BRAMA, Apr 1, 2005, 9:00 am ET|
Diaspora rebirth begins in dialogue
By Bishop Paul Peter Jesep
Bishop Paul Peter Jesep
Discussion is ongoing about the Diaspora's future as evidenced by commentaries in various media outlets. Although some seem surprised by the issues raised, I sincerely hope that a professionally mature exchange continues without any defensiveness. It's not about any individual, but the larger goal of nurturing Ukraine's rebirth in the best way possible.
No one has a monopoly on the Diaspora's future. Nor is there any person who speaks with more authority than someone else. Hence, no one should be shy or intimidated in sharing their views. I've received many emails, even from Australia, by Diaspora Ukrainians concerned about organizations that need to reassess their respective mission statements and how they are implemented. Even blogs and web postings have expressed concern about the Diaspora's crossroads.
In addition, investors, academics, civic leaders, and church officials have shared their concerns in emails about matters not being adequately addressed that include, in their opinion, aiding new immigrants, assisting the elderly and providing a better social infrastructure. The overwhelming feedback I received, however, stems from a desire to move beyond a post-Soviet era mindset.
While it is undeniable that there are Diaspora organizations disseminating a message, the question is: For whom? The mainstream media still reflects a Russified version of history. An English language print or electronic publication focused on Diaspora issues is hardly on the priority reading list of producers at Fox News or even members of Congress.
Preaching to the choir as many Diaspora organizations have done does not address the challenges of the post-Soviet era that requires new and greater methods to influence a non-Ukrainian western audience. Not long ago on PBS, for example, the expert on Ukraine clearly offered a Russian perspective. We live in an age necessitating a stronger communications savvy to modify the current media culture.
"...avoid foolish and ignorant disputes,
knowing that they generate strife...
be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility..."
2 Timothy 2:23:25
Moving beyond the Soviet or Tsarist periods does not mean Ukraine's tragic history be forgotten. No one concerned about the Diaspora's current status has ever suggested that past atrocities be wiped from our memories. America has never forgotten Pearl Harbor, the burning of the White House in 1812, or the genocide against our Jewish brothers and sisters. Japan is now an important trading partner, Britain is one of our closest allies and the United States and Germany are members of NATO.
Nor will Nelson Mandella and Desmond Tutu ever forget the victims of apartheid. To do so would be a sin against them and all humanity. Yet nations and individuals move on because God enlightens our hearts and minds teaching that harboring animosity is spiritually cancerous to the soul. President Viktor Yushchenko is following in the tradition of forgiving, but not forgetting.
There have already been heated exchanges on the Diaspora's future. They must continue, though perhaps with less heat. Using an us versus them tactic against those questioning the status quo is useless. This is not about who is more or a truer Ukrainian. Re-read scripture. There aren't any references to a Ukrainian heaven in the Bible.
If a member of the Diaspora has offered a comment that reflects negatively on the entire community then it should be addressed. It's not about the person making it, but the comment itself. There's a big difference. I underscore again that the emerging, much needed debate is not about individual personalities. It's about the overall image and direction of the Diaspora.
Let's avoid poisonous arguments having the maturity to welcome constructive criticism when merited while taking the time to listen to anyone with an unconventional idea. There's always something to learn. Valid points have been made on both sides. The challenge is to bring them together in a strong, coherent and organized voice that serves the greater good.
Personalities in this discourse are irrelevant. Advancing democracy in the ancestral homeland and addressing domestic social needs are what counts. In a few days the vast majority of readers will not remember this commentary's author or the several points it attempts to make. Hopefully seeds will sprout that encourage the reader to reassess Diaspora activism and offer opinions to guide those in charge or person's who will inevitably follow. Ideas translated into positive change is the point of the dialogue.
Byzantine Catholic brothers and sisters have just celebrated the joy, peace and beauty of the Easter resurrection. In about a month the Eastern Orthodox will do the same. During this time of renewal let us embrace the wisdom and cleansing grace of God, remembering what binds us in the light as brothers and sisters while keeping in check the destructiveness of division.
Bishop Paul Peter Jesep is Chancellor of the Archeparchy, Episcopal Vicar of Colombia and Venezuela and Episcopal Vicar of Government Relations and Public Affairs for the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church of North and South America Sobornopravna. His Excellency is a lawyer and political scientist by training and is a former legislative analyst to U.S. Senator Susan Collins (R-ME). He has studied at Bangor Theological Seminary (bts.edu) the third oldest seminary in the United States. He may be reached at VladykaPaulPeter(a)aol.com.
* * * * *
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