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Ukrainian Church in call for stability

28 March 2014


Acknowledging defeat: Ukrainian marines leave their military base in the Crimean port city of Feodosia

Acknowledging defeat: Ukrainian marines leave their military base in the Crimean port city of Feodosia

CHURCHES and the main religious groups in Ukraine have issued a joint statement this week calling for a peaceful stabilisation of the country's political situation.

The ecumenical and interfaith group the All Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations, welcomed the government's efforts to "stabilise the internal situation in the country", and urged "all citizens of our country to reject excessive emotionality and conscientiously fulfil their serviceand civic duty, strictly adhering to the applicable Ukrainian legislation".

In their statement, the church leaders said that the laws dealing with weapons-handling and ownership should be enforced. And it called on the government and people to work together on the basis of "respect for fundamental human and civil rights" to promote "national solidarity, the strengthening of the constitutional order, removing the country from its state of crisis, improving international relations with the Russian Federation, and the territorial integrity of our country Ukraine".

In a separate statement, Patriarch Filaret of the independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church Kiev Patriarchate, reiterated his Church's stance towards Moscow: "The Ukrainian people does not have and should not have any hatred or hostility to the Russian people, even in the face of military aggression against our country. We want, and I am sure in the future will have, friendly and equal relations between independent Ukraine and democratic Russia based on mutual respect to sovereignty and non-interference in the internal affairs of each other."

But, at the same time, he called for concerted international action to protect Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

"The time for declarations of deep concern expired long ago, it's time to act," he said. "So I welcome the early signing of an association agreement between Ukraine and the EU, giving Ukraine the prospect of EU membership as a guarantee of peace not only in our country but also in the whole Europe [News, 21 March].

"Now not only is the fate of Ukraine to be decided, but also the fate of the world. Humanity stands at the crossroads: either to turn back to the era when relations between the nations are not based on the law and justice, but by force of arms and cost of millions of victims, or together to stop this cynical aggression and save the world from the worst."

The former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Williams this week described Russia's annexation of the Crimean Peninsula as a "legally pretty dubious venture". He said: "To have a plebiscite in a certain region of another sovereign state and declare that therefore you can annexe it seems to me a deeply worrying re-run of the 1930s."

Speaking to students at Anglia Ruskin University, where he holds an honorary doctorate in pastoral theology, Lord Williams warned that the "just-war" theory was no longer compatible with modern-day conflicts.

"We have a fast-shifting moral map of modern warfare. It is often a matter of proxy wars, wars between private and public, wars that spill over in different directions across national and other boundaries, and war that increasingly uses humanitarianly deplorable methods to sustain itself," he said.

Responding to questions, Lord Williams criticised Russia's actions, but warned against a military response.

"I'm wary of any military action to defend Ukraine against Russia. I'm looking hard to see what further diplomatic as well as sanction-based initiatives may follow, because I don't think it is simply a case of 'wicked aggressive Russia and plucky little Ukraine'," he said.

"There are more complex issues there, not least the inherent instability of Ukraine as a sovereign state."

Russian and Ukrainian Foreign Ministers met this week in The Hague, in the first direct contact between the two countries since the conflict began. The discussions were welcomed by the British Foreign Secretary, William Hague, who spoke by telephone with the acting Ukrainian Prime Minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, on Tuesday.

Mr Hague "continues to urge the Russian government to enter into direct talks with the Ukrainian government, in order to resolve this dispute peacefully", a spokesman for FCO said.

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