‘You will never change Ukraine until you yourselves begin to live righteously,’ from a sermon at the Economic Forum in Davos
The World Economic Forum, held annually at the end of January in Davos, Switzerland, is visited by the most famous politicians, businesspeople, civic and religious leaders from around the world. They gather to discuss world politics and the economy for the coming year.
This is not the first time that the Victor Pinchuk Foundation and the international investment advisory group EastOne hosted a Ukrainian Lunch, during which the challenges facing Ukraine were discussed. This year's event was dedicated to Ukraine’s geopolitical choice between the EU and the Customs Union with Russia and was called “Ukraine: East or West – The Wrong Dilemma?” The lunch was attended by over three hundred participants – mostly businesspeople and politicians, officials, journalists and religious leaders.
From the Ukrainian authorities the event was attended by Vice Prime Minister Yuriy Boyko and the head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Leonid Kozhara. In attendance were also the leaders of the opposition factions in the Parliament Vitali Klitschko (UDAR) and Aresniy Yatseniuk (Batkivshchyna), and the Special Representative of the European Parliament concerning the case of Yulia Tymoshenko Aleskander Kwasniewski.
One can read about what was discussed at the conference in other publications.
But I would like to share other stories with the readers of RISU.
A wandering Christian preacher somehow ended up in the lobby of the lunch. A sixty-year-old woman, very modestly dressed. I have no idea how she managed to get passed the guards; I got the impression that she came through the wall ... The woman approached the Ukrainian government representatives and politicians and told them: “Your country has the highest export of prostitutes in the world ...” (she spoke English, but our officials know English, which pleasantly surprised me; for example, Yuriy Boyko and Leonid Kozhara speak it quite well). Once a politician turned around and looked at the woman, and she continued: “Your country has the highest export of prostitutes. You have the most corrupt courts in Europe. They carry out trials for money. Your government is dishonest: it is mired in corruption and crimes against its own people. If you do not repent and set out on the righteous way, your country will die, and you will burn in hell.” Not surprisingly, the stunned official turned around and ran away. The preacher went, rather ran, after him, repeating the same thing, and finally, the politician started waving and yelling something like “Go, go, get away from here.” It was the same with everyone – everyone except MP Vitali Klitschko. He was apparently the only one who stopped, looked the woman in the eyes and said: "We have a lot of prostitutes among the politicians, and we want to change this country. With God in our hearts.” “You will never change it until you yourselves begin to live righteously,” said the woman.
In the hot debate on what direction Ukraine should take – toward Europe or the Customs Union, EU officials called on our officials to choose and to start as soon as possible to prepare for integration into the European Union – if such a choice is made. Aleksander Kwasniewski was especially vocal about this. After lunch, he was approached by the executive director of the Rabbinical Center of Europe Levi Matusof, who told him the following story:
– This is a story about a Ukrainian pilgrim, who many years ago went to Jerusalem. He asked a Jerusalem boy how to get to the top of the mountain. The boy replied: “There is a short way, but it takes a long time, and a long way, but it’s faster.” The pilgrim chose the first option, and it was a path that led straight to the top. He fell many times, injured himself, and ultimately was unable to reach the top. When he returned, he asked the boy: “Why did you send me on that path?" He said, “You yourself wanted it.” Maybe Ukraine should go to the EU the second way? Maybe it will take longer, but at least it won’t break its legs trying and will reach it sooner.
This story interested me. I asked the rabbi, “Do you believe that Ukraine, in principle, will ever be able to join Europe?”
The answer was as follows:
– When Moses stopped at the Red Sea, the Jews did not know what to do. Some suggested they pray, others suggested to turn back, others to fight the Egyptian persecutors, and others to go on. Moses decided to pray, and God said to him to go ahead. They trusted God and followed. The people went on and forty years later entered the Promised Land. If you and your leaders pray and go forward, you will get where you need to.
But who will force our leaders to pray and move forward? And what if they don’t want to?
Switzerland is truly an amazing country. In Zurich at 6 o'clock in the morning the streets are full of people, and at 10 at night almost the whole city is asleep. Many people wake up at dawn and go to bed with the sunset. I went to the local Protestant and Catholic churches on a weekday at 8:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Each time there were up to two hundred people; that is, people in the morning or in the evening, after work, can go to a church service.
Switzerland banned the building of mosques since minarets as spoil the appearance of the country. When I walked down the Bahnhofstrasse to the railway station, I saw a table near which Muslims were distributing information about Muhammad and Islam. They were surrounded by older women and were loudly arguing about something. I heard the words falschen propheten, liegen and aus. When I returned an hour later, the Muslims were gone.
A book “Welcome to Switzerland” was distributed in hotel. For visitors from the CIS there was a Russian version that warned that “corrupt officials and criminals, even if they just buy property in Switzerland, will not receive a residence permit, and if they get one somehow, they can be deprived of it.” In the book Switzerland is called “a country of freedom and order.” It also explained why “in our country, you are free to profess evangelical Christianity as corrupt officials and swindlers sit in prisons.”
In Davos the town council is made up deputies who on Sundays attend the reformist Protestant worship in the church next to the town hall. Moreover, the local government plays a decisive role in making decisions about how Davos should be. This “Council of Protestant Elders” who read the Bible and fight for integrity and righteousness can block almost every decision made in Bern at the level of the confederation. The local government has a lot of power.
The national anthem, called “The Swiss Psalm” contains these words: “Pray to God, to Him surrender, For you feel and understand, That he dwelleth in this land … When dark clouds enshroud the hills, And gray mist the valley fills, Yet Thou art not hidden from Thy sons.”
According to the Human Development Index for 2011, prepared by the UN, Switzerland ranked eleventh out of 179 countries. Ukraine in this rating was in the 76th position.