BRAMA, Feb 11, 2005, 9:00 am ET|
The Diaspora's Future
By Bishop Paul Peter Jesep
Bishop Paul Peter Jesep
The Ukrainian Diaspora must be reborn or at least reformed. If there is any doubt of the need then look no further than the recent controversy regarding a high profile Ukrainian-American activist. He marginalized the horror, travesty and enormity of the Holocaust by writing that “big money” drives the “industry.”
The Kyiv Post called the remarks “stupid.” That was charitable. The activist also has penned that Jews are partly responsible for the crimes committed under Communism. As the newspaper rightly pointed out Jews should not be held accountable any more than Georgians. Joseph Stalin was a Georgian. Yet no thinking, rational person would blame Georgians for the atrocities of Stalin. The newspaper urged the Diaspora to find suitable representatives that do not offer crude, shockingly ignorant and inflammatory comments that divide the family of humankind. The Kyiv Post offered a blunt, honest and accurate assessment.
The activist went with Secretary of State Colin Powell to President Viktor Yushchenko’s inaugural. The Bush Administration, red faced with embarrassment after learning of the activist's views, later commented that had they known of such positions he would not have been invited to accompany Secretary Powell.
Independent of the embarrassment that many Ukrainians feel as a community regarding the controversy, there is a larger, more important issue that transcends the asinine outlook of one person that unfortunately tars the entire Ukrainian-American Diaspora community.
How should the Diaspora present itself to the world? The activist referenced above is not the face of the American Diaspora, though there is an unfortunate perception he represents it due to notoriety. The other question raised is the role of the worldwide Diaspora in a post-Soviet era. Either the Diaspora revisits its mission and embraces a changing world or it will be ignored.
“Two roads diverged in the yellow wood
And sorry I could not travel both ...
I took the one less traveled by
And that has made all the difference.”
There must be leadership from a new generation. In the past, I’ve penned that the Diaspora must be better equipped at getting out a coherent, sustained message to the Western media as to what it means to be Ukrainian. The Western media still portray Ukraine as some kind of historical aberration of greater Russia. The Diaspora needs a marketing infrastructure with qualified personnel. This requires sophisticated leaders who think outside the box.
In addition, while the Diaspora was very successful in pressing Western governments years ago to address human rights abuses during the Soviet era while maintaining the vibrancy of a non-Russified culture, it has fallen at the cross roads unsure of the direction to take. This underscores the reason why another generation must step forward to guide the worldwide Diaspora in various Western nations.
In another editorial in the Kyiv Post, Jen Sunden the publisher said, “At present, no Diaspora organization is playing an important role in Ukraine.” He’s right. The Diaspora is stuck in a pre-Soviet, anti-Communist mindset that does not lend itself to realities of the present day.
No one, but for the Communists, should be afraid of reform. Change is part of life. In the corporate world, businesses must develop new services and products to stay competitive. An individual must grow spiritually, however broadly one wishes to define it, or he or she loses a part of their humanity. So too must Diaspora organizations be overhauled if they are to be relevant.
As Sunden pointed out, the worldwide Diaspora is composed of many affluent, highly educated individuals who have maintained some type of cultural connection to their ancestral Motherland. It has significant potential to be enormously helpful in today’s Ukraine.
There are many challenges that Ukraine faces that the Diaspora can better address in a positive manner ranging from combating AIDs, fighting anti-Semitism, orchestrating a strategy to end homelessness, fostering a free and independent media, and encouraging civil liberties for all citizens no matter their background. This is not to suggest that such issues aren’t already a concern to some Diaspora Ukrainians. Yet there is no identifiable, coherent strategy to assist on such social and cultural issues because the focus still remains on the past.
It is naive to believe that President Putin or Kremlin bureaucrats have given up on exploiting or influencing Ukraine. Hence, it is pragmatic to remain watchful regarding the Russian government’s motives and for the Diaspora to be ready to offer a measured, appropriate political response if merited. Its focus, however, must remain on Ukraine’s new beginning with both the challenges and many wonderful opportunities ahead.
