THE World Council of Churches (WCC) is to consult its members
about how to provide "a more adequate humanitarian response to the
human suffering resulting from the conflict" in Ukraine.
The call came from a high-level delegation of church leaders who
visited Ukraine last week with the General Secretary of the WCC,
the Revd Dr Olav Fykse Tveit. The delegation included the President
of the Conference of European Churches (CEC), the Rt Revd
Christopher Hill, former Bishop of Guildford.
The delegation went close to the front line in the Luhansk
region, near the city of Lisichansk, "to witness for themselves the
de-struction and disruption resulting from the crisis", they said
in a communiqué. They met with church leaders, state officials, and
"From the beginning of the crisis, the WCC has been especially
concerned for the lives and livelihoods of all people affected,"
they said in their communiqué. Their series of meetings, and their
hearing about the "central role being played by churches in
providing humanitarian aid" had "underlined the critical situation
for the people and communities most directly affected, the urgent
need to increase humanitarian assistance to them, and the necessity
of resolving this conflict in order to prevent even worse human
They said that they were "convinced of the potential of the
churches and faith communities of Ukraine to play a leading role in
transcending the competing nationalisms that pre-dispose towards
conflict, in addressing the social, economic, and humanitarian
needs that have been compounded by the fighting, and in promoting
unity and reconciliation among all people of Ukraine."
The Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) could be "a bridge over the
opposing political divisions throughout the territory of the
Ukraine," Bishop Hill told the Church Times. "It is the
only major Church which spans that divide."
Bishop Hill also said that the ecumenical and interfaith body
the All Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organisations
(AUCCRO) had "remained impressively united in spite of all the
difficulties facing Ukraine.
"Christians are people of reconciliation. In the UOC and in the
AUCCRO we saw seeds of hope which the ecumenical movement, through
the WCC and CEC, will do all we can to nurture."
But on Sunday, the head of the Patriarchate of the independent
Ukraine Orthodox Church (Kiev), Patriarch Filaret, took a different
tone when he defended the right to kill in self-defence. In a
sermon delivered at St Vladimir's Cathedral, in Kiev, he said: "How
should we behave? Do we have the right to protect our land? Or, as
some say church leaders say, must we keep the peace?
"Yes, we are for peace, for Christ has brought peace to the
earth. But Christ brought to earth a just peace, not slavery. We do
not want to live in peace with captivity. We want to live in peace
with freedom. We have the divine right to defend the truth . . .
our land and a just peace."
Meanwhile, the director-general for democracy at the Council of
Europe, Snežana Samardžić-Marković, responded to a catalogue of
human-rights abuses and attacks on churches, prepared by
Metropolitan Mitro of Luhansk and Alchevsk in the canonical
Ukrainian Orthodox Church, by saying that "the Council of Europe
will make every effort to ensure the rights of all citizens
enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights, regardless of
their religious, political or other affiliation."
A survey by the Ukrainian polling company Research &
Branding showed that the Church is the most trusted organisation in
Ukraine: 62 per cent of respondents said that they trusted the
Church, compared with 24 per cent who said that they did not. The
army generates a 57 per cent trust-rating, as do civic and
In contrast, political parties are trusted by only eight per
cent of respondents.