Friday, October 7, 2011

Good Morning Ukraine (Part 2): Human Dignity central in the Forum for Christian politicians

On my first day in Kiev I participated in the first Ukrainian Prayer Breakfast organized by the Christian Democratic Union of Ukraine. It was in the early morning when the city was still covered in fog. The day started with a wonderful prayer breakfast and the program was very well thought. I believe prayer and fellowship is the best way to start!

The second day aimed to go even deeper into the way Christian values can be implemented better in the political field. The party therefore organized a special forum for Christian politicians with the theme “Christian values in a globalized world.”

The opening panel included members of parliament and board members of the Christian Democratic Union like David Zhvaniya, Oksana Bilozir, Kateryna Lukyanova and Volodymir Marushenko. Unfortunately our friend Volodymir Stretovych, MP could not be present as he was part of a mission trip to Argentina. In diverse and inspiring speeches, the MPs expressed their thankfulness for the prayer breakfast and the hearing that took place in the parliament the day before. ECPM President Peeter Vosu also shared a message on behalf of the ECPM. 

After the opening speeches, I was invited to share my thoughts about yesterday’s event and today’s forum. I expressed the fact that I was impressed with the organization of the prayer breakfast. The quality of a prayer breakfast is shown not only by the way it is organized but by the contents of the messages given by the politicians and dignitaries. I quoted Petar Stoyanov (former President of Bulgaria) who stated that the “most difficult thing you can ask from a politician is to speak from his heart”. I also emphasized the importance of forums for Christian politicians in different countries all over Europe and that “I am convinced that in the perspective of the ongoing European integration, closer relations with other Christian believers or political parties are useful and desirable to strengthen the Biblically inspired message”. Therefore the theme “Christian values in a globalized world” was a very well-chosen and actual one, especially considering the economic crisis that defines the times we live in. 

Following my speech other international guests and friends also got the floor: David Fieldsend of CARE for Europe, Philippa Taylor - Head of Public Policy for the Christian Medical Fellowship and Maria Hildingsson of the Federation of Catholic Family Associations in Europe.

After the opening there was a coffee break and three sessions that were organized simultaneously: a session about the ‘future of children’, the other about ‘intercultural and interconfessional dialogue’ and the third about ‘human dignity in today’s society’.  I was assigned to moderate and speak to the session on human dignity. I started by giving a short overview of the concept of human dignity as the basis for human rights, based on the fact that “we are created in the image and likeness of God” and that therefore “life is sacred and should be protected from conception till natural death”. I also discussed about the Universal Declaration on Human Dignity and the different parliamentarian platforms that have already formed in the various legislative bodies. Lithuanian Member of Parliament and member of the Human Dignity group in the national legislature, Dr. Egidijus Vareikis expressed the importance of this group in Lithuania. Philippa Taylor explained the current problem concerning surrogacy and how the dignity of the child and the mother are challenged in this matter.

Further on, there was a fruitful interactive discussion between participants. Amongst others, Ukrainian MP Kateryna Lukyanova contributed with interesting questions and ideas. A multitude of questions also came from the audience regarding how we all can come into action to promote and implement Christian values and human dignity in the Ukrainian society. 

The simultaneous sessions concluded with an additional plenary assembly in which the moderators of the different groups presented their conclusions. I was invited to sit in the panel next to Mrs. Bilozir and Mrs. Lukyanova and to read the final declaration that was made based on the discussions. I was greatly encouraged by the fact that based on the results of the session that I moderated, an additional phrase was added to the resolution: "we should promote the universal declaration of human dignity that is stating that we are created in the image and likeness of God, our Creator, from the conception till natural death within Ukrainian politics and society. Also we need to launch a Human Dignity group in the Ukrainian parliament and create a platform for communication between politicians and civil society developing legislative initiatives".

The forum ended in the late afternoon. I was encouraged by the results of the two days. It was a blessing to participate in this historic event and I believe that important steps were taken by Ukraine. It was significant that a follow up step was already decided: the forming of the Human Dignity Group.  This is why I believe in the continuity of this Forum. I also appreciate the contribution of the representatives of different NGOs and the way they implement the basic principles of human dignity into practice in often very difficult circumstances and with a lot of sacrifices. Let us hope that this is a first step in the protection of the most fragile and unprotected humans in society: the unborn, disabled (mentally and physically), minorities, orphans, street children, elderly etc.

After the forum was over I had some individual meetings and then went into the center of Kiev with Elina Foinska, from the International Department of the CDU Ukraine. The sun was shining, it was a pleasant weather. Although demonstrations are nowadays forbidden in Ukraine, tents were placed outside in front of the tribunal, where people were camping to demonstrate for the release of the former Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko: another aspect of the political reality in the Ukraine.

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