The Soviet Union is dead. There is a new world order. Let the Diaspora’s political activism begin anew.
Hopefully, this commentary along with the others that have come before it, will encourage ongoing dialogue about the urgent need for fresh leadership and the shifting of Diaspora economic, political and intellectual resources. It’s possible that many of the current Diaspora organizations and those identified as leaders are unable to meet the challenges of a post-Soviet, post-Kuchma Ukraine. If that is the case, then it’s time to consider starting new organizations leaving the old ones to implode from their own irrelevance.
Bishop Paul Peter Jesep is Chancellor of the Archeparchy, Vicar General of Public Affairs and Government Relations and Episcopal Vicar of Colombia and Venezuela in the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church Sobornopravna of North and South America. His Grace, a lawyer and political scientist by training, has studied at Bangor Theological Seminary (bts.edu), the third oldest such school in the United States. He is also a former aide to U.S. Senator Susan Collins (R-ME). The views expressed here are strictly personal. His Grace may be reached at VladykaPaulPeter(a)aol.com.
* * * * *
Apr 22 12 - Op-ed: Aiding and Abetting the Moscow Patriarchate
Mar 23 12 - Friends of Ukraine Take Action
Feb 24 12 - Will Ukraine have Its First Modern Political Martyr?
Jan 23 12 - Holocaust Remembrance Day
Dec 30 11 - Ukrainian World Praise for Major Archbishop Shevchuk
Dec 21 11 - Lessons from Muscovy
Aug 10 11 - Russian Truth
Apr 14 11 - President Yanukovych's Chance to Show Leadership
Mar 14 11 - An Open Letter to Viktor Yanukovych
Aug 27 10 - Independent Ukraine 2010
Jan 31 10 - Remembering Ukraine's Jews
Jan 15 10 - Orange Forever!
Aug 27 09 - UAOC Mourns the Passing of Senator Edward Kennedy
Jan 14 08 - UAOC Bishop Condemns United Fatherland and Union of Orthodox Citizens
Oct 25 07 - Bishop calls for Annual Holocaust Memorial Day
May 28 07 - Priests try to end anti-Semitism
Feb 12 07 - Statement on Anti-Semitism
Feb 5 07 - Kyiv Patriarchate Appoints U.S. Director of Public Affairs
Nov 23 05 - Archbishop Husar's Orange Revolution of Faith
Sep 12 05 - Yushchenko showed leadership
Sep 7 05 - Metropolitan Mefodiy of Kyiv to visit America
Sep 2 05 - UAOC issues strong condemnation of anti-semitism
Apr 28 05 - Yushchenko at the Kennedy Library
Apr 1 05 - Diaspora rebirth begins in dialogue
Mar 11 05 - The Politics of Orthodoxy
Feb 11 05 - The Diaspora's Future
Jan 21 05 - Ukraine, Orthodoxy, and the Greek Prelate
Dec 22 04 - Has the Diaspora failed? Can more be done?
Dec 22 04 - Russia will not leave Ukraine alone
Dec 14 04 - God, Faith and the Orange Revolution
Dec 8 04 - Ukraine must run the extra mile
Dec 1 04 - Cage the Russian Circus Bear
Nov 24 04 - Support liberty - Practical things you can do
Nov 22 04 - Ukraine's Election - NOW WHAT?
Oct 11 04 - Catholic Patriarchate in Kyiv
Sep 29 04 - Kuchma and the American presidential election
Aug 13 04 - Op-ed: Foreign churches cannot dictate a unilateral non-Ukrainian spirituality in Ukraine (Patriarch Filaret and Ukrainian Spirituality)
Jul 26 04 - Op-ed: Viktor Yushchenko and Ukraine's future (Ukraine needs a patriot as its next leader)
Mar 18 04 - Ukrainian influence in the 2004 American presidential election
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