KYIV – The Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations (UCCRO) confirmed their interest in actively participating in solving the social problems and addressing the spiritual and moral health of society by developing a strategic partnership with the government.
The UCCRO meeting was held in the National Sanctuary Sophiya Kyivska on April 3, 2014 and was devoted to the issues of interaction between the religious community and state authorities. The discussion was chaired by Metropolitan Onufriy, Locum Tenens of the Kyivan Metropolitan cathedra of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate), reported the Institute for Religious Freedom.
During the meeting, the heads of the denominations were officially introduced to the new Minister of Culture of Ukraine, Yevhen Nishchuk, and the new Head of the Department for Religious and Ethnic Affairs of the Ministry of Culture, Volodymyr Yushkevych.
“Today, when the wound from the events of Maidan is still fresh, and despite the open Russian aggression, we are experiencing fateful changes. It united us, strengthened our patriotic spirit, and gave us faith. I hope that in the future we will be able to keep and implement the Ukrainian tradition of inter-religious peace and harmony. For our part, we will do everything to maintain partnership relations between the state, church, and society,” said Minister Nishchuk in his speech.
During the meeting, they discussed the problem of the illegal annexation of Crimea and proposals to provide spiritual and material assistance to Ukrainian servicemen who defend the borders of Ukraine.
The heads of Ukrainian denominations denied the false statements made by some Russian politicians and the media about the infringement of the rights of believers and usurpation of temples in Ukraine.
“Priests did not just pray on Maidan; they were also alongside the others in the crucible of battle. Churches supported our people, and the people won. And now we are facing another trial—we have to protect our nation. Churches must support the Ukrainian army,” said Patriarch Filaret, the Primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Kyiv Patriarchate.
The Chief Rabbi of Kyiv and Ukraine, Jacob Dov Bleich, said about interfaith peace and mutual understanding in Ukraine: “We have really come together because of external threats, though we have sat around this table for many years. We show the world our good calling card once again.”
He suggested that the Council of Churches initiate a meeting with all the candidates for President of Ukraine to call their attention to the priorities of morality and spirituality. In his opinion, religious values have the potential to overcome the corruption and abuse of power in the country, which Ukrainian people expect after the regime change.
The Vice Chairman of the Spiritual Directorate of Muslims of Ukraine, Sheikh Rustam Gafuri, added, “The main thing today is not to fall under any provocations, as they are laying the groundwork for the influx of destructive forces. Therefore, I call upon your support for peace and cooperation.”
In conclusion, Minister Yevhen Nishchuk noted that one the strategic steps of Ministry is the resumption of work on the draft law ‘On the Concept of church-state relations in Ukraine,’ which was written 10 years ago. However, the Minister noted that it now needs some specialized revisions, with the representatives of the denominations taking Ukrainian realities into consideration.
Source: Institute for Religious Freedom
Translated by Karolina Omelchenko, edited by Robin Rohrback