LWF Council Issues Public Statement on the Ukraine

Anastasiya Piddubska of Odessa, Ukraine, reports on the situation in her country during Council 2014. LWF/M. Renaux
Anastasiya Piddubska of Odessa, Ukraine, reports on the situation in her country during Council 2014. LWF/M. Renaux

Praying Against Hate in a Divided Country

(LWI) - The Council of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) on its 2014 meeting issued a public statement concerning the Ukraine, voicing deep concern over the conflict “which has intensified since December 2013 and has already resulted in 400 deaths”. While centered in the Ukraine, the conflict “has the potential of destabilizing all of Europe”.

The statement was initiated among others by Council adviser Anastasiya Piddubska from Odessa, who in a short address told the Council about the situation in her country. “People are frightened and do not trust anyone anymore” she said. While her family luckily had not been affected by the fights, she very acutely feels the division in society. “We are divided in pro-Russian and pro-Ukrainian, and both sides are very aggressive. We are afraid that we might be persecuted if we openly speak about what is happening.”

As the Council adviser tells in an interview, the atmosphere of hate and distrust is made worse by propaganda on state media as well as in internet forums, and by people agitating for money. Relationships fell apart under the pressure of insecurity and fear. People became displaced by the military conflict in Eastern Ukraine. “Hundreds of people have died and thousands have fled from their homes,” she says, telling the story of a Crimean friend who now lives as a refugee in a Bible school in Odessa together with his family.

Solidarity Among Churches

“In spite of the political situation the relations between Lutheran churches in Ukraine and Russia have not been destroyed,” Piddubska says. “In the end of June the congregations on the Crimea peninsula will vote and decide which church they want to belong to. And no-one will force them”.

Even though they do not agree in their political opinions, the pastor as well as the members of the congregation found a way to speak up against violence without hurting each other’s feelings.

In her own congregation in Odessa, a prayer for peace is part of every Sunday worship. “The parishioners started taking medical courses”, Ms. Piddubska said. “They want to learn how to give first aid”. The congregation has also collected money for medicine. “We are a small church,” Piddubska says, “but we do what we can”.

The LWF Council unanimously adopted the statement asking member churches to pray for “peace, stability and a common understanding”, and for all churches, especially the German Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Ukraine (GELCU) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of European Russia (ELKER), both LWF member churches which have been affected by the conflict.

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