Ukrainian Bishop Calls for an End to the Violence

Ukrainian Bishop calls for an end to the violence Lutheran congregation attends to the injured in Kiev

ODESSA, Ukraine/GENEVA, 20 February 2014 (LWI) – A place of peace and prayer – and an improvised hospital. For days now, the church of the German Evangelical Lutheran congregation in Kiev has been caring for victims of the violent clashes at Independence Square (Maidan). Serge Maschewski, who was consecrated bishop of the German Evangelical Church in Ukraine (GELCU) on Sunday, talks to LWI about the events of Tuesday night and the situation in Ukraine. 

How is the situation at your end? 
It is very difficult. Many demonstrators from the Maidan got into fierce fighting with the Berkut [special police forces] and there are victims on both sides. We issued a statement: We pray for the people involved and call for dialogue and reconciliation. We ask the government not to fight its own people but to sit down at the table with them and take joint decisions. We are extremely concerned that the government is using violence against its own people. 

Has the congregation in Kiev been caring for the wounded? 
Our congregations in Charkov, Dnipropetrovsk and Kiev are supporting the Maidan demonstrators. The Kiev church is only 150 meters from the government building. It is actually an island of peace where many people come to rest and reflect on what is going on here. But for days the congregations have been giving first aid as well. Wednesday morning the Kiev congregation attended to over 20 people with serious injuries – cuts, burns from Molotov cocktails, bruises and injuries from batons. I only reached the congregation by telephone because the roads to Kiev are blocked. The situation is very difficult there, and we are in constant contact by cell phone and Skype. 

So the Lutheran parishes have been a drop-in center for demonstrators for a long time already? 
Our churches are open to all. In the last few weeks we have been offering coffee and tea to anyone who came in, plus access to doctors and medical assistance. People can come in to take a rest, or just go to the toilet. We talk and pray with them; that is very important in this situation and we see it as our responsibility to help. Sometimes soldiers come in and we offer them coffee and tea as well. They are in an unfortunate situation; they have been given orders they really don’t want to carry out, but they are afraid. We assist everyone, regardless of the political party they belong to. 

What is your position as a church? 
Since we are a German church people here associate us with Western Europe. We are not on any side but we have to speak up about injustice. We cannot remain silent. We do not want any violence; it is our biblical responsibility to call for peace. Today we sat down and issued a statement that the church supports the people. The casualties and bloodshed are terrible and we called for dialogue and reconciliation. 

What can be done to assist the people at the local level? 
The Kiev congregation needs donations of medicines, bandages, iodine and bandages. We are also looking for trained doctors to volunteer and lend a hand. And we need your prayers. Pray for our church, for peace and a good future for the Ukraine, for our people. We are on the verge of a civil war and your prayers are very important to us. 

If your congregation is interested in helping, please contact Rev. Dr Eva-Sybille Vogel-Mfato, LWF Area Secretary for Europe in the Department for Mission and Development. 

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(The LWF is a global communion of Christian churches in the Lutheran tradition. Founded in 1947 in Lund, Sweden, the LWF now has 142 member churches in 79 countries around the world, representing more than 70 million Christians. LWF acts on behalf of its member churches in areas of ecumenical and interfaith relations, theology, humanitarian assistance, human rights, communication and the various aspects of mission and development. Its secretariat is based in Geneva, Switzerland.) 

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