Kyiv religious celebration 2017 pictured in viral photo

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The claim: A photo shows a celebration after the Ukrainian president lifted the ban on proselytism

Amid the imminent threat of a Russian invasion, parts of Ukraine saw protests. But social media users say a different kind of event has brought Ukrainians to the streets recently.

“Hundreds of thousands of people gathered in the streets of Ukraine to praise the name of Jesus, after the president finally gave the freedom to preach the gospel that has been banned for so many years,” reads- we in the legend of a Facebook post from February 2.

The image, which has racked up 18,000 shares in less than a week, shows an aerial view of a crowded street. The photo is real, but the post misidentifies it.

If the image shows a religious gathering in the streets of Kiev, it is not recent. The image is from a 2017 celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, which leads to the creation of Protestantism in Europe.

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has also not recently granted “freedom to preach the gospel”. USA TODAY found no evidence of such a ban. Ukraine’s Constitution guarantees freedom of religion, and the country does not prohibit proselytizing or attempting to convert a person to another religion.

USA TODAY has contacted the Facebook user who posted the image for comment.

Picture shows the 2017 celebration marking the anniversary of the Protestant Reformation

In September 2017, several Ukrainian religious media and blogs featured the image in the Facebook post.

According to the Religious Information Service of Ukraine, the image was taken on The most famous street in Kiev, Khreshchatyk St. news department, which is part of Ukrainian Catholic University, reported that the event featured motivational speaker Nick Vujicic.

The rally celebrated the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, according to a Google translation of an article of Christian charity City Help Center.

The celebration was the first of its kind and took place a year after then Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. signed a decree commemorating the anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. the Christian Broadcasting Network, an evangelical news station based in Virginia, reported on the day included family-oriented events such as play zones and musical performances.

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This isn’t the first time the post’s image has been taken out of context online.

In August 2021, the photo gained traction among Spanish-speaking social media users with the same claim. Fact-checking organizations in Spanish, as well as Reuters and check your factdebunked the claim.

Ukraine has not banned proselytism

The Facebook post claims that the Ukrainian government recently lifted the ban on proselytizing. But USA TODAY found no evidence that such a ban ever existed.

Religious freedom is protected in Ukraine by Section 35 of the country’s constitution.

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“This right includes the freedom to profess a religion or not to profess any religion, to freely practice religious rites and ceremonial rituals, alone or collectively, and to pursue religious activities”, indicates the text.

A 2020 US State Department report who analyzed religious freedom in Ukraine says the government cannot restrict freedom of religion and worship unless it is in the interests of “protecting public order, health and morals or the population, or protecting other rights and freedoms of other persons”.

Our opinion: False

Based on our research, we rate FALSE the claim that a photo shows a celebration after the President of Ukraine lifted the ban on proselytism. The image was taken in 2017 during a celebration in Kyiv of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. USA TODAY found no evidence that Ukraine once banned proselytizing.

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Jack C. Nugent