Church leaders meet in Bratislava to share common concerns and call for support to local diaconal work
(LWI) - The war in Ukraine and regional refugee crisis, a decline in numbers of church goers, exacerbated by the COVID pandemic and the ongoing challenge of finding common ground among minority churches with different historical, theological and linguistic traditions. These were among the key issues under discussion during the recent meeting of Lutheran church leaders from the Central and Eastern European (CEE) region which concluded in Bratislava on 21 October.
The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) President, Archbishop Dr Panti Filibus Musa and General Secretary, Rev. Anne Burghardt, addressed delegates at the encounter, speaking of the need for churches to promote peace and reconciliation at a time of conflict and growing polarization. Participants heard first-hand testimony from Bishop Pavlo Shvarts of the German Evangelical Lutheran Church in Ukraine about the war in his country. Recalling that Russian aggression began, not just eight months but rather eight years ago, he said that the response of the international community must be seen in the long-term as a “marathon,” rather than simply a short-term “sprint”.
LWF’s Ukraine Response Coordinator Josef Pfattner described the way churches in neighboring Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and Romania provided immediate aid to people, mainly women and children, fleeing from the upsurge of conflict in February. The LWF, he said, continues to cooperate very closely with local churches in seeking to “strengthen and support existing networks” and to respond most effectively to the needs of the refugees.