About the School

ESD 2022: Truth-telling and reconciliation in the context

of religious, national and geopolitical conflicts

In today's world, the issue of truth, post-truth and fake-news is becoming increasingly important. Hundreds of corporations produce fake information, propaganda becomes a way of life, and populism continues to poison the minds of millions of people around the world. In this rich information space, where various social networks play a powerful role, it is becoming increasingly difficult to discern information, there is a crisis of authorities to which one can refer. This issue affects almost all spheres of human life: political, social, economic, religious and others.

In this context, the example of Ukraine is unique. First, historically and culturally, its territory has historically been divided between different states, and some still demand its return to its sphere of influence. After the annexation of Crimea and the war in Donbass, the problem of fake-news is emerging with renewed vigor. The religious situation in Ukraine, on the one hand, is tense and complex, on the other hand, the ecumenical movement is already beginning to bring the first results, cooperation between the Churches at the national level has become commonplace. The creation of a new Orthodox Church of Ukraine has intensified the confrontation, but the absence of one of the most influential Church in Ukraine is forcing Christian denominations to sit down at the negotiating table. Propaganda and populism also take place in Ukraine, as well as all over the world.

The current situation in Ukraine is deeply marked by the massive military invasion of the Russian army against the state. Thousand people have already died, more have lost their health, millions have become migrants. Ideology of the so called “Russian mir” (the Russian world) brought tremendous destructions on the Ukrainian land, threatening the third world war. What the lessons can humanity learn from this war? How to prevent such misanthropic regimes in the future?

Secularism and relativism shake today the ontological basis of the objective truth’s existence, which is now narrowed to or comprehended as the private opinion/opinions, which cannot be defined as wrong. On the other hand the claim of the truth’s possession is also dangerous (religious fundamentalism or secular ultra-liberal ideology claims), because truth is eschatological, we can't possess it and use it as a weapon against the enemies, but authentic, living truth is always both a way and a life.

Therefore, it is necessary to study the reasons for the existence of truth from a Christian ecumenical perspective, to look at what tools exist today to distinguish truth from fake-news in religious, historical, social and political contexts; what measures can be taken to avoid populism and create centers of responsibility; deconstruct the myths that still lead people to hostility and opposition. Truth telling is crucial to the health of political and social institutions, no less to that of Churches. Experience of the Ukrainian Churches, which opposed the powerful Soviet propaganda machine for a half of the last century, can be useful for us today.

Ideological conflict with Russia had some profound consequences for the Orthodoxy worldwide. In 2018 a new Orthodox Church of Ukraine was created by the Patriarchate of Constantinople, to which Moscow has reacted by breaking communication with some Greek speaking Churches, and withdrawing from the ecumenical dialogue. This process uncovered the hidden and unresolved difficulties in the Orthodox Churches, at the same time it offered a chance to find solutions and to start dialogue not only inside Orthodoxy but with the other denominations as well. Eastern Christianity, represented in Ukraine by both Orthodoxy and by Byzantine Catholicism, together with the Western Christianity (Roman Catholics and Protestants) create in Ukraine the unique possibility to be the laboratory of ecumenism and to elaborate new ecumenical proposals valid for the centres of world Christianity, such as Rome, Constantinople and Moscow.

The issue of dialogue, truth, post-truth, dialogue and reconciliation and their meaning for the personal and community relations was raised through lectures by distinguished professors and prominent speakers from the Ukrainian Catholic University and beyond, virtual excursions and informal conversations. The students  had the possibility to share documents and achievements elaborated in their own contexts. Through knowledge and experience gained in the school, the students and young researchers broaden their expertise, get to know more about Eastern Europe, its political, social and religious life, and at the same time understood better the processes taking place at an international scale. ESD showed, by looking at the Ukrainian case, the nature of the contemporary conflicts in Ukraine and around and how ecumenical movement and open dialogue could provide guidelines for work to overcome prejudice and mistrust, to create leaders of reconciliation, and to walk together the path towards the Truth that does not condemn but makes us free.