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Symposium to be held in Munich: «Challenges of Russia’s War against Ukraine and the Ethical Principles of Sustainable Peace in Europe»

As Ukraine confronts an existential war with the Russian aggressor, Catholic intellectuals are actively discussing sociopolitical and security issues, proposing value-based solutions. To that end, the international scholarly symposium «Challenges of Russia’s War against Ukraine and the Ethical Principles of Sustainable Peace in Europe» will convene in Munich, Germany.

Ludwig-Maximilians University of Munich

The organizers of the symposium are Ukrainian Catholic University, the University of Notre Dame, and Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich.

The scholarly forum will be held at Munich University on February 12-13. Key themes include the traumatic legacies and modern manifestations of totalitarianism, ethical contexts of global security, opposing Russian aggression, and principles for achieving a just peace.

Speakers will be scholars of the three organizing universities and also representatives of other institutions and fields. These are specialists from various countries (Ukraine, Germany, the USA, Austria, Great Britain, Lithuania, Poland, Croatia, the Czech Republic) and spheres – theology, diplomacy, law, history, philosophy, political science, sociology, and others.

Among the speakers: Martin Schulze Wessel, Chair of  Eastern and South-Eastern European History, Markus Vogt, Chair for Christian Social Ethics, and Christian Walter, Chair of Public International Law and Public Law at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich; Clemens Sedmak, Director of the Institute for European Studies, and Mary Ellen O’Connell, the Robert and Marion Short Professor of Law and Professor of International Peace Studies—Kroc Institute at the University of Notre Dame; Rev.Zeljko Tanjic, Rector of the Catholic University of Croatia; Jan Tombiński, EU Ambassador to Ukraine (2012–2016) and at the Holy See (2016–2020); Robert Brinkley, British Ambassador to Ukraine (2002-2006). 

Representing UCU at the symposium will be: Rector Taras Dobko; Vice-Rectors Myroslav Marynovych and Oleh Turiy; Volodymyr Turchynovskyy, Dean of the Social Sciences Faculty; Svitlana Khylyuk, Director of the Law School; Oksana Kulakovska, Head of the Analytical Center; Fr. Yuriy Shchurko, Dean of the Faculty of Theology and Philosophy; Andriy Kostyuk, UCU Senator and Professor at the Philosophy Department and UCU Business School; and others.

The organizers received important support from: Bishop Bohdan Dzyurakh, UGCC Apostolic Exarch in Germany and Scandinavia; Archbishop of Munich Cardinal Reinhard Marx; and also the German Catholic foundation Renovabis.

Details on the program are available here

The coordinator of the symposium’s organizing committee is Iryna Fenno,

«Our strength lies in high-quality and reliable partnerships»

When Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine began, Ukrainian Catholic University looked for ways to react quickly and effectively to the challenges that arose and grew rapidly.

«UCU is a small university, but our strength lies in high-quality, reliable partnerships. One of our strongest strategic partners is the University of Notre Dame, with whom we share a long history of fruitful cooperation and a common worldview. In response to Russian aggression against Ukraine, Notre Dame colleagues proposed an extensive program to financially support joint research between our scholars. Consequently, projects were initiated analyzing the mechanisms and consequences of Soviet religious repression, the religious dimensions of the current war, and theological interpretations of the conflict. Researchers from the UCU Institute of Church History have actively contributed to implementing these projects.” So explains ICH Director and UCU Vice-Rector Oleh Turiy.

And so, in July 2023, with the joint efforts of representatives of various structures of both universities, a conference was held in Lviv. The center of attention was religious aspects of the genesis of the «Russian World» ideology and also the war’s challenges for church diplomacy, ecumenical dialogue, and moral theology. It is important that this forum had not only a theoretical but also a very practical character, because, at its final discussion, participants spoke of ways to counter Russian propaganda and gather people of good will around the ethical meanings which should lie beneath the architecture of a future security system. It was on this grounding that the idea arose of a future symposium in Munich.

«For us it was important not to close in on ourselves but to find an outlet to European intellectual environments», said Oleh Turiy. «The two world wars began and happened mainly in Europe, and, now again, large-scale bloodshed is taking place on the European continent. We realize the global character of this conflict and greatly value the efforts of the international community to support Ukraine, but we also understand that ending this war and securing a lasting peace depend on establishing a new system of collective security in Europe. And so we want to conduct our next scholarly forum in Munich. The choice of location is not accidental and has a number of historical connotations which can be good lessons for today. We know that the Munich Agreement of 1938, which had the goal of ‘pacifying the aggressor,’ only pushed Hitler’s Germany into starting the Second World War with millions of victims among many countries. Also, in Munich in 2007, Putin boldly announced Russia’s new imperial ambitions. And this happened again at one of the most authoritative international security forums, after which Russia began a war in Georgia and, eventually, in Ukraine».

