Do not instrumentalize the gospel by speaking of 'Holy War,' say church leaders at Ukraine meeting

(Photo: LWF/ Anatolyi Nazarenko)Group photo with Ukrainian faith leaders in front of the Lutheran St Catherine's church in Kyiv.

A delegation from the Lutheran World Federation has met faith leaders from Christian, Muslim, and Jewish communities in Ukraine, and a common concern was the instrumentalization of Christianity to justify Russia's invasion, says the LWF.

The faith leaders voiced great concern about the propaganda and ideology of a "Holy War," which has been endorsed by the Russian Orthodox Church, the LWF reported on May 24.

Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, thanked the LWF representatives for visiting his country at war and for their support since the start of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

"We observe with great concern how a church stands behind a genocidal ideology. How do we counter the instrumentalization of religion?" asked Archbishop Shevchuk.

He also thanked LWF churches in Europe for their hospitality when receiving refugees from Ukraine.

"This war is a great tragedy. It's not just a trial for individuals, but for the entire society," he said.

"When the war started, people re-evaluated everything. Relationships with society, their families, even with God."

On their visit to the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, the LWF president Bishop Henrik Stubkjær, and LWF general secretary, Rev. Anne Burghardt, met with representatives of the Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations (UCCRO).

Ten council representatives joined the LWF delegation in St Catherine's Church in Kyiv for a discussion about the role of faith communities in society during times of war.

"It is important that we as churches stand together. We have something to give to society," said LWF president Bishop Henrik Stubkjær. "We bring the message that we are together and stand in solidarity with you."

"In times of darkness, churches are shining bright with hope," Pastor Anatoliy Raychynets, representative of the chairperson of the Ukrainian Bible Society said.

Archpriest Vitaly Danchak, Orthodox Church of Ukraine, added that faith communities in Ukraine have used "their resources, their buildings, and their connections" to help people in need.

He expressed gratitude for the LWF's humanitarian work in Ukraine, specifically in the frontline city of Kharkiv, which this week faced heavy Russian missile bombardments that claimed at least seven lives.


"There are no military facilities either here or nearby," regional governor Oleh Syniehubov told reporters at the scene, Reuters news agency reported.

Another 28 people were wounded in the attacks, officials said. The regional prosecutor's office said the missiles were launched from Russia's neighboring Belgorod region, which Russian forces used to launch their May 10 incursion.

"We thank the LWF for providing humanitarian aid to Ukrainians that does not depend on faith or denomination," said Raychynets, according to the LWF

While many churches have actively provided aid to people affected by the war, Ukrainian churches find themselves under increased pressure to justify their presence in society.

Conscription has been introduced nationwide, and clergy are in danger of being drafted into the military.

The LWF reported that this significantly affects many of them, including the Protestant churches, which have few pastors.

According to the CIA Factbook, the largest number of Ukrainians, who number nearly 36 million, are followers of the Christian Orthodox tradition.

Ukraine's General Prosecutor's Office said on May 24, 547 children have been confirmed killed and 1,348 wounded to various degrees of severity since the start of Russia's "unprovoked full-scale invasion," on Feb. 24, 2002, according to Radio Liberty.


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