World Baptist Leaders meet with Ukraine’s President Poroshenko

World Baptist Leaders meet with Ukraine’s President Poroshenko

Tony Peck (also based on local news reports) - August 29, 2016

European Baptist Leaders including the EBF President, Asatur Nahapetyan, Vice-President Jenni Entrican, and General Secretary Tony Peck, together with Baptist World Alliance President Paul Msiza and Ukrainian Baptist leaders, met with Ukrainian State President Petro Poroshenko last week.

During the meeting President Poroshenko signed a Decree, ‘On the celebration of the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation in Ukraine’. This recognises the contribution of the Reformation to the religious life of the nation, today through the existence of the Protestant Denominations, among whom the All-Ukrainian Union of Churches of Evangelical Christian Baptists is the largest single grouping. The Decree also allows for the use of public buildings to be used for individual celebrations of the Reformation in the coming months and years.

This Decree has been supported by the Ukrainian Religious Council, that contains leaders of all the major churches in Ukraine as well as representatives of the Jewish and Muslim communities. Its current Chair is the President of the All-Ukrainian Union of Churches of Evangelical Christian Baptists, Valeriy Antonuk.

In his speech to the Baptist leaders the President stressed the importance of the Decree, which demonstrates the government’s support of the Protestant religious organisations.

He noted that Ukraine is a multi-confessional country and described as “one of the huge achievements of Ukrainians the creation of the Ukrainian Council of Churches,” with which the government cooperates to seek to ensure peace and harmony between different faiths. The President stressed his full support of the Council, including their international links and partnerships.

He went on, “It is important for me that foreign partners witness what is happening in Ukraine, what extremely important processes we, as government, are now managing… Ukrainians demonstrate unity, bringing together people of different beliefs, different religions, different nationalities, united around the ideas of freedom and democracy.”

Poroshenko also stressed the importance of introducing chaplaincy in the Armed Forces of Ukraine for all faiths and urged those present to actively participate in this process, including the exchange of international experiences of pastoral care in the army. “It is important to ensure a high moral and psychological climate for those who stay immediately on the front line,” he said.

He also suggested that the Protestant religious organizations could become an important component of both spiritual and social support not only for our military on the front, but also providing care for the wounded and families of the victims. “This is a very important function, which Ukraine needs today,” he said.

The President thanked Protestant organizations for their strong support for Ukraine: “I clearly understand the role played by Protestant churches and religious organizations in the development of religious, cultural and social development of Ukraine and appreciate it very much.”

In response, President of the Baptist World Alliance President Paul Msiza thanked the President of Ukraine for his support and wished the people of Ukraine peace, stability and prosperity. He also noted that the All-Ukrainian Union of Churches of Evangelical Christian Baptists is one of the largest member bodies in the European Baptist Federation. “We are here today to show solidarity with the Ukrainians. Our hearts are broken by human tragedies and conflicts, especially that which Ukraine is experiencing at the present time. We pray for you, for peace and prosperity in Ukraine,” he said.

General Secretary of the European Baptist Federation Tony Peck also responded, thanking the President and welcoming the Decree on the celebration of the Reformation. He said that chief among the legacy of the Reformation is the concept of freedom; freedom to respond directly to the call of God, freedom to believe and to worship, and from that other freedoms in society have been derived. He called the All- Ukrainian Council of Churches a “unique phenomenon” existing in Ukraine, which brings together different religious groups. He stressed that “Ukraine is constantly in our prayers” especially for peace in the conflict with Russia.

EBF and BWA leaders were in Kiev for the Second Missionary Forum of the All-Ukrainian Union of Churches of Evangelical Christian Baptists, held at the International Center of Culture and Arts with around 1600 delegates attending. The Forum open and closed with superb music from the Kiev Baptist Symphony Orchestra and Chorus. Speakers and seminars then explored the theme of ‘Your Kingdom Come!’, recognising the ways in the situation in Ukraine of violent conflict and over a million Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the Donbass was changing the way in which many of the churches view their mission and witness.

Both Paul Msiza and Tony Peck were main speakers and others from the EBF participated in Seminars. These included Mateusz Wichary (Poland), Mounir Malaty (Egypt), Birgit and Hans Fischer (Germany), Jenni Entrican (Great Britain/EBF) and Rupen Das (IBTSC/EBF Amsterdam).

Earlier in the week Tony Peck and Jenni Entrican had participated in the day of celebrations for the 25th Anniversary of the independent Ukraine, participating in a prayer service with religious leaders with the President and his family, a military parade to mark the Anniversary, and a Reception given by the President.

1. President Poroshenko signs the decree on the celebration of the Reformation in Ukraine. Looking on is Pavel Unguryan, a Baptist member of the Ukrainian Parliament.
2. BWA President Paul Msiza responds on behalf of the Baptist delegation.