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Consultation on Ukraine condemns the spread of Russian ideology

01 May 2015


New recruits: a priest blesses conscripts in the Ukrainian army earlier this month

New recruits: a priest blesses conscripts in the Ukrainian army earlier this month

A RESOLUTION condemning the use of "violence and aggression by pro-Russian separatists" was signed at Lambeth Palace on Tuesday, at a consultation attended by priests from Ukraine and the UK. Produced by Mission Eurasia and the Baptist World Mission, the resolution warns that "the Pan-Slavic Orthodox notion of the so-called 'Russian World' is now monopolising ideology and practice" in Ukrainian Crimea and the territories of eastern Ukraine "occupied by pro-Russian separatists".

It was signed by 27 people at the end of a consultation on the crisis in Ukraine, at which criticism of Russia was repeatedly expressed. Archbishop Evystratiy Zoria of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Kiev Patriarchate) emphasised that there was no civil war in Ukraine, and that Russia was waging a "Holy War for the values of the Russian World against the Godless and decaying West". There was, he said, "an aggressor and a victim. We cannot say 'both sides are right or both sides are wrong.'"

He was critical of the World Council of Churches, which sent a delegation to Ukraine this year. It had met with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) he reported, but only half the delegation had met the Ukrainian Council of Churches. He was concerned whether it had therefore heard the whole truth about the conflict.

Bishop Anatoly Kalyuzhny, President of the Evangelical Council of Churches in Ukraine, known as the "Pastor of Maidan", gave the day's most impassioned speech. Events in Ukraine might seem "insignificant", with little impact on stability in Britain, he said, "but that is an illusion and a lie . . . all of our civilisation is being decided there."

He spoke of Ukrainian widows, orphans, and refugees, and of rape, and hostage-taking, the imprisonment of pastors and the destruction of churches.

Although Tuesday's resolution states that the Church is "key to the process of reconciliation", Ukrainian leaders present warned that this must not come at the expense of truth.

"We all agree that truth is the beginning of healing," said Dr Mykhailo Cherenkov, who served as Provost of Donetsk Christian University until it was seized by pro-Russian forces last year. "People are in need not just of bread but of truth."

"There can be no peace where there is untruth," agreed Bishop Michael Panochko of the All-Ukrainian Union of Evangelical Christians Churches. "Today, it is difficult to say anything about reconciliation to a young person who has lost his limbs at the front-line, and there are thousands of those. . . Reconciliation begins when the fire is put out. As long as tanks and soldiers and untruths keep coming forward, there can be no reconciliation."

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