The archbishop addresses the WCC assembly.

Photo credit: Hillert / World Council of Churches

WAR IN UKRAINE, church dialogue, and humanitarian response were in sharp focus on the third day of the World Council of Churches 11th Assembly in Germany. 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 2022 in Karlsruhe, was rooted in the biblical parable of the Good Samaritan, Luke 10, reflecting the context of Christ’s compassionate love and concern for the other.

“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 thanked ecumenical organisations for their strong position on 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.

Professor Sergii Bortnyk, from the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, talked about how his church is helping. “Many faithful people have become volunteers. Our church receives and distributes different kinds of humanitarian help – especially from neighbouring countries and from our sister churches”, he said.

The 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 added.

Sørensen explained how the Conference of European Churches (CEC) had organised a European Pre-assembly in February, following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, where the programme was revised 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.

The Rev Dr Dagmar Pruin, president of Bread for the World and Diakonie Katastrophenhilfe, told the assembly about how the war in Ukraine had brought immeasurable suffering to the people. “Destruction, displacement, torture and violent deaths are the reality for millions”, she said.

Pruin spoke about the 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.

* Video of the European plenary at the WCC 11th Assembly in Karlsruhe, Germany