“The Church follows God’s principles and Christ’s example. Why shouldn’t its values be spread to all spheres of a society?”
Interview with Julia DOXAT-PURSER, a former representative of the European Evangelical Alliance (EEA) affiliated with the Euro commission. During her staying in Ukraine on 23-27 March 2009, she shared her reflections concerning necessary changes in society and the prospects of Christian politicians in Ukraine.
What is the main mission of the EEA in Ukraine?
The role of the EEA is to practically translate the present vision of Evangelical Christians in Ukraine. Our goal is to contribute in a collaboration of all Christians in the country. You could say this visit is an occasion for pastors to sit down around a single table.
This was you third visit. What were your goals this time?
My task was to study the state of affairs, to share my experience, and to give some advice to Ukrainian Christians who take part in the political life of the country. By political life, I mean not only battles within the parliament walls. Politics is a wider type of activity, which embraces various public layers and groups of citizens. Therefore, I had a few meetings with pastors interested in public life. I also met with deputies from the Christian-Democratic Union (CDU) and the Bloc of Yulia Tymoshenko. It became especially important for me to get acquainted with active young Christians, who even in youth had strong holds on a certain amount of people (within their respective spheres). They are the leaders of tomorrow. Therefore, I consider it important to give them special attention.
After having communicated with people and watched what is happening in the country, are you able to name the basic problems of our society?
I think that Ukrainians have little trust in themselves, in their ability to affect change in the country. This insecurity has its roots in schools, where teachers do not tell pupils that each of them is unique and important for a society. Such education generates passivity. Unfortunately, ordinary people lay great expectations on politicians. However, real democracy requires not only good politicians, but good members of society as well.
The other problem is related to leadership. The influence of the Soviet mentality is noticeable in this sphere. The general consensus is that a leader is a strong man that determines what everyone has to do. In fact, a leader’s role is to develop the people that work with him.
I am glad that in discussing these issues with pastors, I came to understand the roots of the problems. I believe that the Church must play the most important role in social transformation. Churches should hold civil apprenticeships, whereby people will be taught how to apply the biblical principles in everyday life and how to change even individual situations themselves. This starts with questions such as “how should a Christian drive a car” or “how should a Christian do his job” and proceeds down a line to “how can he participate in the political life of his country?” The Church follows God’s principles and Christ’s example. Why shouldn’t its values be spread to all spheres of a society?
Ukraine is still in a transitional phase. But I will say that the EU considers your country as the right model for post-Soviet space. A society does not change in the blink of an eye. Even if you have politicians with the right values; it’s not yet enough. Good citizens are the key to political change.
Has the thinking of the Christian figures changed in recent years?
I am encouraged by the fact that people speak in the same way about problems in society and about their possible solutions. Thus, there is the common understanding. Last time I was here, people were very optimistic. It seems they have became healthy realists and see the necessity of sequence in the development of a society.
There are many Evangelical Christians in Ukraine, but they have an insignificant influence on society and are underrepresented in politics. Christian parties even made attempts to participate in elections, but they failed...
If a man is good Christian, it does not mean he will be a good politician. Even when a man is a Christian and a politician, it does not mean he is a Christian politician.
If a believer participates in corrupt doings, it is wrong to think that people will vote for him just because he is a Christian. A Christian politician should have a clear balance between Christian principles and reality. What do I mean? For example, Christians can expressly say what they think about abortions or other moral norms. But if they do not have a concrete vision for economic development, the fight against a corruption, the educational system, etc., it would be no wonder if nobody voted for them. If you want to be chosen to parliament, you must be a professional political figure and not simply have a few ideas that you want to realize.
Today, the only political forces in Europe that defend traditional family values are movements and parties from the far right. Where do Christians stand on the political spectrum?
There are many Christian politicians in Europe that are members of areligious parties such as “Greens”, liberals, etc. Unfortunately, right wing politicians always appeal to people and find support in those people who support traditional family values. Hitler and Mussolini acted similarly. Once again, it affirms the necessity of understanding the whole program of a party as a single unit in order to define what is in the heart of these politicians.
Doesn’t it say something that Christians were not able to form a unified political force that would stop populists from using Christian rhetoric?
In that case, the success of Christians as a singular political force in Eastern Europe (particularly in Ukraine) can become a catalyst and a positive example for Western Europeans striving for political unification?
Indeed, there are many Christians in Eastern Europe who are considerably drawn to politics. There is an organization – the European Christian Political Movement – that unites the Christian parties of Europe and that got stronger after the expansion of EU into the East. In Brussels, there were a lot of changes with the inclusion of new Eastern Europe countries: the number of Christians holding political positions increased. For example, gay rights are constantly being discussed in Brussels, but the conservative positions of Malta and Poland do not allow for changes in legislation in support of homosexuality.
I think that the success of Christian politicians in Ukraine and their effective activity in executive and legislative bodies will find a positive reflection in the rest of Europe. It will be evidence of the ability of Christians to be engaged in all political fields, not only in the problems of homosexuality and abortion.
Thank you for your time!
Kyiv, 26 March 2009