In a Faith in Europe Briefing (see video recording on the Briefing Videos page) in October 2020 Dr Ruth Deyermond, Senior Lecturer in Post-Soviet Security at King’s College London, suggests that in recent years, conflict with Russia has emerged as one of the greatest threats facing the UK and Europe. The most serious threat of all is to Russia’s neighbours, the states of the former Soviet Union, but these are also problems that the rest of Europe cannot afford to ignore. This talk looks at the current crisis in Belarus; the ongoing conflict in Ukraine; the risk of interference in upcoming elections in Georgia; and the political and security threats posed by Russia to the rest of Europe. It explores the way that all these crises have been shaped by the wider conflict between Russia and the West over ethical issues such as human rights and the Russian government’s identification as the defender of traditional values and Russian Orthodoxy
Summing Up and Looking Forward
This conference has of course been focusing on both Ukraine and Belarus, and I shall try in this concluding talk to have both countries in mind. I don’t pretend to be trying to sum up in the sense of presenting conclusions with which everyone is meant to agree. And obviously a good deal of what I’m going to say was prepared beforehand. But it does also include my own reflections on what we have learned over the last couple of days. If I show a certain bias towards Ukraine, I hope I shall be forgiven. I have visited Belarus several times, and I have met President Lukashenko – though admittedly the meeting took place in Lisbon rather than in Minsk. But obviously my main experience is of Ukraine, where I served for several years.
What are we trying to do in Belarus and Ukraine? How can we do it better? Do we have an ultimate vision of the place the two countries in Europe and in the world? Is that vision one which we share with the peoples of the two countries, and if so, how can we help them to turn it into reality? And what role can churches and Christian organisations play in the process?Continue reading “Summing Up and Looking Forward (Belarus & Ukraine)”
The Borderland of Faith – Ukraine?
I speak from the perspective of an international Catholic charity which has been helping in Eastern and Central Europe for nearly 60 years. Please forgive me for the fact that the main focus of this talk is on the activities of the Greek Catholic Church and the Latin-Rite (Roman Catholic) Church: this is not to denigrate the work or situation facing different ecclesial communities. I hope it gives some insight into something of a religious revival in Ukraine, where 50 per cent of Christians attended church last Easter, and to the challenges facing Christians in Ukraine.
First something about Aid to the Church in Need. The objectives of the charity are to:
- advance the Christian religion by supporting and promoting the Church, especially in countries where Christians are suffering persecution or discrimination;
- further the other charitable work of the Church by providing practical assistance and pastoral care for persons in need, especially those who are living in, or are refugees from, such countries. (Memorandum and & Articles of Association 3 Aid to the Church in Need UK)
This summer I returned to Ukraine for my fourth trip. Standing at the Divine Liturgy in a beautiful wooden church near Stryisky Park in Lviv, I prayed with Fr Bohdan Prakh and Fr Borys Gudziak, two of the energetic and visionary priests of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. Fr Bohdan Prakh had been the Rector of the major Greek Catholic seminary in Lviv and Fr Borys Gudziak is the Rector of the Ukrainian Catholic University. Both of these priests have done so much to build up the Christian faith in the post-Soviet era.Continue reading “The Borderland of Faith – Ukraine?”
Chernobyl Children’s Project and its Projects in Belarus
John and Julie Gater
Holidays in Belarus
Our first holiday at a sanatorium, or holiday camp, in Belarus took place in the summer of 1998. We arranged for 50 children from Zhuravichi Boarding Home and 50 from Garadyets Special School, who had never had the chance of a holiday before, to travel to a holiday camp in a beautiful part of the country. Volunteers flew out to work with the children and make sure they had a great time. Carers from Zhuravichi were able to see that the children were capable of doing much more than they had ever thought possible, and the children had the most memorable experience of their lives.
It was such a success that we have arranged a holiday every summer for children from Zhuravichi, and in recent years they have been accompanied by the children without parents who live at Rechitsa Boarding School.
The children are given the opportunity to paint, draw, cut and paste, make masks, play ball games, have races, watch films and live performances, take part in discos and from time to time to have the one-to-one attention which is just not possible at Zhuravichi.Continue reading “Chernobyl Children’s Project and its Projects in Belarus”
Can Churches Contribute to Overcoming Divisions in Europe?
