Orthodox Christians call for peace amid Ukraine turmoil

BY Justin Scuiletti  May 8, 2014 at 3:42 PM EST
Photo by Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images

Photo by Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images

Orthodox Christians — in a call for peace amid high tensions — prayed in front of the regional administration building in Donetsk, Ukraine on Thursday. The building has been occupied by pro-Russian activists, who have taken control of several Ukrainian cities ahead of a planned referendum on greater autonomy for the region.

Almost half of the Ukrainian population belongs to the Orthodox church, with a geographic split between the Ukranian-aligned and Moscow-aligned churches.

According to the Christian Science Monitor, the Orthodox church aligned to Moscow has around 10 million believers, which can be found in central and western Ukraine. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which broke away from Russia’s church in 1990 during the fall of the Soviet Union, claims 15 million followers.