop is a senior correspondent for Religion Dispatches, columnist for Open Democracy, co-editor of Empty the Pews: Stories of Leaving the Church and commentator on religion and politics, the U.S. Christian right, Russia and foreign policy. 

  • Catherine Wanner

    Catherine Wanner is professor of history, anthropology and religious studies at Penn State’s School of International Affairs. Her research centers on the politics of religion, conflict mediation and human rights, especially in Ukraine, but more broadly in Eastern Europe.

  • Josef Zissels

    Josef Zissels is executive co-president of the Association of Jewish Organizations and Communities of Ukraine (Vaad of Ukraine).

  • Nanovic Institute for European Studies

    The Nanovic Institute for European Studies at Notre Dame University provides an interdisciplinary home for students, faculty and visiting scholars to explore the evolving ideas, cultures, traditions, beliefs, moral challenges and institutions that shape Europe.

  • Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church

    The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church has an official website that provides resources on houses of worship, beliefs, prayers and current news.

     

  • Ukrainian Orthodox Church

    Autonomous Church of Eastern Orthodoxy in Ukraine, under the ecclesiastic jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate.

  • Ukrainian Research Institute

    The Ukrainian Research Institute is a research institute affiliated with Harvard University devoted to Ukrainian studies, including the history, culture, language, literature and politics of Ukraine.

Additional resources