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Spring 2005 | Volume 28, Number 1 | Faculty

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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Back-Cover Art [New]
Response's popular back-cover
art makes its online debut with a painting by an SPU adjunct professor of art.

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