September 23, 2014

Adventists Help Reach Religious Agreement on East Ukraine

Russian and
Ukrainian politicians might remain at odds over the conflict in eastern Ukraine,
but religious leaders from the two countries have reached a rare agreement at
an Oslo conference moderated by a Norwegian Adventist.

religious leaders, meeting at a conference hosted by the Norwegian Bible
Society and financed by the Norwegian Foreign Ministry, approved a one-page communiqué
that supports efforts by Moscow, Kiev, and the international community to establish peace in Ukraine and appeals “to all participants of the conflict not to
allow, under any circumstances, actions that would lead to humiliation of human
dignity, use of torture, kidnapping (including those for the sake of ransom)
and looting.”

The leaders represented the Orthodox, Pentecostal,
Adventist, Baptist, Methodist, Jewish and Islamic faiths, and they met on Sept.

leaders played important roles in the interreligious dialogue,” said Tor
Tjeransen, who served as the conference’s moderator at the request of the
Norwegian Bible Society and works as the public affairs and religious liberty
director of the Adventist Church’s Norwegian Union.

<strong>POSING WITH THE BIBLE</strong> Patriarch Philaret, head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, thanking Tor Tjeransen, who served as moderator at the conference. Photo courtesy of Tor Tjeransen

Alekseyenko, president of the church’s Ukrainian Union Conference, was a member
of the Ukrainian delegation, while Vassily Nichik, director of the public
affairs and religious liberty department of the West Russian Union Conference,
represented the Adventist Church in the Russian delegation, he said.

The 25
members of the Ukrainian delegation chose Alekseyenko as one of three people to
form a working group that collaborated with four members of the Russian
delegation to propose the final communiqué.

The statement expresses
concern about religious freedom in eastern Ukraine, where an uneasy ceasefire
was reached in September following months of fighting between pro-Russia
separatists and Ukrainian forces. More than 3,000 people have died in the

“As religious leaders, we want to pay special
attention to the need to ensure the freedom of religion in the war zone,” the
statement says.

participants told of gross violations of human rights.

“Believers in eastern
Ukraine have been picked at random by rebel forces to be killed and
dismembered,” said Tjeransen,
former chairman of the Norwegian Bible Society. “During the conflict, many houses of worship have been totally

The religious leaders
at the conference also condemned “violence committed toward clergy and lay
people, religious buildings and houses of prayer of any denomination.”

No Adventist members
are known to have died in the fighting, and only one Adventist church has
sustained serious damage.

Related links

Adventist Review, Sept. 9, 2014: "Ukraine’s Turmoil 'Will Not Affect' 13th Sabbath Offering"

Adventist Review, July 31, 2014: "Adventist Pastor Narrowly Escapes Fighting in Eastern Ukraine"

Adventist Review, July 27, 2014: "From Conflict-Hit Ukraine, Adventists Tell Stories of Hope"

Adventist Review, June 26, 2014: "Adventists Urged to Pray for Peace in Ukraine"