Moral Authorities Explain Why Ukraine Should Chose Europe
Our Choice Is to Be Responsible Members of the European Community
For the second time the initiative group “December 1” gathered at the Lviv Book Forum in order to once again remind people about values and determine the direction of development for the society. This year, the participants of the open discussion, which took place on September 15 at the Palace of Arts, discussed the topic of choosing the future of the country and on what values it will be based.
The discussion, of course, was about our European choice.
An open discussion took place between authoritative and respected people in Ukraine – Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, Vice Rector of UCU Myroslav Marynovych, philosopher and writer Yevhen Sverstyuk, and director of the Institute of Philosophy of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine Myroslav Popovych. They have repeatedly stated their desire to see Ukraine as a free European nation. The moral authorities agreed that Ukraine is now heading in the right direction – the European Union, but the way is difficult and Ukrainians must do everything possible to reach the goal without losing their Christian values.
Myroslav Marynovych, who started the discussion, first described the activities of the initiative group and, in particular, the Charter of Human Freedoms, which they signed. He noted that in Ukraine when discussing the European choice, many feel as if our fate is decided without us. Ukrainians as always lag behind and do not have their own well-articulated positions on European integration. “So our commitment today is to search for this position, figure out what features it should have, which aspects are important to us,” he said, outlining the main objectives of the meeting.
We Don’t Have to Fear Europe!
Archbishop Emeritus of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC) Lubomyr Husar began his speech by debunking if not the most popular myth that modern Europe moved completely away from Christianity and that this is also waiting for Ukraine if it joins Europe.
“In one word,” the hierarch said, “we are afraid of those who do not want us to move closer to Western Europe. We are afraid that we will move closer and stop being Christians. Now, let us consider whether this accusation is justified, whether it should discourage us from converging with Western Europe?”
Cardinal Lubomyr said that the EU is certainly not an ideal structure. Not all processes are done as we would like. The present Europe, as he said, is “the continuation of a certain period, of events, trends,” because Europe did not come out of nowhere, it has its own, sometimes tragic history. It made mistakes and corrected them. Even in the twentieth century Europe experienced Nazism, fascism, and communism until all these misanthropic regimes were destroyed by the Europeans themselves.
“But Western Europe, which constructed these movements, found the strength to get rid of them,” continued the archbishop.
According to the former head of the UGCC, today in Western Europe there are also trends, mainly of the moral character. And we are told that if we move closer to Western Europe, we will accept these trends, which, in fact, would lead the society to ruin. It would lead us to ruin if we accept them. People often objectively cite, for example, that in France the parliament passed a law that allows same-sex unions, even names them marriages. Well, it would look really dangerous, but there is a fact that for some reason is not brought up, which is that in response to the parliament’s decision, one and a half million French citizens protested in the streets of French cities. So, yes, their parliament passed the law. But the parliament does not have the final word on the state of the mind of the French people. Those one and half million people who took to the streets testified to the spiritual state of the French. Something similar happened in Italy, where they tried to ban all mention of God in public schools, to exclude God from schools. But not only did the church protest, but the people did as well.
“I mention these facts because there is no need to deny that there are bad trends in Western Europe. Unfortunately, the Europe that grew up on Christian principles, on spiritual values of the highest level, has such manifestations. But on the other hand, we must not forget that these people, who for centuries were raised on sound Christian principles, nurtured and developed the highest spiritual values, have the same strong spiritual force today as they had in the last hundreds of years, and thus we should not be too afraid. I do not say that we need to accept everything that Western Europe accepts. We must be critical, look with open eyes and an open mind at what is happening. But by no means do we need to have excessive fear, thinking that if we move closer to Western Europe we will come closer to our spiritual ruin. If they still have spiritual power (and there is evidence that they do ) to not allow themselves to be conquered by these bad tendencies, then we – as we move closer to Europe and think critically about what is going on, and properly assess what is truly spiritually valuable – have no need to fear. To fear to the extent that would hinder any approachment to Western Europe. I think that today, if we calmly and objectively look at what is happening to spiritual life in Eurpoe, and how it remains and is even growing, if we honor the spiritual values held by our people, we have no reason to fear,” the cardinal assured the audience.
