Monday, October 3, 2011

Good morning Ukraine (part 1)

It was early morning on 21 September 2011. The hills of Dnipro stand as a symbol of the historical and cultural heritage of Ukraine, while offering a beautiful view of the city of Kiev. Although the sun has already risen, the city is still covered in fog that is slowly disappearing: it looks like Kiev is waking up. An historic event is taking place: the first Ukrainian National Prayer Breakfast and a forum of Christian politicians on “Christian values in a globalized world” are organized today. Are the hills and the waking up of the city not the best symbols you can give to these events? Will there be a waking up of politicians, representatives of religious institutions and churches, NGOs and institutions for a stronger collaboration in order to promote Christian values in the Ukraine? These were questions that occupied my mind when I stood on the hill, watching the city. The fog was soon disappearing.

The National Prayer Breakfast was well organized. As part of the international group, I was taken to my place to be seated. The Breakfast was attended by politicians, members of the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations, public leaders, experts and diplomats. The meeting was hosted by representatives of the Ukrainian parliament (Verkhova Rada) such as Oksana Bilozir, MP (who is also member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe) and Pavlo Unguryan, MP. Ten other MPs also joined this event. During the prayer breakfast I was positively surprised about the personal messages that were shared by the speakers. It was also encouraging that many of them shared verses from the Holy Scriptures that have an impact in their personal lives. Video messages were shown as well in order to highlight traditional family values and children’s rights, the adoption of orphans and care for the homeless. Emphasis was also placed on the importance of doing what is just and helping those in need. Christians’ responsibility in this area was approached from the perspective of the Parable of the Samaritan from the Gospels, a passage read by Mrs. Bilozir followed by the main question: “who is our neighbor”? A unique sight was also to see representatives of different religions sitting together and hear them sharing their thoughts in short speeches. In a country where disputes often took place between different religious denominations, such an occurrence is quite rare. During the meeting I read a greeting from the Ecumenical Prayer Group in the Romanian Parliament and a personal message on behalf of the ChristianUnion.

Following the Breakfast we were offered a professionally guided tour and visited the Memorial to the Holodomor Famine Victims in Kiev, in the winter 1932-1933. We heard the terrible stories of how the atheistic Soviet regime killed millions of people in Ukraine. We must never forget this part of history. After this we visited the beautiful monastery, Kiev Pechersk Lavra, and learned new things about the Orthodox religion. After lunch we participated in a parliamentary hearing on family values. Outside the parliament people were demonstrating to protect traditional family values. It was encouraging to hear how parliament members and representatives of NGOs clearly spoke out on the importance of developing and supporting healthy youth and family policies.

The event also had the advantage of good press coverage. At the end of the day I watched a television report on the Prayer Breakfast and the parliamentary hearing and the cameraman caught me using my telephone during the discussions. (You can find the video footage here )

In the evening a networking reception took place. In addition to Mrs. Bolizir, the host of the event, two other members of the Ukrainian parliament and members of the Christian Democratic Union also shared personal messages: Volodymyr Marushchenko and Kateryna Lukyanova. They expressed their thankfulness for the first ever organized Ukrainian prayer breakfast in the history of Ukraine. Tomorrow we have something else to look forward to: the Forum of Christians in Politics will take place based on the as theme: “Christian values in the globalized world”.

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