From May 29 to May 31, the international conference “The Christian Perspective of a United Europe: Roots and the Future” was held in the conference hall of the “Irena” Hotel in Lviv. The event gathered about fifty participants from three European countries.
The conference was preceded by a presentation of Jeff Fontaine’s book “Deeply Rooted” about the Christian roots of the modern European Union, which took place at the Sheptytsky Center at the Ukrainian Catholic University on May 28, 2018. Both events were held at the initiative of the Foundation for the Assistance of Democratic Initiatives and the Sallux Foundation in co-operation with the Svichado Publishing House.
During the presentation of the book and in his speech at the conference, Jeff Fontaine, the author of the book, the director of the Robert Schuman Center for European Studies, talked about what inspired him to write a book and outlined the main principles of the European Union. In particular, he believes that most of the problems facing the modern EU are due to the fact that the current generation of European politicians, those who influence the decision-making, are the generation of the “1968 revolution”, that is, people who did not know the horrors of the Second World War and exactly for this reason, the principles laid down by the Founding Fathers of the EU, Robert Schumann and Konrad Adenauer, are incomprehensible to them.
His position was supported by Bogdan Pankevych, a civic activist, a member of the Ukrainian Galician Party, a member of the Nestor Group. In his speeches at the presentation and during the conference, he stressed that the departure from Christian principles could not but have a catastrophic effect on the European community, and only a return to the roots could give hope for the preservation and development of the EU. In part of how Christian values combined with Ukrainian politics, he explained what should have been called Christian practice, it is important to embody God’s principles in daily practice.
Director of the Religious Information Service of Ukraine (RISU) Taras Antoshevskyi spoke about the prospects of Christian democracy in Ukraine, and a member of the Board of the Association of Christian Lawyers Andriy Gnidets spoke about his vision of how Christian values and real politics can be combined.
A great report was also made by the Director of the Sallux Foundation, Johannes de Jong (The Netherlands), who described how Christian values affect a true European policy, as well as the need for a broad civil movement that unites civic activists, who profess Christian values. He also initiated the practical work of the conference participants in groups, during which the participants developed several interesting approaches regarding the introduction of Christian principles in Ukrainian politics. His colleague from the Netherlands, Christiaan Meinen, spoke about his experience of civic activism as a practicing Christian.
An interesting report was made by the well-known Christian pastor of Donetsk, Sergiy Kosyak, who was hardly confronted with the manifestations of anti-Christian propaganda and destructive phenomena in the occupied territories (and himself suffering from captivity for his convictions). He gave practical examples of how the Word of God helped him and his associates survive, how he managed to save the lives of innocents and examples of how hostile to the state and the propaganda of the Russian occupiers was to act. His thesis that the first and most reverent separatists is Satan, caused the lively emotions of the participants of the event.
All speeches and reports were accompanied by lively and meaningful discussions, attended by various civic, political and religious figures, analysts, experts and journalists. In particular, their opinion was expressed by Bohdan Galayko, Director of the Institute of Ukrainian Studies, analyst Yevhen Zherebetskyi, Professor Maryan Zhitaryuk, Rev. Oleg Kobel, Professor Eugene Bilonozhko, Ph.D. Oksana Gorkusha and others.
The conference participants presented their own projects, in particular, expert Yuriy Oliynyk presented the activities of the Ukrainian Research of Strategic Studies Center, Oksana Gorkusha – the book “Maidan and the Church”, Bogdan Berezenko – the activity of the publishing house “Bratske”.
The outcome of the conference was an agreement to continue cooperation in the format of creating a broad civic movement of people who profess Christian values. The moderator of the process will be the Foundation for the Assistance of Democratic Initiatives in cooperation with the Sallux Foundation.