The London Consultation: Focus on Ukraine
Christian solidarity, religious freedom and humanitarian compassion in a time of crisis
28 April 2015
The armed conflict in the eastern part of Ukraine has led to a humanitarian catastrophe. Whole towns and villages have been destroyed and several thousand civilians and soldiers have been killed. The conflict has created more than 1.5 million refugees. Sadly, these are only the visible signs of the tragedy. The scope of the social, cultural, and psychological consequences is impossible to comprehend.
This crisis presents an urgent opportunity for the global Church to demonstrate solidarity with those who are suffering, to advocate for religious freedom, and to help restore peace, justice and reconciliation. Churches must develop a new vision of hope and reconciliation among the people of Ukraine. The global Christian community can assist practically by supporting well co-ordinated programmes that create community centres for social, psychological and humanitarian assistance.
The war in Ukraine has created serious challenges in areas of religious freedom, human rights and religious diversity in Ukrainian Crimea and in the territories of eastern Ukraine occupied by pro-Russian separatists. The Pan-Slavic Orthodox notion of the so-called “Russian world” is now monopolising ideology and practice in these regions. Orthodox confessions that are not affiliated with the Moscow Patriarchate face the constant threat of discrimination and persecution. Catholics, Protestants and other religious minorities are likewise suffering violent persecution and are in need of our solidarity and advocacy. Creating awareness, monitoring religious freedom violations, supporting an effective, wide-ranging and fact-based information campaign, providing financial assistance for the families of the persecuted, and other international support are vital.
The politics of separatism and war continue, not just because they have the support of particular factions, but also because there is a lack of vision and leadership for peacekeeping, reconciliation and a lack of unity among the peacekeepers. The Church is the entity that enjoys the highest level of credibility and trust within Ukraine and is key to the process of reconciliation. The international Christian community and NGOs can also offer significant support towards efforts to achieve national and interfaith reconciliation.
The new Ukrainian government, by itself, is unable to cope with the destructive consequences of this war. On many occasions, the leaders of Ukraine have appealed to international institutions for help. Today the leaders of Ukrainian churches appeal to the global Christian community for solidarity, support, and the defence of freedom, justice, and peace in Ukraine.
On behalf of the Ukrainian people and Ukrainian churches, the participants in the London Consultation:
Acknowledge with sadness the terrible recent events in Ukraine, which have resulted in thousands of deaths and the displacement of more than 1.5 million people;
Encourage all relevant agencies to collaborate more closely with the Church in Ukraine at the grassroots level to enhance the carrying out of relief efforts;
Call upon the global Christian community to respond quickly and generously to consolidated appeals for humanitarian assistance;
Request that humanitarian agencies and Church denominations develop rapid deployment units to better enhance the co-ordination of humanitarian assistance for southern and eastern Ukraine;
Request the expansion of preventive actions and assurance of post-conflict assistance through reconstruction and development of peace-restoring practices;
Stress the continuing need for impartial and objective information on the political, economic and social situation in Ukraine;
Express our deep concern that Christian communities, which are not affiliated with the Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, are suffering disproportionately in the conflict;
Convey our grief and outrage at the killing of four leaders from an evangelical church in Slavyansk, who were kidnapped during Pentecost 2014 from a worship service, and later tortured and murdered by pro-Russian separatists;
Condemn the use of violence and aggression by pro-Russian separatists, who have forcibly seized several church buildings and educational centres of Baptists, Pentecostals and other denominations. In many cases, these places of worship and education have been turned into military barracks and fortresses;
Appeal to the international Christian community to demonstrate solidarity with the Ukrainian people, particularly with Christians who are suffering persecution in the occupied territories of southern and eastern Ukraine;
Commit to the development of formal and informal partnerships that will advocate for religious freedom and social justice in Ukraine through international networking and the sharing of resources.