Monday, July 15, 2024

    Religious scholar: “The war in Ukraine has accentuated tensions between different religious groups”

    The Ukrainian archimandrite Kyrylo Hovorun of Stockholm University College has participated in the second edition of the International Congress on Religious and Conscience Freedom of the Blanquerna Observatory of Communication, Religion and Culture with the paper Eye-witnessing the Destruction of Churches in Ukraine.

    In an interview with Catalunya Religió, Hovorun highlighted the complex situation in Ukraine, especially in terms of religious diversity and the devastating impact of the war on society and cultural heritage. Despite the tensions exacerbated by the conflict, the resilience of Ukrainian society is manifested in its determination to preserve its identity through language and culture.

    How do you see the destruction of churches in Ukraine?

    It is a very important question. Regarding this issue, the religious landscape in Ukraine is extremely diverse. This has been analysed by renowned sociologists of religion, such as José Casanova, a friend and colleague who knows Ukraine very well, as he is married to a Ukrainian. He claims, and I agree, that Ukraine is religiously diverse. Churches have

    not chosen to be diverse, because they usually want to establish a monopoly, but in Ukraine it is impossible for any religious group to dominate the scene. Therefore, churches must learn to coexist, and that is good.

    How has the war affected this religious diversity?

    The war has heightened tensions between different religious groups. There are recent reports on social media of what they call persecutions of certain religious groups, especially the Moscow Patriarchate in Ukraine, which used to be the largest religious group in the country. At the beginning of the war, they tried to distance themselves from the Moscow Patriarchate, but not completely. They still maintain some links. Ukrainian society demands action against this Church because they understand that it has been instrumentalized by the Kremlin as part of the war of aggression.

    What measures is the Ukrainian government taking?

    The government is struggling to find a balance between national security and religious freedom, which is a fundamental European value. Initially, there was a proposal to ban the Moscow Patriarchate in Ukraine, but they realized that it was impossible for several reasons. Firstly, it would be a violation of fundamental rights. Secondly, churches are not legal entities in Ukraine; Each community is an individual legal entity, and banning them all would be very complicated. Thirdly, the Moscow Patriarchate in Ukraine is not a single structure; there is a lot of fragmentation within the Church.

    How does this affect Ukrainian society?

    Ukrainian society is very strong and has been very active since the Maidan revolutions. There is tension between what society demands and what the government can do. Society wants drastic measures against the Moscow Patriarchate, but the government must find a way to respect human rights. The media also play a crucial role. In Ukraine, the media is a very important part of civil society and covers religious issues extensively. They try to find a balance between human rights and national security.

    And how do you see the role of the international media in this situation?

    Some people in the media, such as Carlson Tucker or even Elon Musk, propagate through their X accounts erroneous narratives about the situation in Ukraine, claiming that the country has betrayed democracy and religious freedom. This is Russian propaganda and post-truth. Quality media such as the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal cover the situation accurately, but the post-truth of social networks still spreads wrong impressions.

    How does the war affect Ukraine’s cultural and religious heritage?

    War not only destroys cities and towns, but also identities. Putin wants to destroy Ukrainian identity and make people adopt a Russian identity. This is a crucial part of their strategy. The destruction of cultural heritage, such as the destruction of Ukraine’s largest publishing house in Kharkiv, is an example of this. Books are as important as life to preserve identity. The war has also changed the way of fighting, with the use of drones and new technologies, increasing the emotional distance of soldiers from their victims.

    Related to this paradigm shift, what are the main challenges for the future of the world?

    War has changed the concept of war and peace. Europe had lived in peace for a long time, but this war has revived the experiences of the First and Second World Wars. Current generations have no direct memories of these wars, but now they are experiencing them again. This has also highlighted the failures of large international organizations

    such as the Red Cross or the United Nations Security Council. These organizations need to be reformed to face the new challenges. Moreover, the war has shown that postcolonial philosophy is no longer relevant, as many countries that follow it now support Russia. In short, the world needs to change and adapt to these new times.

    How is the war affecting Ukrainians?

    Everyone in Ukraine is affected in one way or another. Many people live with the trauma of war every day, with constant shelling and disruptions to everyday life. There is a pandemic of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that affects both soldiers and civilians. For example, we have had to build underground schools to ensure that children can continue their studies without interruptions. This war is not our choice; We are only responding to aggression. The impact is profound.

    How can Ukrainian identity be maintained in the midst of this destruction?

    Ukrainian identity is very resilient. Despite the destruction of cultural and religious heritage, our language, culture and literature continue to be fundamental pillars of our identity. Churches help maintain this identity, but it is not only their responsibility. It’s important for people to maintain their identity through various means, and that’s what we’re doing. Identity cannot be easily destroyed, and we will continue to fight to preserve it.