Father Richard Soo: Is the church in Canada a sanctuary or target?

9 September 2019, 22:19 | Society-digest | 0 |   | Code for Blog |  | 

Father Richard Soo

"Vancouver Sun", September 6, 2019

Pro-China supporters wave the Chinese flag during a demonstration at Broadway-City Hall SkyTrain Station in Vancouver. DON MACKINNON / AFP/Getty Images

As a priest, I’ve always felt safe in Canada — until one Sunday in August when our prayer meeting was surrounded by pro-Beijing protesters. We saw their big Communist flags going around the church and parking lot. It was a shock and it was scary. A journalist was surrounded, photographed and told they would upload her photo and get everyone to harass her.

We were Vancouver Christians for Love, Peace and Justice, praying for Hong Kong. Not political, we offered a safe space for Christians to pray and share their heartache at the violence, threats and injustice suffered by protesters in Hong Kong. Thank God the Vancouver police came to our rescue!

This was a new and frightening experience for me, but not for my church. Worse happened to our church in Ukraine in 2013 and 2014. Those events in Ukraine have startling parallels with what is unfolding now in Hong Kong. In November 2013, students began protesting against corruption and demanding human rights. The Ukrainian government hired street hoodlums to do their dirty work and attack the protesters. Many say that’s what is happening in Hong Kong.

My bishop, in Ukraine for meetings, was awakened by a call in the middle of the night. “Riot police are attacking the students,” he was told. He roused other bishops who drove to the protest. Walking down the gap between soldiers and protesters, and catching the eye of each soldier as they passed, the hierarchs stood with the protesters, sharing the danger of police attacks. Ten weeks later, government snipers shot dead almost 100 protesters in cold blood, in broad daylight, in the central square of the capital, with the world’s cameras running. The populace poured into the streets, demanding democracy, freedom and the president’s resignation.

Ukraine then was a Kremlin-controlled kleptocracy, the police infiltrated and the elections fraudulent. But the churches stood with those struggling for democracy and freedom. The clergy prayed with them and consoled them. Chapels were set up for protesters. The churches denounced the violence and repression, calling for human rights and freedom. Finally, the Kremlin-controlled president fled to Russia. The people took power. But we paid a heavy price. When Russia occupied Crimea, they extinguished our church. When the Kremlin invaded the Donbass, a region in eastern Ukraine and southwestern Russia, it destroyed our cathedral. Under pain of death, the bishop fled into exile.

Why would we ask for such troubles? Why are we meddling in politics? The answer is, the church is not involved in politics. But the church is committed to social justice and human rights. The Bible is clear, “The Spirit of the Lord … has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor, liberty to the captives … and to set the oppressed free!”

Why don’t we just keep quiet? We don’t have that option. For Christians, it’s obligatory to both speak up for the downtrodden and speak out against repression. We follow the saints and martyrs from the first centuries — such as saints Perpetua and Felicity (confronting the Roman Empire) and St. John Chryostom (exiled to death for criticizing the Emperor) — to modern figures such as St. Omelian Kowch, a married Ukrainian priest, killed by the Nazis for helping Jews during the Second World War, or Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., who said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. … Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

What is the spiritual life? The Bible puts it succinctly: “What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God.”

Father Richard Soo, SJ, is the protosynkellos of the Eparchy of New Westminster, Ukrainian Greco-Catholic Church in Canada.

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    • fedirtsiv | 17 November 2019, 13:29

      Звісно, кому з правдивих українців сподобається слухати богослужіння незрозумілою мовою, плазувати перед самозакоханими зарозумілими батюшками і годинами стояти в храмі, поки батюшка не відправить

    • fedirtsiv | 17 November 2019, 13:20

      І це не дивно, адже "УПЦ МП" десятиліттями безнаказанно розбещувала дітей та підлітків, деморалізувала дорослих людей, священники і вище духовенство показували поганий приклад, вели себе

    • bopa | 15 November 2019, 18:08

      Добрий початок для духовного виховання українських вояків: https://synod.ugcc.ua/data/u-zarvanytsi-vidbuvsya-trening-dlya-maybutnih-viyskovyh-kapelaniv-1559/. Нехай Господь благословляє

    • Paraeklezyarh | 14 November 2019, 12:55

      "Число тих, хто вважає себе віруючими". Цікаво, віруючими в що ? Які критерії для терміну "віруючий" ? Не зрозуміла й різниця між термінами : "атеїст" і "невіруюча

    • lerer10225@com.ua | 12 November 2019, 12:52

      От диву даєшся отакій безсоромності і зухвалості керівництва УПЦ МП, коли ними заперечується написано ними ж самими, як говориться, чорним по білому... Звикли на зазомбованість та бездумність своїх

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