«In light of these circumstances, three universities – from Ukraine, the United States, and Germany – have decided to organize a joint symposium on the eve of the upcoming Munich Security Conference 2024. The aim is to present their vision of the reasons and nature of Russia’s war against Ukraine and to draw the attention of international policymakers and experts to the ethical principles of a just peace».

Dean of the UCU Social Sciences Faculty Volodymyr Turchynovskyy added that a number of lines and projects that UCU has been working on for a long time will intersect at the conference. In particular, this includes a multi-year project on integrated human development which was begun before the full-scale invasion:

«The concept of integral human development is rooted in human dignity and represents an anthropological vision of human beings as living in community with and for others, as proposed by Catholic social teaching. Integral human development means the holistic growth of both individuals and communities, leaving no one behind in our shared strive towards the common good. The unique gifts of each person, revealed, shared, and nurtured through communal life, create a symphony of mutual respect, service, and shared humanity. This symphony includes security. Thus, the concepts, principles, and applications of integral human development explored by our faculty have equipped us to delve into security studies. The Ukrainian Catholic University, in collaboration with Ukrainian and international partners, has already conducted expert discussions on security challenges. The future European security architecture will only fulfill its purpose if built on an ethical infrastructure and value-based public culture. With Ukraine now the battleground defending Europe’s freedom and integrity from Russia’s genocidal intent, we must discuss with our academic partners the moral sources of eventual victory and lasting European security».

The Catholic community is included in the discourse on security and just peace

The organizers are convinced that the symposium in Munich is a unique chance for the voice of Ukrainians to be heard in international forums at the highest level, where Ukrainians earlier were not seen.

«t is perhaps paradoxical that not even the Catholic Church was a partner in talks at which were discussed and decided international political and security questions in previous years and decades. But it has now turned out that we can speak as Ukrainians, as Christians, and as Catholics. And our words can be interesting, important, and constructive», emphasized Oleh Turiy.

To promote Ukrainian narratives

Volodymyr Turchynovskyy considers it very important that the conference turn the attention of the international community to the anthropological and ethical dimensions of the Russian aggression and how they have developed over time. To the present, European politicians in the West often see 24 February 2022 as the point at which something suddenly began. In fact, the genealogy of the problem is much longer.

«After the Cold War, many in the democratic world were lulled by the idea of ‘the end of history,’ failing to grasp that Russia’s imperial ambitions were gathering strength behind the facade of an uncertain truce. These ambitions ultimately erupted in bloody wars of aggression – Russian intervention in Moldova, Georgia, Crimea… The Russian empire became toxic, accumulating genocidal venom and rage while the dividends of justice, peace, and development reaped by Europeans after Nuremberg had been largely exhausted. As we contemplate future peace, we must shape our moral sensitivity, responsibility, and vision for the future. The ethical in the short term may seem negligible, but its long-term disregard, as Ukraine’s unfolding trauma reminds us, exacts a terrible price».

According to Volodymyr Turchynovskyy, the established architecture of peace is rusting, and security guarantees are not effective. Therefore, it is crucial today for this topic  tobe on the agenda in various forums. In this context, it is equally  important to debunk the «Russian World» narratives and explain that Ukraine is defending not only its own nation but, in fact, all of Europe.

«The notion of future security is arising significantly from Ukraine’s current struggle. This is not a local conflict; the Ukrainian people’s courage and resilience have forged bonds of international solidarity and collective action. I frequently impress upon my American and European colleagues that for all the suffering Ukraine endures, we have a singular chance to transform the moral vitality of our resistance into future development. We, therefore, face a twofold duty: to persist in our fight while also articulating and sharing the senses and values upon which the moral vision of the future must be built», emphasized Volodymyr Turchynovskyy.

Church historian Oleh Turiy spoke of yet another important narrative relating to the role of religion:

«If we suppose that we can build peace and future security on foundations which come from our Christian essence, then we must state that in Russian today a nationalized church carries out the role of the mouthpiece and instrument of imperial, militaristic propaganda. We have to ask a legitimate question: How much can a structure which uses religious rhetoric to spread genocidal ideas and justify war crimes be considered a religious institution, a community of believers»?

In the words of the historian, Russia’s position cynically hides behind propagandist rhetoric of a metaphysical confrontation with the immoral West and defense of traditional values: «Many in the West actually believe this. Our task is to reveal the true state of affairs and demonstrate the real threats to freedom, democracy and human dignity arising from the totalitarian nature of Putin’s regime and its ideological support. We hope the Munich symposium will provide an opportunity to discuss these matters and make our voices heard».

Photo: Іnternational conference «Church Diplomacy and the Religious Dimension of the Russian-Ukrainian War», 20 september  2023.


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