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Strategy for participation of Ukrainian religious organizations in the peacebuilding process

Стратегія участі церков у миробудуванні «Україна – наш спільний дім» Developed and adopted by the Commission for Social Service under the Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations

 

Approved on 10 December 2017 by Ahmed Tamim by Chairman of the Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations, Head of the Religious Administration of Ukrainian Muslims

 

Developed and adopted by the Commission for Social Service under the Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations

 

STRATEGY

“Ukraine is our common home”

for the participation of churches and religious organizations

in the peacebuilding process 

 

Ukrainian society craves for peace in different meanings of this word: at personal level, and in inter-personal relations, in professional and local communities, in the country as a whole, and at the international level. Peace is important for each community regardless of its economical advancement, social welfare, political order, or spectrum of nationalities, languages, or religions.

Peace is a gift of God; however, constant efforts of many persons and social institutions are necessary to accept this gift. Among those institutions are churches and religious organizations, charity foundations and civic association, as well as other humanitarian institutions and media. Religious societies have significant potential for peacebuilding which is underestimated frequently — this includes prophylaxis, resistibility, mediation, reconciliation, since all religions proclaim propensity for peace and love for one’s neighbors.

Surely, religion cal also be used as dangerous and destructive weapon in a conflict; however, common goal for all denominations is to demonstrate their doctrinal and practical devotion to peace, as well as to achieve their peacebuilding potential most effectively. There can be no doubt that many wars and conflicts could be much bloodier without peacebuilding influence of religious leaders since in many situations these leaders are perceived as more trustworthy by both sides of the conflict; after all, a religious motive for building peace evokes trust in many people. At the same time, religious and secular peacebuilders should not, of course, be perceived as rivals, — they should be perceived as partners striving to achieve a common goal since each party has the experience that could complement the experience of another party.

Leaders with religion-based motivations can make a decisive contribution to the cause of avoiding or de-escalation of the conflict — a contribution no one else couldn’t or wasn’t able to make. Thereby voices of such leaders should be heard well to enable the most effective implementation of their peacebuilding expertise.

Nowadays lots of social challenges and dissents exist in Ukraine that require curing and cooperative actions in order to overcome these problems. Among them, there are long-lasting problems such as:

–        lack of public trust which hinders the economical, political, and social development of the country;

–        significant disparity between the rich and the poor which creates extremely weak presentation of middle class as the key factor of economical health of the country and social welfare;

–        widespread corruption, both at the mundane level and at the top governmental positions;

–        substandard work of legal system which was meant to guarantee justice and supremacy of the law, equality before the law for everyone and unavoidability of punishment regardless of position and social status;

–        infringement upon the institution of the family along with attempts to twist the understanding of married couple as union of a man and a woman;

–        manipulations and misunderstandings regarding language diversity;

–        differences in the apprehension of historic events and personalities;

–        sporadic local conflicts between churches coming from attempts to solve property questions between religious communities.

New social challenges were added to pre-existing ones:

–        large numbers of our compatriots who in some way or another have suffered from the war at the East of Ukraine and/or from illegitimate annexation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, which caused, among other problems, many mental wounds, lack of confidence in the future, aggression towards neighbors;

–        emergence of thousands of internally displaced persons, and the need for integration of these persons into local communities at their new places of residence;

–        reintegration of population from temporarily occupied territories of Donetsk and Luhansk Provinces, and from the Autonomous Republic of Crimea;

–        issue of rescue of hostages (captives) who are being held by so-called “DPR/LPR” at the Eastern territories beyond control of the Ukrainian Government;

–        spread of illegal weapons, and reduction of the psychological threshold for resorting to violence to settle the questions of vital importance;

–        mass distribution of deceptive information and deliberately created untruthful news (fakes) that complexify search for truth, and therefore instigate incorrect decisions and bring the dialog to a standstill.

Accordingly, the aim of this Strategy is to define goals and objectives for peacebuilding in Ukraine as a healthy reaction to the abovementioned social challenges, primarily for the sake of resolution of the core causes of conflict and prevention of its recurrence. Peacebuilding is a long but vitally important process which will succeed by joint efforts of members from different denominations and communities. After all, today we all crave for peace more than ever before. For peace in our souls, in our families, and for peace in our common home, Ukraine.

