What will Church say to Maydan
Maydan has challenged not only the government but Church, too. Searching for answers, people are turning to the Church, but so far it hasn’t been able to give a clear reply.The society is trying to understand: is there a limit for tolerance when human rights and freedoms are brutally violatedby president and parliament’s majority? How should we demand justice? How should the society react to the sudden threat of dictatorship arising after more than 20 years of independence? How should we protect our lives and future of our children in view of the current political situation in Ukraine?
The roundtable “Maidan and Church: Mission and SocialResponsibility of Christians” took place in Kyiv on Friday, January 17, 2014. The event was initiated by the young leaders of Evangelical churches of Ukraine. Christian Students Fellowship (known as CCX in Ukraine, which is a part of IEFS, a global Christian students’ movement) jointly with the Spiritual Renewal Association and the MaidanPrayer.orgproject helped to implement the initiative.
More thana hundred people showed up, and their feedback has been resonating in social mediasince. The discussion was led by the following three groups of speakers: 1) church ministers and missiologists; 2) theologians and scholars, 3) experts and public figures. They represented the Baptist, Pentecostal, Free Evangelical, Lutheran and Reformed churches of Ukraine.
All the speakers raised a serious concern about the violence demonstrated regularly by the Ukrainian government within the last two months (all churches condemned the violent use of forceby the riot police on November 30, 2013 against the students who stood up peacefully for their rights on Maidan.) The participants also convicted the Ministry of Culture of Ukraine in its illegal threats to the Greek Catholic Church. Finally, they disapproved the adoption of the anti-constitutional laws (already named “Black Thursday” by the Ukrainian people)issued on January 16, 2014.As a result,the legitimacy of the whole government has become questionable, while rights for peaceful protest – banned.
Nevertheless, according to the opinions, the unprecedented crisis will purify both church and society. “A final ‘desovietization’of our post-USSR society and the birth of a new generation leaders is taking place,” said pastor Oleg Magdych, Maydan’s activist.
The leaders of the Evangelical community declared their readiness to continue Christianministry even undernew wave of repression orrestrictions against religious freedom. “The January laws signed by the president threat not only oursociety but Christian organizations, too. We shouldn’t be afraid, and continue our ministry instead”, said Denis Gorenkov, CCX director.
Dr. Mykhailo Cherenkov added: “It’s the Church which is the strongest factor in our civil societytoday, therefore our responsibility has grown.”
“The barricades of Maydantouched my heart. I saw the birth of a new nation there. People were ready to fight for their freedom andgive their lives for the sake of others,”shared Dr. Sergiy Tymchenko, and his testimony impressed many people in the room.
Oles Dmytrenko,author of the book “Corruption: a bone in the throat”, reminded the Church about its role of being“salt and light” to the world, that is, convicting sin plainly inany political context and giving a clear moral verdicton what’s truly happeningto the society; at the same time – giving hope and showingthe true way of salvation.
The initiative was supported by the following leaders of churches and denominations: Anatoly Kalyuzhniy (Union of Independent Evangelical Churches of Ukraine), Valery Antonyuk (Union of Baptist Churches of Ukraine), Ralph Huska (German Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ukraine), as well as by other pastors of Kyivchurches: PetroMarchenko, MykolaPonomarev, Sergiy Tymchenko, Denis Kondyuk,OlexiySatenko.Theologians and seminary professors made their authoritative contribution to the discussion, too; they were Petro Kovaliv, father YuriyChornomorets, and father Petro Balog. Respected experts and public figures – SergiyHula, Andrew Shekhovtsov and Oles Dmytrenko –said their word, too. Guests came not only from the capital of Ukraine, but from all over Ukraine:Kharkiv, Sumy, Dnipropetrovsk, Donetsk, Lviv and other places.
At the end, the moderator AndriyShekhovtsov, the Maydan prayer tent ministry’s coordinator, encouragedthe Evangelical Christians to become more active in their missionand support the peaceful protesters by prayer, witnessing and practical help.
As the result, the Appeal to the Evangelical churchesof Ukraineis being madewith the purpose to lay astrong Biblical foundation for Christians to be more effective in their mission to reach out to the society at such a critical historical time for the Ukrainian nation. The appeal will be made publicon Monday, Jan 20, 2014.
January 20, 2014
Resolution of the roundtable “Maidan and Church: Missionand
Social Responsibility of Christians” held in Kyiv on January 17, 2014
Appeal to the Evangelical Churches of Ukraine
In this crucial moment for Ukraine we, the participants of the round table “Maidan and Church: Mission and Social Responsibility of Christians” held in Kyiv on 17 January 2014, appeal to the leaders of Evangelical churches, fellowships, denominations, ministries, and organizations, as well as to church members – to take all possible measures to stand for truth, peace and justice in Ukraine.
