Mykhaylo Cherenkov: A Real Catastrophe Has Occurred In Relations Between Russian And Ukrainian Christians
In the relations between Russian and Ukrainian Christians, a real catastrophe has taken place. As it became evident, apparently the Russian Christians trust the state propaganda much more than they trust their brothers – Ukrainians who could tell them the truth from the first sources, without a tainted telephone, and an even more tainted television.
After the leaders of Russian Protestants declined to come to Kyiv, I said unpopular words: given such a categorical position of the Russians, a dialogue is impossible”. As soon as the information leaked about the visit of the Head of the Russian Baptists to Kyiv, and later also about the Jerusalem meeting of the Heads of Protestant Churches, many reproached me for the negativism. “Actually everything is fine, the brothers are communicating with each other – there is no point in thickening the air.” However, a meeting which was not prepared in a proper way, all the more a meeting which has an incomprehensible or a “hidden agenda”, as the Americans call it, cannot be successful. As is known to me, some (perhaps maybe almost all) participants did not even know who organized the meeting and for what purpose. Therefore, I was not surprised by their comments about the pain, the insult, and the wasted time.
A dialogue is impossible even when there is a will to hear and understand one another, even with the will “to reconcile” and hold “joint prayers” for peace and friendship. Since we are not dealing with a dialogue in a calm academic or church atmosphere, rather we are dealing with two sides of a conflict, in which one side is the victim and the other side is the aggressor. And without a clear comprehension of this asymmetry, without the acknowledgement by the Church of the responsibility for the aggression of its country against its neighbor, it is impossible to even begin a conversation, since qualitatively the starting points are inappropriate.
It seems to me that even colleagues from Jehovah’s Witnesses acted better than our brothers – they came, sat down, and remained silent, sharing the sorrow of their colleague. It is at this point that a beginning of a dialogue is possible -- from sorrow, and then from repentance for that evil which was done to Ukraine, for the separation, occupation, war, wounds, and deaths. Empathy, repentance, forgiveness, and then reconciliation – those are the necessary steps in a dialogue. If during a “dialogue” there is an avoidance of even the word “aggression”, if everything is reduced to showy embraces and empty declarations, then nothing more but a photograph is the outcome of such a meeting.
I hope very much that conclusions will be made, that there will be clarity about the initiators, the composition of the attendees, the agenda, the motives and intentions. And, I also hope, that the next meeting will not be so secret and unofficial; I expect transparency and accountability – to society, to journalists, to the Church.