Each of us, in our common Ukrainian home, has the opportunity of — and is called upon — showing respect and mercy towards one’s neighbors, holding in respect the dignity and equality of rights of every person, refraining from intolerance to differing natural features and dissimilarities of each person (such as skin color, language, denomination, cultural differences, etc.). Quarrels and dissent can happen in every family, but if each family member has their own free will to settle these quarrels in order to preserve and strengthen the family, relatives can get past their dissents by means of benevolent dialog, forgiveness, and manifestations of love. Just the same, in our community in general each one of us has to commit oneself to do their part in keeping and spreading the peace for the common good, which is the prevailing of unity, mutual trust and common welfare.

Just as devastating fire starts from carelessness and negligence, escalation of mutual aggression and hostility can flare up from one careless word or action. However, acknowledging the joint responsibility for peace, safety, and welfare of our country, we can do the following — all together as a community and each one of us as citizen and believer:

–        soothe existing social distress;

–        refrain from fomenting new conflicts;

–        avoid precocious stigmatization and excessive criticism;

–        put aside the stereotyped appreciation of other people and communities;

–        create the area of trust and mutual support around themselves;

hence protecting our home from an exaggeration of envy, anger, intolerance, and hate.

Peace or discord — it is our own choice! And we make this choice each and every day: when contacting with people from different ancestry, people who look, think or talk differently; when choosing which declaration to make, which news to share, and what sort of comment to post in the social media; when choosing between inaction and unindifference in the face of difficulties, be it neighborly conundrums or community problems.

We are the very people who create an atmosphere of relationships within community, relations with people around us. The apparent proof of this concept are countries where smile and kindness towards stranger have become the distinct element of their national cultures. Even while talking about situation when there is a war going on in the country, one should not forget that the military are protecting the peaceful life of their country, and their ultimate goal is peace.

Blessed be the peacemakers! This is God’s work, and each one of us can throw in our lot with this work: in our families, at our workplaces, in our communities, and through social activism. Since religious communities have in their sacred writings the high standards of human relations based on love for one’s neighbors, it is possible for religious communities and their individual members to become peacebuilders and active participants of peacebuilding initiatives that should be based on the following core principles:

–          belief in God;

–          love for one’s neighbors;

–          empathy (compassion, sympathy), unindifference;

–          respect for dignity and entirety of rights of other people;

–          generation of confidence;

–          unionizing and solidarity;

–          interaction.

By setting the common shared objective of achieving peace, let’s take care to make our common home safe and comfortable for everyone in the wide diversity of nations and languages, beliefs and convictions, professions, and callings. We can achieve this result by abiding three core rules in interactions with others:

1)      Hear each other!

2)      Understand each other!

3)      Act together!

At the same time, this approach allows to single out important strategic goals and more specified tasks regarding peacebuilding in Ukraine.

 

1. HEAR EACH OTHER

 

1.1. Acknowledgment of truth

First of all, reconciliation should begin with determination of truth, with clarification of facts. Without truth, no reconciliation is possible, for both parties to the conflict risk putting into the dialog their own prejudices, myths, and interpretations, that in most cases are the causes of dissent and conflict, and as such can not be the basis for mutual understanding.

In order to achieve this goal, the following peacebuilding actions are recommended:

–          increase of awareness, especially among schoolchildren and youth, by conducting information events and training cources regarding language, national and religious diversity of Ukraine;

–          increase of media literacy, particularly the ability to identify deceiving information;

–          holding the cources of safe and good use of social networks;

–          timely identification of propagators of deceiving information, and building of trust to the positions of moral authorities and recognized experts.

 

1.2. Elimination of preconceived notions

Our attitude towards partners in conversation, social groups, religious denominations or communities directly defines our perception of these people and groups. Superficial education, lack of professional knowledge, and use of secondary sources of information are often the reasons why people put their trust in myths and interpretations, not in the facts. This, in turn, leads to extreme judgments in apprehension and takes roots as prejudice and misjudgments.

