Press Release No:18/22
2 September 2022
War in Ukraine, church dialogue, and humanitarian response were in sharp focus on third day of the World Council of Churches 11th Assembly. Church leaders from Ukraine together with heads of ecumenical organisations emphasised the need for reconciliation, unity, and peacebuilding.
The Europe plenary held on 2 September in Karlsruhe was rooted in the biblical parable of the Good Samaritan, Luke 10, reflecting the context of Christ’s compassionate love.
“For more than three centuries, the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union has tried to erase the uniqueness of Ukrainian people,” said Archbishop Yevstratiy of Chernihiv and Nizhyn from the Orthodox Church of Ukraine. “But, we are successfully fighting for our freedom, for our independent future.”
Archbishop Yevstratiy appreciated the ecumenical organisations for their strong position about the Russian aggression and their appeals to the Russian Patriarch Kirill. “No one has the right to bless aggression, no one has the right to justify war crimes and acts of genocide,” he said.
Prof. Sergii Bortnyk from the Ukrainian Orthodox Church shared how his church is helping. “Many faithful have become volunteers. Our church receives and distributes different kinds of humanitarian help – especially from the neighbour countries and from our sister churches,” he said.
General secretary of the Conference of European Churches Dr Jørgen Skov Sørensen highlighted how “Ukraine is a concern not only for Europe but for the world.”
“Due to our recent European past, war on European soil brings connotations that transcend their actual time and place in history. It evokes long-gone memories. And it challenges a strong European trust that this part of the world has – or had - developed into a post-war continent of lasting peace,” he said.
Sørensen shared how the Conference of European Churches organised a European Pre-assembly in February after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, where the programme was set overnight to accommodate the fears, uncertainty and shock that engulfed Europe at the time. “We listened to voices. We analysed. We prayed together,” he said.
Rev. Dr Dagmar Pruin, president of Bread for the World and Diakonie Katastrophenhilfe shared how the war in Ukraine has brought immeasurable suffering to the people. “Destruction, displacement, torture and violent deaths are the reality for millions,” she said.
Pruin spoke about significant challenges faced by church agencies in providing aid to the victims of war, especially when there is a great need arising from other catastrophes, including climate change. She stressed that churches’ humanitarian work is, and must continue to be, rooted in the vision of diakonia.
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