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The world faces the threat of destruction – everything is being decided on the field of war in Ukraine

The world faces the threat of destruction – everything is being decided on the field of war in Ukraine

In Rome, as part of the Global Gateway project of the University of Notre Dame, from 16 to 18 June the conference “The Catholic University, Environmental Justice, and Research for a Sustainable Future” was held. Ten international universities from various parts of the world took part in the discussion, including representatives of the Ukrainian Catholic University.

The conference officially began the work of the Consortium of Catholic Universities, in particular a two-year program researching environmental justice and efforts aimed at encouraging a more sustainable future.

CCU fosters research and the building of a scholarly community which will satisfy the most urgent needs of the world and the Church; it spreads global educational opportunities for students and shares the best institutional experience regarding tendencies and challenges in various aspects of higher education.

“We expect that the universities which are part of the Consortium of Catholic Universities, united by the Catholic mission and desire to more fully understand the world around us, will work together to create a scholarly community which goes beyond the boundaries of national and disciplinary limits. CCU promotes research, improves the education of students, and makes the world more humane and just,” commented Fr. Bob Dowd, head of the consortium.

The Ukrainian Catholic University was represented at the conference by: Fr. Yuriy Shchurko, Dean of the Faculty of Theology and Philosophy; Vice-Rector Sophia Opatska; and Oksana Kulakovska, Head of the Analytical Center.

The presentation of the UCU representatives at the panel discussion, which was dedicated to Ukraine, had three parts. The speakers focused attention on the war which has now gone on for eight years in Ukraine, the genocide which Russia is conducting against Ukrainians, and what economic consequences await Ukraine and the world and thanks to which rebuilding is possible.

“Present at the conference were representatives of countries which are either under the influence of Russian information policy or don’t understand what is happening geopolitically in this part of the world. So our participation was necessary for a concrete explanation of what in now happening in Ukraine,” said Oksana Kulakovska, Director of the UCU Kyiv Center.

The presentation of Fr. Yuriy Shchurko, Dean of the UCU Faculty of Theology and Philosophy, was dedicated to a conceptual explanation of the war in Ukraine and why it is genocide against the Ukrainian people. He made parallels with Nazi Germany, which “solved” the Jewish question, and how Russia is now “solving” the Ukrainian question. Fr. Shchurko also explained why the Russian Orthodox Church cannot be considered a church but rather a division of Russia’s Security Service. And so the appeal to “the Russian world” is incorrect, for these values are not conveyed by the church.

Fr. Yuriy Shchurko and the Secretary of the Congregation for Catholic Education, Archbishop Vincenzo Zani

“It is a terrible irony that there are people who, regardless of all the horrors of the war in Ukraine, which can be seen online, consider it necessary to try to reconcile us Ukrainians with Russia, so that they can continue their business as usual. It’s as if nothing is happening, at a time when Ukrainians are paying the price in millions of innocent victims. This is full of surrealism and the horrors of the situation – the hedonistic West, which has been lulled by prosperity, has forgotten about its own wounds and is awakening very slowly. We have to ring all the bells!” Fr. Yuriy Shchurko comments.

In his opinion, the theme of the conference demands a mature and objective approach to the existing state of affairs, which cannot exclude the war in Ukraine. “Without paying attention to this terrible fact, that the world faces the threat of destruction, speaking about sustainable development and sustainability is simply a virtually parallel world which has no connection with reality. Unfortunately, awareness of the war in Ukraine has not come to the West: to the present the West has the illusion that it determines world politics. Now everything is being decided on the field of war in Ukraine!” 

Sophia Opatska, UCU’s Vice-Rector for Strategic Development, explained the economic and social influence of the war which Russia unleashed, on Ukraine and on the world in general, and also what lessons we have to teach world leaders. 

The UCU delegation and colleagues from Chile

How did we end up where we are, and what can the world learn from this war? Oksana Kulakovska, Director of the UCU Kyiv Center, dedicated her speech to this question. In particular, she emphasized Europe’s responsibility for the current state of affairs in Russia: “Signs of the catastrophe began appearing in 2014. Over the eight years of war in Ukraine, the western world made terrible mistakes in its relations which Russia, which need to be corrected. This regards dependence on Russia for energy, which has grown even more in the last eight years, and the growth of Russia’s influence on information. After all, the news that the West sees about activities in Ukraine is generally part of Russian information propaganda.”

We recall that the 1 300 rockets which Russia fired at Ukrainian cities in the first two months of the war cost 7.7 billion euros. And according to the calculations of the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA), Russia received 93 billion euros ($98 billion) from the export of fossil fuel in the first 100 days of the full-scale Russian war in Ukraine.

The UCU delegation with Fr. Robert Dowd and colleagues from Notre Dame

“What should we learn from this war?” Oksana Kulakovska commented: “First, to call evil by its name. Second, to understand that a big lie, together with big money, creates a false reality. So it’s necessary to check information, and we also need to win the information war. Third, the world needs to understand what Russia is. In his time, Otto von Bismarck said: ‘Agreements with Russia are not worth the paper they’re written on.’ Not only do we need to call evil by its name, but we have to make efforts not to encourage it. We need to look truth in the eye. With whom are we dealing? On what basis will future international alliances be formed?”

During the summary session of the conference on 18 June, the sad news of the death in the war of UCU graduate Artemiy Dymyd was announced. “We showed a photo of Artem, explained that he was the son of the first rector of the Lviv Theological Academy, now UCU… Some of those present even cried. During informal conversation, people came up and with fear and confusion asked us what’s happening,” said Fr. Yuriy Shchurko. “We see that the world is stubbornly looking for some point of concentration which has no room for pain, patience, and suffering. The world would prefer not to be involved in someone’s tragedy in any way, and would prefer simply to achieve sustainable development, sustainability, not noticing real problems. But this is not a Christian approach! If we as a Church, as scholars truly want to work for sustainable development and sustainability in certain processes, we should accept the world as it is, and not as we want to imagine it. And as we bring to mind all these challenges, we need to ask ourselves: What can we do together? Because today it is not possible alone to achieve or support sustainable development. Is not the neglect of certain problems in the world, such as ethnic conflicts in Africa, poverty, the banal lack of water, at the same time as the desire to take over Mars, a flight from reality? Those who live in western societies where NATO maintains your peace can be lead to such virtual reflections which are truly if not cynical then at least immature.”

As part of the panel, participants also learned of the activities of the Ukrainian Catholic University in wartime and spoke of how UCU can influence society’s processes by way of creating public policies.

This inaugural conference as part of the University of Notre Dame’s Global Gateway project was the first step to creating a community and fostering effective cooperation.

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