We Have a Favorable Tailwind
Continuing the thought of Cardinal Husar, Yevhen Sverstyuk formulated the main topic of the discussion – fostering in the people a spiritual power that can overcome disease and resist hostile winds. “If we talk about choosing the direction, then we can say that now we have a favorable tailwind, because a year ago, perhaps no one expected that the political forces in power would look to the West, out of fear of the East. This selection will be done, and then it is just the beginning. It’s about the transformation of civil society, the development of the social structures that give us a feeling of security and stability,” believes Yevhen Sverstyuk.
The publicist asked: “When fleeing from Ivan the Terrible, where did Prince Kurbsky go? To the West. When fleeing from his father the king, where did the son of Peter go? To the West. And where did Stalin’s daughter flee to? To the West. The West has always been attractive. Why? It is attractive by the fact that there is rule of law, which has never been in the East, where there was only an imitation of it. It is attractive by the fact that there is freedom. And freedom is, in fact, the most important word of the Declaration of our initiative group “December 1.” Freedom is what makes a people be, realize their strength, advance.”
Yevhen Sverstyuk said that when it comes to the East, there they will accept us and say: “There will be no problem to advance, there will only be a problem to bend down. A much more difficult choice is to go into a world that will set very strict requirements. And set them not only for the government, which has to reform, but also for each person, for each of us – starting with ourselves, our families, our children. This choice has to be made today – to set before ourselves moral barriers, to rise to a higher level and be true, because life until now, unfortunately, rested on fiction.”
“We Cannot Just Go to Europe, We Must Comply with the Requirement it Sets Before Us”
According to Myroslav Popovych, we appeal to the moral and spiritual values, and at the same time spend more and more time discussing political themes. “After Mr. Yevhen’s speech, I can say directly – vote for the European choice. I do not like politics as such, but today life puts before us a dilemma: if politics is dirty, are we to give up politics and just live each in our own environments, in our closets? Or are we to do everything possible to clean up the space around us so we can breathe more easily? All politics should be clean. And no one but us can make it so,” Myroslav Popovych said to the audience.
Europe Offers a Chance to Grow in Freedom
Myroslav Marynovych started with arguments that would speak to the Eurosceptic. “Many isolationists believe that it is best to protect ourselves with a glass wall, then they will reproach those who are a source of danger. Europe will always be stronger than us and will pressure us to continue developing. Is it not better for us to join Europe and with our position put adequate pressure on the things with which we don’t agree. Even today in Europe there is an Orthodox Greece, Romania, soon there will be an Orthodox Moldova, Georgia, and unique in its civilizational characteristics Ukraine. So do we not feel that in a united Europe is possible what Pope John Paul II said, namely that Europe will breathe with its two lungs. We all together can create one lung that will breathe our spirituality, will speak our Eastern Christian language. So, to be in dialogue with the world, including with the West, is much better than hiding from the pressure of Europe behind some wall,” concluded Myroslav Marynovych.
The publicist gave an example of the Romanian Orthodox Church, which today is one of the most dynamic, because Romanian scholars are in active dialogue with Europe. South Korea has recognized four of its companies that are competitive in the world, and we all know what the South Korean economy is like. “We will think that the future of our country is promising, and thus we can have a dialogue with the world. Of course, the EU is not paradise, but will Ukraine be isolated by paradise?” asks the audience Myroslav Marynovych.
He said that in Europe, even after having learned from its mistakes, there is a chance to grow in freedom. Otherwise, the alternative is a world in which a lack of freedom is the norm. “We just emerged from that world,” concludes Myroslav Marynovch. “So, we do not need to return to it, and it must be understood that in Europe there are certain values and one of them is freedom.”
Let’s Begin to Change Ukraine Ourselves
Well, we can only summarize. The Initiative Group “December 1” raised the most urgent issue in today's Ukrainian political life – the Association Agreement between the EU and Ukraine at the Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius on November 28-29. This again negates all allegations of the skeptics who say that this group does not provide specific answers to the everyday problems. Members of “December 1” do much more – they define guidelines for society. With their extensive experience, intellectuals seek to convey to the youth their ideas and opinions. For the state is us. And we need to start changing values in this country with ourselves.
The only solution to the problem: no need to fear Europe. For Europe alone will lose its immoral values. Joining Europe with our Christian tradition, we can change the situation. This is a time when Europe needs Eastern Europe, perhaps for the first time after the Battle of Vienna in 1683, when the threat of the Ottoman expansion was repelled. Because only together will Europe “breathe with its two lungs.”