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Pastor Sergey Demidovich “Maidan in Kiev was a Revolution of dignity. And the events in the Donbas is a proletarian revolution”

02.06.2014, 10:54
Pastor Sergey Demidovich “Maidan in Kiev was a Revolution of dignity. And the events in the Donbas is a proletarian revolution” - фото 1
Serhiy Demidovich, pastor of the Church "Good news” in Slavyansk city on the situation in his native city, reconsidering his own Christian position, challenges to the evangelical churches and relations with Russian protestants brought about by recent events. Because of his professional activities he had to leave Sloviansk.

Interviewed by Tatiana Rudenka


Demydovych_S_w.jpgSerhiy Demidovich, pastor of the Church "Good news” in Slavyansk city on the situation in his native city, reconsidering his own Christian position, challenges to the evangelical churches and relations with Russian protestants brought about by recent events. Because of his professional activities he had to leave Sloviansk.

- Sergei, you have lived in Slavyansk for many years. Explain who are the people who are out there fighting?

- In Slavyansk there are actually some people who truly believe that Ukraine should be a part of Russia. But still most of the militants are people with complex lives. They either had problems with the law or are it poor or alcoholics. These people have a reason to hate life and everyone around.

There is a guy in my street. Before these events he was riding his motor-bike and was unremarkable – and suddenly found himself at the helm of power. He was assigned the street, where he built a barricade. This guy always stopped me, checked what I was carrying and where I was going. I saw him unloading “Molotov cocktails”. I'm surprised that this young man is going to lead me to a brighter future.

- Are there any Russian militants?

- There are different people. No one showed me his passport. But when they say “don’t step over ‘porebryk’”, it becomes clear who they are. This word is used only in St. Petersburg. The locals do not shoot down helicopters. Technology is not their weapons either. So I think that in the city there are Russian militants.

- How would you define the events currently taking place in Slavyansk?

- Maidan in Kyiv was the Revolution of Dignity. I agree with that. And I think the events in Slavyank and all over Donbass are a proletarian revolution. Unlike Maidan, in Slavyansk there is no ground for discussion. There you have no right to a different opinion. The intellectual level of the rebellious people is such that your slightest disagreement is perceived as a personal insult. The events in my city resemble Somalia: the same level of aggression, claims, lack of justice and law. My friend just gave an interview to journalists. Then the neighbors contacted her and said they would kill her when she returns. People do not want someone to have a different opinion.

- Why are people still supporting the militants?

- After Yanukovych’s escape and attempts to reverse the law on language in the East the talks about the oppression of the Russian language began. It was a provocation or just nonsense and it worked. The new authorities had to talk to people.

Do you know the feeling of the brotherhood, which exists in the army? Whatever you are: high, low, good or bad – we, the countrymen, should stick together. In the East something like this worked. Those who live there are the enemies, and here we are united. Propaganda works. People believe about the Nazis, Bandera. Many locals support the militants. Nevertheless, as a pastor, I believe that Christians should remember that regardless of their views, they are humans too. After the hostilities we will have to continue to live together somehow.

- Recently, the terrorists fired at an orphanage and rehabilitation center that belongs to your church. Tell us more about it.

- The militants were firing from the territory of the orphanage, where is the open sight of the TV tower. The Ukrainian military servants fired back. Consequently there are damages indoors. The militants set mortar installation between the residential buildings, near the schools so that the army could not strike back. Perhaps the Ukrainian military knew that there were no children in the house, they were evacuated prior to firing. Therefore they stroke back. At night on April 21 our rehabilitation center was fired. Three our buildings: the church, the orphanage and the rehabilitation center were under attack. In my opinion it was the spiritual hatred of militants that revealed itself.

- Did you receive direct threats from the militants to your church?

- The situation of the Church is difficult. I cannot talk about it, so as not to complicate it even more.

- Was your brother Alexei Demidovich held captive on the premises of the Security Service by the militants?

- My brother never went into politics. He has the heart of a pastor. It seems like they wanted to frighten him. He was kept prisoner in the basement for seven hour. There were no clear allegations. He was not beaten. Many people were praying for him. I cannot tell you anything more.

- Why can’t you go back to your hometown?

- As a journalist, I decided to cover honestly the events in Slavyansk. Now it became very dangerous to do this.