Regardless of political preferences we call our brothers and sisters all over the country to take more activate part in the life of the Ukrainian society and demonstrate a high level of personal responsibility. First of all, we all should strengthen our prayer: “I will therefore that men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting” (1 Tim. 2:1-4, 8). As “faith without works is dead” (James 2:17, 20, 26), we have to provide practical help to the victims of violence, following the example of the good Samaritan (Luke 10:29-37) and our Lord Jesus Christ, in the context of the recent repressions against the Maydan activists, threats to the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, adoptionof anti-constitutional laws on January 16, terror and use of force against the protestors on January 19, 2014 continuing till now.
Church wisely avoided political speculations on the association agreement with the European Union. However, after the bloodshed at Maydan on 30 November 2013 there is no way the Church could keep silence. Realizing moral responsibility before God and society Christianshave to convict the violence against the civilians, call it a crime publicly, expose the perpetrators and help the victims.
The Maydan Independence Square in Kyiv, as well as little maydans all across the country, are the place for a legitimate right of the people to demand from the government a respect for their freedom, dignity and rights, as well as to requirethe officials to fulfill their obligations for the common good, and not abuse the power given by the Ukrainian people. Church has to say its authoritative word along with the voice of the people, declaring that they are created by God in His image and likeness, that all people are equal before God, that God’s judgment is real, as well as God’s care for the helpless.
Wedraw attention of the government and protesters to God’s commandments, love and forgiveness, without which the demand for equity may end up with chaos and violence. Therefore we encourage everyone to do their best for a peaceful resolution of the conflict. Each person will give personal account for his or her actions both on earth and in heaven.
We declare that the government’sattempts to isolate the Ukrainian Evangelical believers from the European and international community of Christians are unacceptable.
We confirm that the main task of the Church at this time is to be “salt” and “light” to our society. This means that the Church has to expose sin in all its forms and manifestations directly without any compromise, call the officials and civil society to repentance, show people the true way of salvation in Jesus Christ, help the victims in every way, and give hope.
We believe that by the mercy of God, prayers and labor of Christians the events taking place on Maydan will bring forth spiritual awakening and renewal of the Ukrainian nation.
Statement by Grigory Komendant, President of the Ukrainian Bible Society, on the events in Ukraine
Peace to you, Brothers and Sisters!
Usually I speak in Ukrainian, but now, I am addressing you in Russian so that I am heard by as many people as possible, including people in neighboring countries.
As the head of the Ukrainian Bible Society and minister of the Church, I urge you to consider the events currently underway through the light of the Bible, the Word of God. The Bible speaks of the past, the present and the future in such a way that all this relates to the present. With God, everything — is now, everything relates to us.
The Bible — this is the foundation for our position. In it we find such words: «It is an abomination to kings to commit wickedness: for the throne is established by righteousness.» (Proverbs 16:12).
Great problems have arisen in our country, because many falsehoods and half-truths have been sown, and a half-truth is even worse, since people are easily deceived. This kind of situation can be tolerated by the people for a certain time, but not forever. On the other hand, there is nothing that is not as God willed it. God is in control of all.
Accordingly, I want to say that these are very troubled times for the entire country and the Church. Many of us do not sleep, we worry, we pray. We find ourselves in the epicenter of events and it is hard for us to comprehend what is happening, and those who are watching from the side have even more difficulty. But one thing is clear: the situation is very serious.
Listening to the President’s address yesterday, I saw in his eyes great apprehension. I do not know if he will surrender to good wishes or to other council, but I felt immense disquietude. The opposition, too, is experiencing anxiety—they do not control the situation.
As believers, we must bring peace and compassion to this situation, Now, words are no longer effective, and are even aggravating. Many empty words have been uttered, now is the time to take action.
Ukrainians are a special people, one that has overcome great misfortune, and thus, is attuned to peace. I believe in our people and I have confidence in God. I believe that in the upcoming days the situation will change for the better. This is my Christian optimism. But for these positive changes, we are all faced with the need to do something. First, the authorities must act, because they have overlooked many opportunities. Second, the opposition must act. They need to meet each other halfway in the search for peace.
As people of faith, we must intensify our prayers. It is not enough to pray with words, alone. In this situation, we need to go within, to feel it. And then cry out to God. I believe that He will listen.
Of course, there are things that we cannot change. Thus, Moses could not change the heart of Pharaoh, nor Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego – the will of the king. They were prepared for suffering. But God Himself intervened.
We must pray, spread peace, waves of peace from all sides. Of course, the authorities bear more responsibility. People can tolerate no more We need to say to the rich and the «connected»: Stop. The laws that have been adopted are inhuman — difficult to imagine in the 21st century. Such laws belong to the distant past. But God can change all this. I believe that He wants the best for us.
We must be Christian optimists and carry this optimism to the people – they are waiting for us to bring it. For my part, I, along with the Primates of the other Ukrainian Churches, hope to be on Maidan with concrete proposals for reconciliation and a resolution of the situation. Currently consultations are already underway with both sides — with the authorities, and with the opposition.
Ukraine has a future. Our Christian resources of love and sympathy have not yet been fully utilized. I ask all the Christians of Ukraine to take action, to do everything they can in their place.
God, Bless Ukraine!
Grigory Komendant, January 21, 2014