"Let us stand together with those fighting for Truth...": Key ideas of the webinar
Recently, the document "Longing for the Truth That Makes Us Free" was released online, outlining the thoughts on the problem of truth and "post-truth" in modern society. It is especially acute while the Kremlin wages their great informational war against Ukraine. According to RISU, an initiative group of priests and laymen of various Christian denominations had been working on the document for a long time. It was signed by the faithful of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, the Roman Catholic Church in Ukraine, as well as the Association of the Missionary Churches of Evangelical Christians of Ukraine and the Council of Independent Evangelical Churches of Ukraine. The petitioning is still in progress. The document was also published in English.
On April 28, the UCU Institute of Religion and Society hosted a video conference via Zoom online service. The document's creators presented it to the general public and answered the participants’ questions. Here is an overview of the main points of the conference.
Truth of Security
One of the document’s sections is called "The trap of security". It states that many Western politicians understand that neglecting the values of humanity adversely affects the strength of the world order. However, they are reluctant to uphold these values, fearing a war that could conflict with the violators of international law. Is it possible to find a basis for long-term cooperation, understanding and dialogue in the "post-truth" setting, which means complete disregard for truth? The document cites the words of the former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg saying that many of those currently occupying top government posts "perceive truth as a threat, so they fear it, deny it, attack it and find themselves in an endless circle of lies." "At times, even church communities do not dare to condemn evil authoritarian regimes, fearing even greater persecution of their fellow believers. In this case, the Church shares only half-truths to not antagonize dictators. This might cause dictators to act against Christian doctrine,” the text reads. "You cannot restore international order while cooperating with its violators," the initiators of "Longing for Truth" remind us.
“The differentiation between truth, half-truth, and pseudo-truth is extremely complex at all levels and requires a lot of effort. We emphasize that this very issue is crucial for our security, freedom, and values as Europeans,” says Constantin Sigov, Director of the European Humanities Research Center. He reminds us that we, being native Slavic speakers, sometimes interpret "post-truth" as "post-law" or lawlessness.
Another issue to be discussed is “dialogue at all costs”. Usually, under such conditions, it is truth that is sacrificed. "True dialogue is where truth is," says Myroslav Marynovych, a human rights activist, publicist, and vice-rector of the Ukrainian Catholic University. The authors of the document emphasize that world politics should change the rules of the game to maintain true, not demonstrative security. And to achieve this, we must face the true nature of aggression and violence. "If we rebuke the Kremlin for their information aggression or if we do it solely by expressing our "deep concern " we take on their sin, sharing responsibility for this crime," stresses "The Longing for Truth”.
Loneliness in the world of unjustly wronged people remains an open wound of humanity. “We are all quarantined now, and loneliness is a real problem for many. But a person who faced unfair judgement feels it more acutely than others. This is more than a personal issue. Is Ukraine alone during the war? We insist on truth to overcome our loneliness,” says Constantin Sigov. Because of loneliness, both people and state might lose strength and cease to exist. We seek to escape the post-Soviet captivity and to get out of isolation. Will we return to a free world, or the one that denies us freedom? That shall be the key question after the quarantine.
Resource for change: Justice or Mercy?
“As Christians, we expect God to be gracious to us, not just. For if we are judged by justice, then woe to us. We must judge ourselves and be fair in our judgement for God to be merciful to us,” reminds one of the initiators of the “Longing for Truth”, theologian, Ph.D., Archimandrite Cyril Hovorun. He is thinking of ways to move the solution of this dilemma from the individual to the socio-political level. After all, each successive government seems to aggrandize the principle: "for my friends everything, for my enemies the law." There are disputes regarding who was the first to use this thesis in the early twentieth century - the President of Peru or the President of Brazil. "Latin American experience, marked by many dictatorships and crimes against humanity, resonates with ours, as we went through the Maidan and overcame Yanukovych's dictatorship. This experience shows that countries that overcome the consequences of dictatorships but do not treat the perpetrators with truth and justice are still reeling. Ukraine will remain in turmoil until we find the formula of truth and justice. Until the perpetrators of the dictatorship and the people responsible for the Maidan killings face punishment,” Fr. Cyril says.
Theoretically, Christians' calling is to be "the light of the world," "the salt of the earth," "the leaven," and the first to bear witness to truth. But is it always thus? Does truth always heal? “If we see truth solely as a good idea, in the heat of fighting the evil, it will become an ideology and a tool for persecution. We will not achieve the truth's triumph in this way. One must always view truth as a person, just as Christians see our God, Jesus Christ as an embodiment of truth,” says Fr. Mychajlo Dymyd. He reminds us that it is worth going online to find confirmation of all possible theses. Our opponents will find arguments for their claims as well. Choice allows us to give legitimacy to any point of view. What can we do in this case? The document's authors suggest using ethical assessment of truth and falsehood. Truth is genuine only when it is both the Way and the Life. The truth which is not the fruit of love and justice becomes desolate and turns into a lie.
