2014 is the year of breakthrough, changes and unity in the face of threat. Summary of religious leaders and speakers.
The past year of 2014 definitely shook not only Ukraine but the whole world. Religious organizations also faced changes. They have responded differently to the main events of the year, including Maidan and war. This year is the year of heavy losses, pain and grief. But it brought its fruits for each of us, too. The leaders and speakers of churches and religious organizations comment for RISU on the effects and conclusions of the year of 2014.
Patriarch Filaret, Primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Kyiv Patriarchate:
- This is the difficult time for Ukraine,because we were subject to aggression. For UOC-KP, it was particularly difficult because our Church does not perform worship in Donbas, in the areas occupied by separatists and terrorists. And it is a wound for us. But at the same time, we believe that the Lord will turn for the better such negative phenomenaas death and suffering, and people will turn to God. And now you see, young people, and not only young people leaveto protect their land, their country, their people. They do not just go,they collect assistance throughout Ukraine, showing the love that unites. So the grief we are experiencing will serve our unity and God will grant us victory.
Mykhaylo Panochko, President of the Union of Christians of Evangelical Faith -Pentecostals:
The past year has brought many outstanding events, but it became a turning point. Our nation became strong, having experienced a renaissance. People strain towards dignity and justice, their greatest desire was peace in the country, life and security of all people, absence of suppression of human dignity.
We really demonstrateda different level of life, escaping from orbit of easterly winds. This year shook our nation and made us understand more about our faith and relationship with God. Many people began to pray and follow the path of faith.
We also saw many positive aspects, such as the absence of conflict in religious circles. We did not only succeed to keep the consolidation, but also to coalesce in the face of grief. We are still far from perfect, but the process has already begun.
It is a very painful and troubling year for our nation, but because of the pain comes all well and good. So we try not to focus on the negative and go further in a way we have set foot. And thank God that we are getting back to honor and dignity. I am sure that we should expect the best of times, but we still have to wait. Next year will be no easy, but we took the right course for change.
Archbishop Ihor (Isichenko), Bishop of the Diocese of Kharkiv and Poltava of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church:
The year that we survived despite losses and bitter discovery granted invaluable experience of social support to the system of falsehood and disrespect for human dignity. The unique request to faith and prayer emerged where our countrymen rallied in defense of the gift that the Bible calls the image and likeness of God. The Revolution of Dignity gave the church a chance to follow its true vocation: to lead the creation endowed with this gift to encounter with the Creator. Encounter in prayer, in the sacraments, and later – in eternal life. And such spiritual leadership of the Church requires awareness of its own identity, defense of its freedom and expression of a clear position in the civilizationcontest, the scene of which was the geopolitical space of Ukraine.
And it is not only a challenge for all jurisdictions in Ukraine, but also for the Ecumenical Orthodoxy. After wandering in the twilight of empires, the Eastern Churches, like the ancient sages, rediscover the leading star of freedom in Christ. Will the Church be able to get free from misleading patronage of earthly powers on their way towards this dawn – that's the fundamental question that the year of 2014 has left.
Archpriest Ihor Yatsiv, Head of the Information Department of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church:
- I will not be original if I say that the year was very difficult. But I want to start with the positive aspects and emphasize that we have achieved civil society owing to this year. It has become aware of its democracy, its rights and opportunities, and together with them, of the duties and responsibilities. And we see this among people who go voluntarily to defend their country, including volunteers and chaplains, doctors, rescuing the wounded. This is a great awakening of the country and our recovery from the post-Soviet residue. We feel just cogs that move the world together, but now we know for sure that together we are the power.
Of course, the annexation of Crimea and the war in the country are a common pain. And we all always feel on ourselves this pressure, which most strongly touched the poor through economic difficulties. Our Caritas has worked and will continue to operate to help everyone in need.
Meanwhile, the development of the church life was marked by the 25th anniversary of obtaining legal status by the UGCC. This year the UGCC ordained six new bishops, and it is for the first time that we have so many new bishops. New exarchates have been established, including the division of the joint Donetsk and Kharkiv exarchate into Donetsk and Kharkivexarchates, the joint Odesa and Crimea exarchateinto Odessa and Crimea exarchates, this is a sign of our growth and development. In addition, the establishment of the Brazilian Metropolis was also significant and now there are eight metropolises in our church. It's our way to the recognition of patriarchal dignity of the UGCC.
Our Church has been and remains a locomotive of development of military chaplaincy and everything impliesthat next year the institute of military chaplaincywill be officially approved. This will be a sign that we are a civilized country that expressly guarantees all citizens freedom of religion also when performing their military duty. Similarly will happen in the Prison Service, if God grants.
This year the Church responded to those challenges it met throughout the year: to help displaced people, the wounded, the military in the ATO zone and everyone who needed help. So we can say that the social sphere was the most important for the UGCC in 2014.
