Professor Reports Renewal in Ukraine
FOR WEEKS IN LATE 2004, Ukraine’s Independence
Square filled with hundreds of thousands
of demonstrators. The opposition’s candidate for president, Viktor Yushchenko, though initially favored to win by a popular landslide, was told by the government that he hadn’t won after all — and the people wanted justice. In closely watched runoff election
results, Yushchenko won again, this time for good. “What the world news underreported were the religious issues surrounding the election,” points out Eugene Lemcio, Seattle Pacific University
professor of Christian Scriptures.
A self-described “Ukraine enthusiast,” Lemcio spoke in January
2005 as part of a campus speaker series hosted by SPU’s Society of Fellows. “It was amazing how involved the Christian leaders became in the last weeks,” he said. “Every morning, they led people in the square in The Lord’s Prayer.
A quarter of a million people knelt together.”
Here in Seattle, Lemcio says the clergy urged Northwest-based Ukrainian evangelicals
to “clear out the bandits” and vote for Yushchenko,
who has promised interdenominational
equality in a strongly Orthodox nation.
As president of the Ukrainian American Club of Washington, Lemcio works with a community of people, most of whom came to the United States after their country gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. Lemcio, who sees an upsurge in spiritual vitality
among Ukrainians, says, “Oppression often encourages the authenticity of Christianity.”
An SPU professor for the past 31 years, Lemcio learned the language of his Ukrainian grandparents before he learned English. Occasionally
he visits Ukraine, where he teaches the Bible at seminaries and state institutions.
The new harmony between church and state has its dangers, Lemcio warns. “Any time you get too cozy a union, you’re in trouble, because the government will always outwit the religious groups and use the connection for its benefit,” he says. “I just hope they will have a version of ‘separation of church and state’ in Ukraine.”
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