The EU and its Neighbourhood Policy: Ukraine and Belarus
The EU Eastern Partnership
The EU Eastern Partnership (EaP) is a new dimension of the EU Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) towards the countries in the east. It was set up in 2008. The official EU statement states that “The EaP should bring a lasting political message of EU solidarity, alongside additional, tangible support for their democratic and market-oriented reforms and the consolidation of their statehood and territorial integrity.”
According to EU plans, the guiding principle of the EaP should be to offer the maximum possible, taking into account political and economic realities and the state of reforms of the partner concerned, bringing visible benefits for the citizens of each country. An essential component of the EaP will be, according to the EU statement, “a commitment to accompany more intensively partners’ individual reform efforts.”Continue reading “Can Churches Contribute to Overcoming Divisions in Europe?”
EU Neighbourhood Policy as it affects Ukraine and Belarus
Origins and Development of the EU Neighbourhood Policy
Relations between the European Community and the Soviet Union were insignificant; there was little trade between the EC and COMECON. After 1989/91 ‘Reuniting Europe’ concentrated overwhelmingly on the Central European states (such as Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary). The mid-1990s saw the signing of Partnership and Cooperation Agreements (PCAs) with these countries and the implementation of Technical Assistance (TACIS) programmes.
The current Neighbourhood Policy of the EU (ENP) towards the East started evolving after the EU gained common borders with Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova from 2004. (Russia had had a common border with the EU since 1995, and the southern neighbours since the founding of the EEC.) From 2004 the EU, comprising the older 15 countries and the new member states, felt the need to evolve a Neighbourhood Policy which would anticipate the arrival of even more eastern states in 2007. The new member states had their own agendas and policy preferences in this area: the Baltic States had in fact been part of the USSR rather than just satellites.
The Neighbourhood Policy covers every country from North Africa to Ukraine and Belarus. The southern neighbours have been more the concern of the Mediterranean states of the EU; the eastern neighbours more the concern of Eastern Europe, the UK and Scandinavia.Continue reading “EU Neighbourhood Policy as it Affects Ukraine and Belarus”
Similar Origins, Different Outcomes: Religion in Ukraine and Belarus
Ukraine means ‘Borderland’: Ukraine and and Belarus lie along the basic fault line in Europe between the Catholic/Protestant West and the Orthodox/Muslim East. The question ‘What is Ukraine?’ is still a lively one in that country: is it part of ‘Europe’; part of Russia; or a state in its own right, seeking its ‘special path’?
In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was the largest country in Europe after Russia, and at its greatest extent, in the mid-seventeenth century, it included the whole of modern Belarus; western, northern and north-eastern Ukraine; and Russian territory to beyond Smolensk. Roman Catholicism was the traditionally dominant religion of the Belarusian nobility and of a large part of the population of western Belarus. Most of the population of eastern Belarus and Ukraine, however, were Orthodox.
Meanwhile the south-western part of today’s Ukraine, including Odessa, was part of the Ottoman Empire; and the more than three centuries’ independent flourishing of the Crimean Khanate (1441-1783) shows that Muslims are indigenous and historically rooted in this area, in contrast to the later arrivals in Western Europe: the first recorded mosque in Crimea was built in 1262.Continue reading “Similar Origins, Different Outcomes – Religion in Ukraine and Belarus”
The Religious Situation in Belarus in 2002
Belarus is supposed to be a secular state. President Lukashenka describes himself as a nonbeliever, but aims to reintegrate Belarus into the Soviet Union, and he sees an alliance with the Orthodox Church as useful in this respect. The latter is an exarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate), and its head is still Filaret of Minsk, as it was in Soviet times.
Lukashenka has given the Orthodox Church many privileges, many of which are unconstitutional. For example any religious publishing house in Belarus has to have the approval of the Orthodox Church, whatever its denomination. The president has often denounced the Roman Catholic Church as a tool of NATO and anti-Belarusian. More and more restrictions are placed on foreign clergy. Now the situation is that no ‘servant of a foreign religion’ can go to Belarus without the permission of the government’s Committee for Religious Affairs. There has been an attempt by two or three priests of the Orthodox Church to link up with the Autocephalous Belarusian Orthodox Church based in Canada.Continue reading “The Religious Situation in Belarus in 2002”