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Sunday 26 May |
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There’s a different, quieter war in Ukraine

Ukrainian woman and child in war

Drop of Light | Shutterstock

John Burger - published on 06/22/23

Head of Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, speaking at summit in Kyiv, urges legislators to heed natural law.

While the Ukrainian military continues to defend Ukraine against Russia’s invasion, some Ukrainians are “promoting destructive ideas about human identity and fundamental values, including the family,” said the head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.

His Beatitude Sviatoslav Shevchuk, Major Archbishop of Kyiv-Halych, said during a June 9 summit in Kyiv that Ukrainian lawmakers should follow science and natural law in setting policy. 

The major archbishop was a speaker at the “Ukraine: Life. Dignity. Victory” summit organized by Chalice of Mercy, a charitable foundation founded by Ukrainian-American Valentyna Pavsiukova. About 400 people attended the daylong summit, including representatives of Ukraine’s government, military, academia, and Churches. 

In addition to speakers from Ukraine, the assembly was addressed in person by Jason Jones, founder of the Vulnerable People Project; Joshua Charles, a former speechwriter for former Vice President Mike Pence, and others; and through Zoom by Mexican actor and pro-life activist Eduardo Verastegui and Tim Ballard, founder of Operation Underground Railroad, who is the subject of a new movie starring Jim Caviezel about child sex trafficking.

Part of the reason for inviting those speakers apparently was to try to counter some of the sympathy in conservative circles for Russia’s position in its invasion of Ukraine.

“Not everybody understands, especially among conservative circles, that this war is not only, you know, we’re trying to defend our territories and our sovereignty, but there’s another war raging on us from the Russian side,” Pavsiukova told Aleteia. “It is Russian propaganda. We hear things like, you know, ‘Ukrainians are killing Ukrainians, and there’s the Nazis in Ukraine, and globalism, and that Ukrainian people are supporting LGBT,’ and things like that. It’s just really, really strong propaganda currently happening, and I’m very concerned about this because it’s very much predominant now in conservative circles.”

The future of Ukraine

Nevertheless, some Ukrainians are supporting LGBT issues. In an interview, Pavsiukova said that speakers and attendees discussed what Ukraine might look like after the end of the war. She voiced concerns about certain legislative and social efforts, including a bill that would legalize same-sex partnerships in the country.

She also expressed support for a change in the constitution that would recognize a child’s right to life from the moment of conception. Ukraine’s constitution currently protects human life from the moment of birth. Abortion is legal in Ukraine – a legacy of its Soviet past.

His Beatitude Sviatoslav also voiced concern about discussions that are already underway about the kinds of values Ukraine will uphold during a post-war reconstruction. 

“For more than six months now, various summits, conferences, and meetings have been held in various segments of our society, including social elites, to discuss one thing: What will Ukraine be like after the victory?” Sviatoslav told the audience. “No one doubts that we will win, and today we are working on a project of Ukraine after our inevitable victory. After one of these summits, one of the organizers told me something worth noting: ‘In the future project of Ukraine, there will be no traditional values because traditional means backward – past – and we need a Ukraine of the future. We do not see any significant social role for the Church or other traditional institutions. All this should be left to the private and personal sphere.’”

But if future legislation is based on “various modern theories, philosophies, or even ideologies that come from the purely hedonistic culture of the rich West, there will be many people who will not have the right to live,” Sviatoslav said, according to the website of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. “And the first victim will be the unborn child, and thus the dignity of the couple and the value of the family. If civil law is based on natural law, if our lawmakers listen to scientists [who, for example, affirm that a unique human life exists from the moment of conception], then the development of our civil law will indeed protect the rights of unborn children.”

Same-sex debate

As for same-sex “marriage,” the Ukrainian parliament  has been considering a bill to legalize “civil partnerships.” And on June 1,  the European Court of Human Rights ruled that two men who tried unsuccessfully to get married in Ukraine suffered discrimination. 

Same-sex “marriage” has been “very, very much encouraged and pushed in our schools and our libraries and all the educational centers,” said Pavsiukova, who was born in Zaporizhia and now spends her time in both Ukraine and the US. “It’s everywhere – everywhere –  kind of let’s say trying to get into the minds and the hearts of people. But I have to say that a very big majority of people are against this.”

Yuriy Pidlisnyy, chairman of the Political Science Department at the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv and head of the Commission for Family and Laity for the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, said that some Western organizations have been pushing LGBT issues in Ukraine, including the Berlin-based Heinrich Böll Foundation and the International Renaissance Foundation, which is part of George Soros’ Open Society Foundations. 

Pidlisnyy said that the bill that Ukraine’s parliament is considering is ambiguous and could lead to a redefinition of marriage. 

“From the very beginning, this draft says that ‘Oh, same-sex partnerships are not an equivalent of marriage.’ But also the changes this draft of law wants to introduce is exactly making equivalent between same-sex partnership and heterosexual marriage, endowing same-sex partnership with all the same rights heterosexual marriage has. And if you read all the amendments this law draft wants to introduce, it is exactly to make equivalent with heterosexual marriage.”

On June 14, the Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations, an NGO that represents Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant churches, as well as Jews and Muslims in Ukraine, issued a statement reacting to the European Court of Human Rights ruling. 

“We call on the President, the Cabinet of Ministers, and the Parliament of Ukraine not to adopt any legislative changes aimed at granting family status to same-sex cohabitation (formalizing the so-called same-sex partnerships). We call on every government official and parliamentarian to stand by the side of the Ukrainian people, for whom family is a fundamental value in life,” the statement said. 

In his talk at the Life Dignity Victory summit, His Beatitude Sviatoslav said it’s a matter of which position Ukraine will adopt in regards to its treatment of life, marriage, and family. 

“The first position sees the question of the beginning or dignity of human life only within the so-called hedonistic culture, which produces its own philosophies,” he said. “And when human life can become not a blessing but a problem – when a child’s life can become an obstacle to exercising unlimited personal freedom. The second position is limited only by the boundaries of civil law, state law, which defines who is a subject who has rights, and therefore answers the question of whether we can protect their rights. And the third position, which representatives of science voice: We hear that human life begins long before a child is born, that, indeed, the moment of conception is when a dignified being belonging to human nature has the right to life.

“These three perspectives are constantly clashing in contemporary discussions around the world,” said Sviatoslav. “The answer to these questions will be something that will determine the future of our country.”

Said Pavsiukova, “We’re fighting two fronts: We’re fighting Russia to leave our country forever, going back to the original borders, defending our sovereignty and never repeating this again. And then another front is: Ukraine is a country of life, and we must show an example to everybody.”

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