The danger of fostering myths and stereotypes lies in their reserved nature: on the one hand, they are nourished by propaganda and informational manipulations, and on the other hand, they become the source of such propaganda. Therefore it is important to dispel myths and disperse stereotypes in order to prevent clouding of our judgment and getting in the way of apprehension of other party.

In order to achieve this goal, the following peacebuilding actions are recommended:

–          promote the culture of mutual respect, peaceful coexistence in diversity of languages, nationalities, and religions; popularize respect for dignity and right of other people regardless of their differences and beliefs, etc.;

–          foster high moral standards based on religious teaching, which are love for one’s neighbors, tolerance, mutual respect, unindifference, trust, etc. This fostering should take place, particularly, in denominational teaching facilities, Saturday/Sunday schools attached to churches and religious communities;

–          come to an agreement regarding the culture of communication and scrutiny, which involves zero tolerance to mobbing, use of offensive words and demonstrations of disregard towards people of differing language groups, nationalities, religions, political affiliations, social standing or residence;

–          improve qualification of clergymen and representatives of churches and religious communities so that their savingly and peacebuilding activities were free of stereotypes;

–          avoid precocious stigmatization and stereotyped apprehension of other people and communities, and, as an alternative, shape your vision of these people on the basis of increasing awareness and direct dialog;

–          develop and implement nonsymmetrical information strategies in response to propaganda and informational manipulations, e.g. take measures to promote person-to-person communications.

 

2. UNDERSTAND EACH OTHER

 

2.1. Dialog

Reconciliation is the process based on mutual goodwill and readiness for dialog. To ensure successful interactions in the future, one needs to understand particularities and motivation of the other party. Dialog, as a form of direct cognition, is the best instrument for mutual understanding, dispelling of myths and propagandist images, and dispersion of stereotypes.

In the direct communication, in dialog, we have the chance to meet real people, and not the images created by TV, opinion-leaders in social networks, or by deliberate propaganda. Understanding of the real attitude of people, what is the basis of their beliefs, what they really think and who they will act in a particular situation, provides us with better understanding of how we should act in situation at hand.

The dialog is not the same as parley. Parties involved in the dialog must not strive to win over other party at any price, or to achieve common solution for subsequent implementation. Conversely, the goal of the dialog is to understand the attitude and vision of the other party and investigate what expectations, fears or stereotypes influence judgment and attitude of this party.

Dialog can result in clarification of the nature of existing differences between attitudes of the parties, and in better understanding of the steps each party can undertake in cases where apprehensions of situation differ in order to avoid further escalation of the conflict and promote reconciliation and peaceful solution. The aim of the dialog is to find the possibilities to consider interests of different communities and to identify the appropriate balance of interests which makes the conflict meaningless and disadvantageous for each of the parties involved.

In order to achieve this goal, the following peacebuilding actions are recommended:

–          promote interfaith dialogue and other forms of public dialog at the national and local levels as a way of understanding, resolution of conflicts, and development of cooperation;

–          join the process of ‘public diplomacy’ with the aim to initiate and maintain the constant direct dialog between different groups of people who live on opposite sides of the red line of conflict on the East of Ukraine and in the temporarily occupied Autonomous Republic of Crimea;

–          take part in development of governmental strategies on re-integration of people who live in temporarily occupied regions of Donetsk and Luhansk Provinces and Autonomous Republic of Crimea; these strategies have to include measures aimed at re-establishment of communication, public diplomacy, and initiation of direct dialog (a positive example: “East and West together” events providing recreation of children from Eastern regions of Ukraine in the Western regions of the country;

–          contribute to structured dialog and arrange space for dialogs regarding inducement of tolerance and mutual respect in regions and communities of conflict as well as during public discussions on ideological topics.

 

2.2. Forgiving

Among the results of the dialogue should be an acknowledgement of grievances we have suffered, as well as acknowledgment of grievances we might have inflicted in others. “I forgive and ask for forgiveness” might be the universal peacebuilding motto. 

Forgiving is an important aspect of peacebuilding on the way to de-escalation and resolution of the conflict. By forgiving, a person becomes able to more than just overcome the conflict, but to win a victory over the conflict since enmity doesn’t fill her heart anymore. Participants of peacebuilding initiatives should emphasize that forgiveness, as well as peacebuilding in general, is possible even before the conflict is ended, and not just after the final resolution of the conflict.