Spiritual problems blind people and prevent them from seeing the truth. Theologian Cyril Hovorun notes that the people of faith are often most vulnerable to post-truth distributed in certain religious circles. How can we avoid this? "We must be fair to ourselves and gracious to others," Archimandrite Cyril is convinced. "Sometimes, I catch myself trying to manipulate others. Admittedly, there are many manipulators in the religious environment. However, laymen often have good intentions."
An Unnecessary Truth?
“Religion can become an ideology, a system of rites,” says Metropolitan of the UGCC, Borys Gudziak. There is also a clash of ideologies and ideas. When one is convinced of their rightness, it nourishes the blind fanaticism. "We should affirm the truth using the language of love," Myroslav Marynovych believes. "Only then it can be liberating. If we use the truth as a sword, the one we condemn will hide from it within protective walls. We need truth and love to forgive and reconcile with others.”
"This document and our longing for truth are not longing for the past," Constantin Sigov says. "It is necessary to overcome the stereotype which is, sadly, widespread in traditionalist circles, claiming that we live in the time "of lies" and that there are more lies than ever." Although today we see just as much untruth as always, it seems that modern people want to be deceived. "I was struck by the words of the prophet Jeremiah: 'A horrible and shocking thing has happened in the land: the prophets prophesy lies... and my people love it this way!'" These words aptly describe our current situation. For when people start to love untruth, political leaders appear to meet this demand,” says Myroslav Marynovych. Some would say that people are not to blame, for it is the politicians who are winding them up. People themselves are wise and kind. However, politicians can be successful only when meeting people's expectations. Such regularity is beneficial if the nation adheres to spiritual values. But when people lose the understanding of good and evil, it means that they want to be deceived and mendacious politicians are sure to appear."
God eradicates lies, though people should not stand idle. "One of my favorite metaphors is the lightning that strikes from the sky," says Myroslav Marynovych. As slow-motion videos have shown, before a powerful bolt of lightning strikes from the sky, a smaller one comes from the ground skyward to meet it midair. In other words, our efforts also are important. Therefore, in a world of lies, there must be witnesses to truth recognizing falsehoods and helping people to distinguish between truth and lies."
Mr. Myroslav is convinced that, for each era, the Lord provides certain tools of distinguishing between good and evil. However, we must reveal them by constantly asking and analyzing the following question: "how to distinguish between good and evil?" Fr. Mychajlo Dymyd reminds us that our families lay the foundations for developing the distinction between truth and falsehood. The family is the "laboratory" of humanity.
Witnesses to Truth
What should Christians witnessing the triumph of untruth do? "The words attributed to St. Augustine were a revelation to me," confesses Myroslav Marynovych. 'The truth is like a lion. You don't have to defend it. Let it loose and it will defend itself.' Thus, at some time, the lies behind the official doctrine of the Soviet Union became intolerable and fell apart. It gives us hope and faith that good will prevail. According to Mr. Myroslav, nowadays many of us feel as if Satan is triumphing, winning victory after victory with deceit. This thought alone could shatter one's soul. But in fact, the expression 'Satan's time' reminds us of Jesus' Paschal sacrifice. At the time, Satan's victory was apparent: "Kill the shepherd, and the sheep will scatter." But that victory was but an illusion. We must understand that Satan's time does not last forever and that we should bear witness to the truth in the world.
"Sensitivity to the perception of truth can return to people by those we call 'witnesses to the truth’," says Constantin Sigov. "These are Yevgeny Sverstiuk, Mykhailyna Kotsyubynska, Vasyl Stus, who create the distinction between truth and falsehood." They are inspirational. However, according to the "Longing for Truth", "anyone who bears witness to Christ's sacrifice follows His path of sacrifice. This is not a manifestation of some incomprehensible cruelty of God's order but of the need to refrain from assimilating with the world of sin and lie. The document openly states that people fear sacrifice for they associate it with failure and a loss of life. People hide from sacrifice behind the illusions of worldly pleasures and, at the same time, competing with each other. Of course, a Christian might suffer for witnessing to the Truth amid deceit. "This is not about driving people to unjustified martyrdom, but about helping them seek the Kingdom of God, which is incompatible with falsehood," the document claims.
So how one witnesses to Truth? Many of us recite the words "know the truth, and the truth will set you free." Though only few remember the first part, which is "if you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples. You will know the truth, and the truth shall set you free." Thus, a constant appeal to the Word of Jesus is a prerequisite for knowing the truth. Miroslav Marynovych notes that we can see the truth in the righteousness of one's life. Each of us can witness in this way for many others. To "catch people" in a spiritual sense is to find a way to their hearts. We need to be creative. The initiators of the document invite others to become "hunters", to expand the scope of truth and practice it in private and public life. “We have a positive motivational text before us, telling us that everything will be all right. The text does not state it openly, though the resurrection of Christ is the reason for optimism,” says Father Mychajlo Dymyd. He urges us to come together, "so that our testimony may be known to all." "In conclusion, I want to say: let us all heroically overcome the fatigue caused by lies, hatred and cruelty at different levels," concludes the father, "and thus let us become a 'community of people fighting for truth' to influence the 'change of values and principles' of all institutions - family, church, social, political, legal, in Ukraine and the world."