Sergey Pugachev

Representatives of churches and religious organizations of Ukraine and Russia met for a dialogue on the current situation in the relationships between the two nations, search of the ways for achievement of peace and ceasing hatred.

As the Institute for Religious Freedom informs the Round Table was opened September 10, 2014 in a conference-hall in the downtown of the Norway capital.

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“We have invited you not to a political event, but to a meeting of religious workers” - the Head of the Norwegian Bible Society, Bishop Tor Singsaas emphasized in his welcoming address to the delegates from Ukraine and Russia.

The Norwegian Bible Society initiative for holding this kind of event was supported by the Norwegian government.

State Secretary of the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Hans Brattskar expressed hope that the meeting of religious leaders of Ukraine and Russia will be a serious sign for the countries' heads and politicians showing the desire of the both nations for peace.

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“We have gathered here as the citizens of the two countries. But it is important for us to lead the dialogue not as the citizens of our states, but as clergy. It is important for us to speak with each other not form the perspective of our state governments' positions, but by the truth of God as the ministers of God” - underlined Patriarch Filaret, the Head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church - Kyiv Patriarchate and the current Chair of the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations.

“The Ukrainian people are for the peace... if we don't speak the truth, there won't be any peace. We need to speak the truth and to find mutual understanding between us, to look for the ways of reconciliation between our nations and termination of this unannounced war” - summarized Patriarch.

Bishop Sergey Ryahovskiy, the Chairman of the Russian Incorporated Union of Christians of Evangelical Faith (Pentecostals), underlined the importance to stop the bloodshed and violence in the result of the armed confrontation.

On behalf of the Norwegian Bible Society General Secretary Ingeborg Mongstad-Kvammen pointed out that the aim of the meeting is to strengthen the relationships between the churches and religious organizations of Ukraine and Russia, between the two countries and nations.

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Minister of Culture of Norway Thorhild Widvey shared with the participants the experience of interdenominational relationships and reforming of religious legislation. Bishop of the Church of Norway – the largest confession in the country – Helga Haugland Byfuglien elaborated on the history of relationships between the state and the church in Norway. Head of the Norway Christian Council, Elsa-Britt Nielsen pointed out that efforts of churches are very important for suspension of violence.

Bishop of the United Methodist Church in Eurasia Eduard Khegay took part in the Round Table. Addressing the participants in the Nobel Institute, he pointed out the importance of peace-making efforts, forgiveness and reconciliation, and the value of human life. Eurasia UMC Bishop learned all this from one of his teachers, the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, Archbishop Desmond Mpilo Tutu from RSA, who together with Nelson Mandela fought against apartheid.

“When the war in Ukraine stops, religious leaders will have a special role for reconciliation. We teach people to forgive and not to hold a grudge; to love and not to take revenge; to reveal mercy and not to judge. All this is impossible without God's help. We are called to be the messengers of peace and hope, especially in the times of despair and devastation. God is our hope and the basis for life” - underlined Bishop Eduard.

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Photo: bishop Eduard and Vladimir Samoilov (Head of the Development Expert Council Consultative Council of the Heads of Protestant Churches in Russia). Visit to Nobel Institute

The Round Table participants accepted a common final document – Communiqué.

Communiqué of the Round table of churches and religious organizations
of Ukraine and Russia

“We, the participants of the Round Table, heads and representatives of churches and religious organizations of Ukraine and Russia, Christians, Muslims and Jews, as the result of our common meeting in Oslo on September 9-11th, 2014, express our deep gratitude to the Norwegian Bible Society, and to all other organizations who have supported this work, for their cooperation in organizing this meeting, for their hospitality, exceptional attention and good will.

We state the following:

We are deeply sorrowful and we pray for all who have suffered as the result of the conflict in Donetsk and Lugansk regions, both among civilians and military personnel.
We call on all believers to continue to pray for peace in Ukraine and, as much as possible, to cooperate in establishing peace.

Even though we may have both common views and differences of opinion regarding the causes, events and consequences of today's crisis, we aim through dialogue to achieve mutual understanding, realizing that our goal is to witness to the truth and to promote the achievement of peace.

We welcome and support the efforts of both of our countries and the international community directed toward termination of the bloodshed and establishment of peace in Ukraine according to principles of international relationships.

We support humanitarian activity directed toward the relief of the suffering of the population of the Donbas region and refugees from the area. It is important that humanitarian aid is provided in accordance to international standards.

We appeal to all participants of the conflict not to allow, under any circumstances, actions that would lead to humiliation of human dignity, use of torture, kidnapping (including those for the sake of ransom) and looting.

As religious leaders we want to pay special attention to the need to ensure the freedom of religion in the war zone. Any violence committed toward clergy and lay people, religious buildings and houses of prayer of any denomination existing in Donetsk and Lugansk regions, are not permissible.

We evaluate our meeting very positively, and we think that it is necessary to continue to develop in-depth dialogue between representatives of religious communities of Russia and Ukraine, especially with the goal of overcoming negative consequences of the present situation both inside Ukraine and in the relationship between our countries.

We understand that this Communiqué does not encompass all issues that were discussed during the meeting, neither all the problems that need to be resolved. Therefore, we are willing to continue our dialogue for the sake of achieving mutual understanding and strengthening of brotherly relationship between our nations.

We thank the Almighty for His blessing of our meeting and we trust His will! Amen”. (Oslo, September 11th, 2014).

Text by S. Pugachev and materials of site of The Institute for Religious Freedom
Translate by Ekaterina Kim and IRF
Photos by Maksym Vasin, IRF, Ole Andreas Husøy, E. Khegay

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