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Ukraine ‘needs faith’ to rebuild nation

28 February 2014


Mourner: in Independence Square, Kiev, on Tuesday, a woman stands before a makeshift memorial for those killed in recent violence

Mourner: in Independence Square, Kiev, on Tuesday, a woman stands before a makeshift memorial for those killed in recent violence

UKRAINE cannot be rebuilt unless spirituality is rebuilt, the Acting President of Ukraine, Oleksandr Turchyno, said on Tuesday.

Speaking at a meeting of denominational leaders, Mr Turchyno, a Baptist pastor, expressed gratitude towards the clergy and laity who ministered in Independence Square at the height of last week's violence.

"The word of God was heard in Independence Square," he said, "and clergy carried on praying with people, even when the next bullet whistled past." He blamed the atrocities on "a lack of spirituality". The Churches had to "restore spirituality", he said, because "to restore faith means to restore Ukraine."

"People need to hear 'Thou shalt not kill': this applies not only to the Berkut [a militia-style police force]: it applies to everyone. 'Thou shalt not steal': this applies not only to Yanukovych: it applies to all of us."

The whereabouts of the former President, Victor Yanukovych, was unknown as the Church Times went to press. He was impeached by the country's parliament on Saturday, and a warrant has been issued for his arrest on charges of the "mass murder of peaceful citizens".

The protests started last November, after the pro-Russian Mr Yanukovych vetoed a Ukrainian/EU trade deal. They culminated in last week's serious disturbances in Independence Square, when a trade-union building was set alight; and live rounds were fired on protesters.

The British Foreign Secretary, William Hague, told MPs on Monday that it was "the worst bloodshed in Ukraine since the fall of Communism".

He said that Ukraine now had "a pressing need for constitutional reform, improvements to its political culture, free elections, an end to pervasive corruption, and the building of a stable political structure. We look to the new government to create the conditions for such change in a spirit of reconciliation while ensuring accountability for human-rights violations."

Mr Hague, who will visit Kiev shortly, said that Britain's fundamental interests in the Ukraine were "democracy, human rights, and the rule of law".

The number of deaths is believed to exceed 100. There are 85 confirmed and identified dead; but many people remain missing, and the remains of burnt bodies are still being retrieved from the trade-union building.

"No one is able to assume how many badly wounded people have burnt alive there when the Berkut came to the building, shut off the water, and set it on fire," Alla Gedz, a member of the congregation of Christ Church Anglican Church in Kiev, said.

An internationally brokered truce took effect last Friday, described by Mrs Gedz as "the first day of grief". She said: "The whole country was in mourning. Thousands of people filled streets and cried together with those who had lost beloved ones. Funerals were everywhere. It was my husband's birthday, but I couldn't stop crying together with mothers and relatives of the murdered - God's created precious ones.

"The centre or Kiev is full of flowers and candles. Those people who can't come during the day come at night, bringing flowers and candles in remembrance of those who shed blood.

"Funerals have been taking place since Friday; and mortuaries still have the dead and are looking for relatives who can take them."

Christ Church is currently without a permanent priest. A retired Scottish Episcopalian priest, the Revd Stuart Robertson, will go to Kiev next month to take services for three weeks leading up to Easter. A lack of money and candidates was preventing the diocese in Europe from appointing a permanent chaplain, the Archdeacon of the East, the Ven. Patrick Curran, said.

"It is a very small congregation, but very faithful. We're looking for somebody who has a vision to be the leader of an Anglican community in Kiev...It would have to be an extraordinary person who would want to do that...It wouldn't be an easy post."

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