Besides, there is an opinion that Protestants are linked with the West. Allegedly they are instructed or financed from there. This is not true. Such information might also become the reason for pressure on me. They came to my house with a search warrant. It is dangerous to go to Slavyansk now.

- What is the situation of the churches in Donbas right now?

- The Evangelical Churches are in a difficult situation, but they are supporting each other. The Kyivan Patriarchate is also in a difficult situation. Unfortunately, the Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate came up on the other side of the barricades. At Maidan everything happened under the divine sign – the people were united by trouble. All prayed together. In the East there is no such a spirit of humility. I remember a rally in Kharkiv after Yanukovych’s escape. First a certain MP came out and called to pray. He hardly could say “Our Father”. In a moment the guards ran up to him and took him out of there. Then it became clear that in the East everything will be different.

- What does your church do now?

- When the tragic events began, we have taken out of town a lot of families. I was outside Slavyansk, so I could arrange some help. People support us financially. We receive some aid from Russia - both personal and from the churches.

One guy from Russia argued with me on Facebook. He did not share my stance, yet he supported us financially in spite of that. In fact, people are kinder and more humane than they are shown. When the House of Trade Unions was burning in Odessa – the majority of football fans did their best to save people who attacked them before.

We all need to be more humane. Our church, for example, helps the families of the deceased militants. I think that is right. The Church is called to love our enemies, care of them, and not to take anyone unworthy of assistance. For after the tragic events end, the Ukrainian people’s healing can come only through forgiveness, love and virtue.

- In your opinion, what challenges after the Maidan’s events and the invasion of Russia in Ukraine will the Christian community face?

- Now my theology collapses. The events at Maidan were far from us, then we would easily say that we did not meddle with politics.

I was born in a Christian family. From my childhood the Soviet government was hostile to Christians. Personally, I was spit in the eye, insulted, mocked and even fined. Then it was clear that the state is the enemy. We never were able to and did not know how to make friends with the state and how we could help it. Protestant Churches have just now started to learn this. Some people still believe that the Church is out of politics, we just have to pray. I used to think so too.

I have not been at Maidan. However, when the tanks came into my town, a question arose: “At what point should I stop praying and start holding back the evil not only with a prayer, but physically?” Protestant churches have to rethink a social aspect of the church life and formulate a new social theology.

- What is the direction of these changes?

- Recent events in Ukraine are a major challenge for the evangelical movement. Protestants need to change their attitude towards authorities. How shall we understand the statement: “There is no authority except that which God has established”? One power brought the country to a crisis situation. Now we have authorities, who toppled their predecessors, but they are legitimate. People, who seized the administrative building in my city, also declared themselves a legitimate government. There are representatives from neighboring countries, who helped Yanukovych and now help the militants. We have four governments. Which one is legitimate? In the traditional interpretation the claim that every authority is established by God is wrong. For there is an illegal power that took up automated guns. And we had the legitimately elected power, but it so much degraded that God swept it away. We see similar cases in history. Shall the Evangelical churches rethink what we believe in?

- Did you communicate with the Protestants in Russian during the events in Slavyansk?

- Yes, but mostly through social networks. I received many reproaches. Some of them said, "You were passive, you did not support Maidan – so wait for the tanks in the city”, while others, on the contrary, say: “He was loyal to Maidan – now there are tanks in Slavyansk”. I felt guilty before all of them. At such moments the faith is tested, how much we love how much we believe.

One should not be the kind of Ukrainian who hates Russians. One should not be the kind of Russian, who hates Ukrainians. There are Russians who are our brothers in the faith, they were kind to me, but not do not receive in their church because I am a patriot of Ukraine. Since many of my friends are from Russia, I heard from them all that Russian television said. I believe they spoke sincerely. But this was not the truth. In this situation, the Church needs spiritual enlightenment.

- How to improve relations between people, when within the country people have such different views of the same things?

- Love in this case is above justice. After all, justice does not heal – everyone thinks of his own rightness. If East and West Ukraine are guided categories justice they won’t come to an agreement. We have to be wise and seek what unites us, to extend to each other a hand of friendship and assistance. When Lviv spoke Russian it was the thing that healed.

- Can this model be used in relations with Russia?

- With Russia it sounds one way, and with the Christians in a different way. The Christians have the thing that unites them. It should be admitted that regardless of their understanding of faith they are our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Sergey Demidovich is a famous Christian journalist and broadcaster, one of the leaders of national adoption project “You will be found", a well-known Christian author and performer.