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Ukrainian archbishop: If only instead of complaining people set themselves to work!

Liubomyr Husar. Photo: UA1
Ukrainian archbishop: If only instead of complaining people set themselves to work!
Translated by: Adriana Mugnatto-Hamu

Liubomyr Husar is the archbishop emeritus of the Ukrainian Catholic Church. Having lived through World War II, exile and return to independent Ukraine, now at the age of 82 he is widely regarded throughout Ukraine by people of all faiths and denominations for his wisdom and compassion. In advance of the New Year and Christmas (which occurs on January 7 in Ukraine), he conducted an interview with Natali Morris for UA1, a Ukrainian internet media outlet. This is an adapted translation of his words.

I am hearing news that people are depressed and distrustful.  It’s distressing to learn this.  It is somewhat understandable.  But I think that this distrust is not entirely justified.  In Soviet times, the communist party and the government taught people not to do anything, not to worry about anything and merely to passively wait to receive.  This mindset has been preserved in society.

Liubomyr Husar giving an interview to Natali Morris. Photo: UA1
Liubomyr Husar giving an interview to Natali Morris. Photo: UA1

But remember that in 2013, then Prime Minister Azarov and President Viktor (Yanukovych) said that Ukraine was not ready for closer ties with Europe, in other words, is not prepared for change.  And the nation said “no”, and Maidan began. It began with the youth, and soon even older citizens throughout the country swiftly joined in.  All said that we want change. A nation that could demand that is a nation with some serious vigor. Not anyone would say that. It demonstrates that we do, in fact, have strength.

When war came, we did not have a combat-ready army.

In a very short time, we have demonstrated the ability of our nation to organize and confront danger.

Another extraordinary element is volunteerism.  Not some small little group, but the citizenry of all different ages, origins and fortunes throughout Ukraine were stimulated to action.  This proves that we have internal strength.  But this strength has not been properly put to use.

If instead of wringing their hands and complaining, people set themselves to work!  They have spiritual strength.  We have proof of this – Maidan, volunteers, army. This did not appear suddenly, it emerged from the nation.  We must only work hard, not wait for government programs or foreign aid.  We have boundless internal energy which must be put to use.

We can continue, develop and build that which began on the Maidan.

There is no set recipe. Each of us, upon awaking in the morning, should ask himself: what will I do today, to help the country develop?  In the evening, when settling to sleep, we should ask: what have I done today, to build a new Ukraine?  I don’t know what specifically each of us should do, but I envision this: may the politician honestly serve the nation, may the teacher nurture the new generation faithful to its identity, may the homesteader cultivate the land so that it may bear fruit.

There are no constraints. May each of us do that which he is called to do at any moment. If every one of us did something within his abilities and interests, there would be no reason for handwringing, distrust or tears. Work is necessary. Building is necessary. Yearning is necessary. We already have the strength.

Let’s take the example of corruption. Corruption is a sin, a crime. In our churches we should hear denunciations of corruption. It needs to be fought and rejected. Parents should raise their children in this spirit, teachers should also encourage and seek good examples in schools.

We do not help one other enough.  Wouldn’t it be good to encourage our citizens to help each other?! Look around you: is there no one around who is hungry?

We must not be indifferent to the plight of others. An awakening is needed. We are not doing enough. Churches and schools should be spurring people on. Of course, the State should also encourage and support good, healthy initiatives.

Many people cannot take care of themselves for various reasons.  But I do not see a situation that cannot be resolved if we begin to think of each other. Volunteers are not building their own advantages, like the so-called newly rich oligarchs.

Responsible people should uphold the nation’s spirits. Church, school and State should persuade that there is nothing to fear. If we are working and building step by step, what is there to fear?!  Terrorism, banditry and crime need to be consistently and resolutely defeated.  They cannot be given an opportunity to run wild.

I’ll give the following example. When I lived in Italy in the 70s, the Communist “red brigades” appeared in Rome.  They were specially prepared to above all sow fear and seize power. At first, the nation was frightened. But in a very short time it threw them out, didn’t accept them. And all those scary armed brigades disappeared. This is important – do not give in to fear.  Perhaps you will have initial doubts.  Still, afterwards it is imperative to gather our collective strength to fight against that which frightens us.

Peace is only possible when both sides wish for it.  For example, for many decades France and Germany fought each other.  Eventually both understood that war was ruining them. Today, they are friends.  They have understood that warring will bring them nothing.

In our situation, the aggressor does not want to stop. We can only say that we are prepared for peace, but as long as you don’t want peace, we will defend ourselves.

The situation is indeed complicated. At this time people are organizing a movement against lethal weapons. It’s a sort of first step. If we cannot live in peace, then we should at least attempt not to destroy each other. We must tell ourselves that we do not want to continue the lethal conflict.

The call to never forgive and never forget is not the path to resolution.

We must not nurture a sense of hatred, unwillingness to forgive, revenge.
There must be a willingness to forgive one another, if both parties are to blame. If one side is guilty, it should apologize, and the other should accept the apology.  But guilt should be remembered to avoid repeating the same mistakes.  No matter who did something wrong, one must apologize, and the other, forgive.  If we continue living with hatred, then we will only sow evil for many years into the future.

There is the example of Poland and Germany. Hitler’s Germany committed great evils in Poland. Following the Ecumenical Council in the 60s, German bishops got together and issued a declaration asking Poles to forgive their nation for those crimes it committed in Poland. And Poles agreed to this. The Polish nation, bishops and clergy accepted these apologies. That is why today these two nations live in peace.

It may be difficult to forgive when the pain is great. Yes, all that was done to us is hurtful and unpleasant. There is nothing to do about this. It has already happened and the past cannot be altered. But forgiveness is possible. As individuals can be forgiven, so can nations.

For example, when our bishops accepted the Peace Act with Poland in 2005. On both sides. The nation accepted this. Although it seems to me that we have not yet done enough to advance this process.

Today we have an aggressor – Russia.  It will not be easy to forgive them, because today they do not wish to apologize.  Today, they feel themselves completely in the right, and call us rogues or idiots and so on.  Nonetheless, I believe that with God’s help the time will come when the healthy portion of the Russian nation will raise its voice and say “Enough”!

Unfortunately, today’s Kremlin is not disposed to reconciliation. Force is the only argument that speaks to them today. Sanctions have hit them properly, although perhaps insufficiently. From our side, we should be open to peace, to reconciliation. We must not nurture a sense of hatred, unwillingness to forgive, revenge. Nothing good can ever come of this. We must be ready to forgive.

Translated by: Adriana Mugnatto-Hamu
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