Forgiveness is important for rebuilding of trust. Without an increase in public trust no development is possible in economics, politics, and in the community in general. Trust is the basis of human relations, and when relations are harmed, only forgiveness can restore them.

In order to achieve this goal, the following peacebuilding actions are recommended:

–          perform active pastoral counseling in order to define religious understanding of forgiveness, which is a deliberate and voluntary act of a person on their way to reconciliation;

–          oppose to corrupted interpretation of forgiveness as unjustified “gift” to offender and as a display of submission to his pressure.

 

3. ACT TOGETHER

 

3.1. Ascertainment of justice

Another important step on the way to peacebuilding is the establishment of justice. This might include the protection of wronged persons who have suffered from the imperfection of the Ukrainian legal system which was meant to guarantee justice and supremacy of the law, as well as equality before the law for everyone. A separate area of activity is the social protection of persons who happened to be in difficult straits. This can include, particularly, compensation for losses sustained as a result of the conflict based on established facts, since injustice should be remedied. Religious communities, social institutions, civil rights groups and other humanitarian agencies can interact in a variety of ways in order to achieve these goals, and this will make a great contribution to the cause of peacebuilding.

In order to achieve this goal, the following peacebuilding actions are recommended:

–          provide legal defense services to persons and communities to protect them from unjust accusations, lawless actions, arbitrary treatment of government officials, wrongdoings of corrupted officers of legal and law enforcement systems;

–          stand against hushing up improprieties, trespassing, lawless actions and wrongdoings; support and contribute to openness and publication of injustice episodes in a bid to make the society cleaner and healthier through unavoidability of punishment for crimes and wrongdoings;

–          support of socially disadvantaged groups (homeless, orphans, elderly, disabled, and seriously ill people), and take measures aimed at reduction of poverty and provision of access to jobs, particularly through development of socially responsible business programs;

–          provision of spiritual, psychological, welfare, financial, medical assistance to people who have suffered from war in the East of Ukraine in order to help these people overcome the property loss and heal their wounds, both physical and psychological;

–          facilitate release of hostages (prisoners) being held in isolated districts of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions by so-called “DRP/LPR”, as well as our compatriots who were unfairly and unlawfully detained and convicted in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and in Russia for political reasons.

 

3.2. Joint actions

The final goal of the peacebuilding initiatives is to reunite people, eliminate hostility and restore cooperation between persons. Creation of good-neighbor relations is important, and this could be possible through understanding and dialog which, in turn, opens the possibilities for cooperation.

Religious and other communities are called upon to show an example of peacebuilding to the wide audience by acting in coordination to achieve peace, mutual respect, and unity within society. This being said, it is important to keep in mind that interactions of Churches and religious communities of different denominations in the matters of peacebuilding and other socially important issues don’t create any perils of identity dissolution. Quite to the contrary, such cooperation of distinct believers and religious communities with different identities can be a potent demonstration of religion’s peacebuilding nature: when people from different denominations can work together for the common good and towards endorsement of public morals and peace while keeping their unique doctrinal particularities and faith commitments intact.

Highest levels of public trust that people in Ukraine put in Church as an institute, along with a general commitment to peace featured in teachings of every denomination, demonstrate that such unparalleled the potential of churches and religious organizations can in the best possible way serve the cause of building peace.

In order to achieve this goal, the following peacebuilding actions are recommended:

–          offer prayers for peace in Ukraine, for curing and overcoming social dissents, for restoration of fairness, justice, and supremacy of the law;

–          back out from using the language of hostility towards each other, including representatives of other denominations, communities, social groups, political parties, bodies of authority;

–          develop inter-confessional cooperation in various fields aimed at the propagation of justice and establishment of peace (a positive example: activities of inter-confessional mission called “Spiritual and charitable care in places of confinement”); 

–          create within society the culture of ecumenical and inter-religious cooperation for the common benefit of all the fellow nationals, involve people into positive enterprises and draw attention to the positive outcomes of cooperation.