Pastor Ihor Shemihon, minister of St. Catherine Church in Kyiv of the German Evangelical Lutheran Church:
This is the objectively the hardest year in my life and our Church in Ukraine, and for me personally. We are experiencing now in our country the epochal events that will change us forever. On the other hand, I see a strong consolidation of power of the Church. It has become a living organism, and this is evidenced by our union around the Lord. There is a saying: men are united by common grief. But I've never seen a variety of denominations and religious leaders working so closely together and helping each other. This is not a pseudo-Christmas ecumenism, of which we spoke earlier, but a true real-time collaboration in specific cases. And this is a remarkable breakthrough for the entire Church this year.
Archbishop Thomas Gullickson, Apostolic Nuncio in Ukraine:
- It was interesting to watch and see what this year was for the Roman and Greek Catholic Churches. Clearly, the year of 2014 was a year of growth and challenges. It was the time for us to understand our new role. We have worked with the public, but perhaps the Church should work more with civil society, but rather not refer only to the authorities. In the short term the experience of Maidan showed rapprochement of churches in supporting and helping people.
It was the time of growth and self-discovery for the church, the year, when it was able to recognize its new role in society. I think this was a challenge in discovering our strengths and weaknesses. For the Catholic Church, it was also a year of growth; we saw our achievements and drawbacks. I can say when tested for eternal values, one must live the gospel laws and remain who he is.
Fr George Kovalenko, former spokesman of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church:
The milestone of the previous year was the end of Metropolitan Volodymyr’s era, his departure to the Lord. At the same time, the election of a new Primate of the Church, Metropolitan Onufriy. The Church lived through this year together with the people, state and society. All the same it was going through all difficulties that our country faced. All our service was devoted to this.
We all lived the same problems and received them as personal. But for me this year was also the completion of my ministry as spokesman. I believe that the New Year will bring new projects and opportunities.
Sheikh Ahmed Tamim, Mufti of the Spiritual Directorate of Muslims of Ukraine:
This year was not an easy one in the history of Ukraine, being a year of great change. It served as alarm clock to wake not only the Ukrainian people, but all others. And what is happening in the Middle East and other countries under the label of religion, the emergence of inter-religious conflicts – all that gives us reason to take a close look at the directionthe humanity is heading.
We learn the lessons of the past year. We must always work for the common denominator that unites people of good intentions and desires in order to save human value and in order that justice prevailed. We have a great responsibility to the next generation, being aware that we leave for them. We see that now many speak only about the war, blood, and the death of hundreds of people is just a terrifying number for them. Until now, most people live just for the sake of personal gain and do not look at what the disease may occur due to greed and avarice.
The Spiritual Directorate continues working as it worked. We have engaged in religious issues, as our permanent concern is politicization of religion. This is especially true for the slogans of Islamization that has been used in Europe and elsewhere. Some people may use it as a springboard for their wickedness. It bothers us the most.
So we want Ukraine to overcome this crisis. All people should work within their competence to ensure that justice prevails, there is peace on the earth andthe cultural dialogue andrelationships develop only for the benefit of the future.
Sheikh Said Ismagilov, Mufti of ‘Ummah’, the Spiritual Directorate of Muslims of Ukraine:
The past year of 2014 was probably the most difficult for the Muslims Ukraine after 1944, when all the Crimean Tatar people was deportedand almost all Muslim lawful activities were eliminated. After those events all religious life of Muslims of Ukraine until 1989 was in underground. Now we are going through something similar, but on a slightly smaller scale.
Why do I say that it is in our worst year for the whole period of the independence of Ukraine? Because the two regions where the largest number of Muslims lived are Crimea and Donbas, and now they are in such a situation. It can be noted that in Crimea all Muslims who remained there have somehow adapted to what is happening there. There were cases of kidnapping, torture, destruction of people, mostly Muslims. And with that we had to live.
One more our great community are the Muslims of Donbas, living in Donetsk and Luhansk region. If we take our Spiritual Directorate, we had 5 communities in each region and the only one left in unoccupied territory. In Donetsk region our community remained in Kostyantynivka,and in Severodonetskin Luhansk region. There are some moves from Russia, someone declared himself a mufti of the People’s Republic of Donetsk, saying that there never will beUkraine. All other Muslims who remained in Ukraine are also experiencing quite a difficult time, trying to help our brotherssomehow.
For me this was a year of test, not only the civic one but also a test of faith and loyalty. The believer cannot be a traitor, I always rejected this. And this year was such a turning point, a kind of litmus test. After all, those who nurtured faith, loyalty, honesty, have demonstrated them and vice versa. Community has divided in itself.
And next year will also be the year of testfor all of us. Aggravation of military conflict is possible. We do not know what will happen next. But we all have to go through certain tests. And I think that this year Allah tested our loyalty, whether we are consistent,grateful or traitors. For me the conclusion is that the Lord God gave us an exam of loyalty.