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Mariana Karapinka blog

Is the UGCC Equipping Ukrainian Troops? Some thoughts on the article published in the Christian Science Monitor

02.01.2015, 17:42

Amie Ferris-Rotman’s article “Ukraine's Greek Catholic Church looks to boost sway – by equipping military” in the Christian Science Monitor attracted the attention and got many reposts in other media outlets with headlines “UGCC is Equipping Ukrainian Troops”. It’s impossible to give full overview in short blog post but it should be emphasized how dangerous this article and its headline are.

While her historical references pay justice to the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church history and even recognize its role “of guarding the country's identity and independence”, conclusions on the present role of the UGCC in the Ukrainian society and Church’s help to the Ukrainian Army and volunteer battalions lack proper research, are very premature and fail to correspond with the reality.

Many times the author mentions “the UGCC's direct role in the conflict” which “is supplying government forces fighting in the east” and “hopes to win followers within a country that is becoming increasingly divided along ethnic and religious lines” and even attributes the UGCC the “partisan stance”.

Amie Ferris-Rotman bases her conclusions on the official records that “dioceses of Lviv and Ternopil have donated over $200,000 worth of equipment since March to Ukrainian forces” and commentary of Wilson Center Expert Geraldine Fagan, the Moscow Correspondent of Forum 18 News Service. At least these are the sources she mentions.

As the experienced Reuters correspondent covering Afghanistan and Russia Amie Ferris-Rotman might have guessed how dangerous her premature conclusions could be taking into the account that pro-Russian militants have abducted and threatened Greek Catholic and Roman Catholic priests and 2 Protestant deacons were killed in occupied Sloviansk. Adding fuel of the religious aspect to the fire of the war and conflict in Ukraine does not help the situation and is not the best example of fair reporting.

Not taking into account the conclusions that are too subjective, the story itself does not present the whole picture. It shows the UGCC helping the Ukrainian Army but doesn’t mention the fact that the UGCC is just one agent in immense volunteer movement that swept Ukraine during the past year. The recent surveys prove that the volunteers (organized movements and individuals) are the most trusted in the society and 25% of the Ukrainians are engaged in volunteer movement. Helping the army is the nationwide movement which embraces people of different ages, backgrounds and lifestyles.

Ukraine is a country which didn’t lead the war in its recent history. After Soviet Union collapsed the Ukrainian army was gravely underfunded. When the conflict began the state and ministry of defense appeared to be incapable to satisfy needs of the army during the war time and volunteers’ efforts filled the gaps providing ammunition, medical kits, vehicles, etc.

Therefore the Church is just one of the agents but not the key agent as it’s presented in the article. Probably the Church is most noticeable and well-organized for it’s a big institution. But as it was on the Maidan in helping army the UGCC followed its faithful.

Why does the Church do it? Explaining the Church engagement on the Maidan the head of the UGCC Sviatoslav Shevchuk quoted the Pope who urged his priests to “be shepherds with the smell of sheep”. During the past winter the Ukrainians smelled the Maidan smoke, therefore priests came to the Maidan. Now the part of the country experience the hardships of war, almost every Ukrainian town and village already buried young soldiers who died in the east, and it’s a pastoral duty of priests of different denominations to be with their flock, to comfort, to help.

It’s true that dozens priests serve as military chaplains and hundreds of priests work with volunteers but “UGCC is Equipping Ukrainian Troops” is clear  overstatement which can inflict damage and put many chaplains who work in war zone into mortal danger.