BRAMA, March 23, 2012, 9:00 AM ET|
Friends of Ukraine Take Action
By Bishop Paul Peter Jesep
Stalinistic, Orwellian, Dark Comedy of the Absurd all come to mind in reading about the latest efforts of Muscovy’s puppet governor of Ukraine, Viktor Fedorovych Yanukovych. He recently directed his unthinking, unchristian-behaving minions in parliament to formally accuse Yulia Tymoshenko of committing “high treason” due to her handling of natural gas negotiations with Muscovy. Keep in mind Viktor Fedorovych later re-negotiated the final agreements that he now contends hurt Ukraine.
As an attorney with a strong public policy background I could give an analysis as to why this is not “high treason” of any kind. But that’s a separate, more academic matter. The issue at hand has to do with a society and culture that’s slipping into the abyss. Accusing someone of “high treason” is systematic of something sinister and ... deadly.
This commentary is not about Yulia Tymoshenko. It’s about values, principles, and equal treatment under the law that should concern investors, Western businesses, and every fair-minded person no matter their opinion of Tymoshenko. Although I have very high regard for Ms. Tymoshenko, she is incidental to this discussion.
Her treatment can happen to anyone whether priest, farmer, shop keeper, or coal miner. It has the potential to impact any Ukrainian-born Diaspora resident whether in California, New York, Canada or elsewhere who make trips to Ukraine to visit family and friends.
The business climate in Ukraine is already difficult. It is likely to get far worse which will jeopardize current investments and diminish future opportunities.
Diaspora Ukrainians from or with family in the Crimea or Eastern Ukraine, Viktor Fedorovych’s base of support, should be concerned because it legitimizes a culture of “payback,” “revenge,” or “retribution,” against anyone not in power. Power is built on sand. It shifts. Those in power today will be out some day. It may take time, but power always shifts. Generally, in an enlightened, democratic society no one fears a shift in power. If the national, governing party in Canada or Australia loses control, its supporters don’t fear harassment, imprisonment, or some other form of retribution.
At some point Viktor Fedorovych will fall. It will occur because someone within his own ranks causes it or social and economic circumstances will be an overwhelming force that contributes to it. What then? Will it usher in a new cycle of political abuse? Is this in anyone’s best interest? Will those who once supported Viktor Fedorovych and his party now be on the receiving end?
For those in Ukraine who dislike Yulia Tymoshenko or even her party think about your children and grandchildren. What kind of future will they have in a culture that indiscriminately persecutes those it perceives as threatening? What does it do to your children and grandchildren’s economic security? What will it do to their quality of life?
If you’re in the Diaspora consider doing the following:
Write to your Member of Congress or Member of Parliament expressing your concern over the situation. Remember, the issue goes beyond Yulia Tymoshenko. It is about family and friends still in Ukraine and potentially about you if you were born there and still travel back. Most important, it is about the future of approximately 46 million people;
Organize a paper petition for family, friends, and church members to sign. You can pass around the petition at coffee hour after Liturgy. This petition can also be circulated at Ukrainian-related social or professional groups during cocktail hour. Once there are a sufficient number of signatures you can send copies to lawmakers;
Post this article link to Facebook or any other social media you use; and
Forward the link to as many individuals with an interest or even passing interest in Ukraine.
If you’re in Ukraine and agree with some or all of this commentary, but feel powerless consider the following:
Pass out fliers to visitors during the World Soccer Championship games. Getting attention off the deterioration of rights benefits Viktor Fedorovych. Don't let the games benefit Viktor Fedorovych and authoritarianism;
If passing out fliers could get you into trouble then discretely leave stacks in public places;
If you attend any of the soccer games work with friends to show very large signs or banners that can be seen on by television cameras and shown around the world. If you can’t get a sign or banner into the stadium then try rolled up letters that a dozen people discretely carry in then display in their seats to form words. Remember, the message is not about freeing Yulia Tymoshenko, but rather something as simple as “We Are No Longer Free.” There are multiple phrases that can be used and they should be in English, German, French, Russian, and Ukrainian. The world must take a greater interest. Try to do it in both Ukraine and if you attend the games in Poland.
Each person who takes action will have a different reason for doing it. Some will be motivated by a concern for the future of their children; some in the Diaspora will be, or should be, worried about family and friends; and some will see business opportunities lost. Other nations, especially in central and Western Europe, should be reminded that Ukraine is potentially one of the continent’s wealthiest with much to offer the European Union. Its slide into authoritarianism will be at the expense of its own political and economic security.
No matter where you are, Ukraine or the Diaspora, complacency on this matter is tacit approval of Viktor Fedorovych, his policies, and his dark and darkening vision for Ukraine. Inaction and indifference are among Viktor Fedorovych’s greatest friends. You can make an important difference with a minimal amount of time and limited, if any, threat to your own security.
Reflect on the words of Pastor Martin Niemöller
who criticized German intellectuals for their political apathy that allowed the Nazis rise to power:
First they came for the Socialists,
and I did not speak out because I was not a Socialist.
First they came for the Communists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.
Friends of Ukraine please act. Time is of the essence.
Paul Peter Jesep is a New York lawyer, worked for a U.S. Senator, and is Bishop in the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church. Metropolitan Myfodii of Kyiv and All Rus-Ukraine appointed him spokesperson and government liaison in the United States. The views expressed here are personal and do not reflect those of his Church. Bishop Jesep started the online petition to “FreeYulia Tymoshenko
.” He may be reached at VladykaPaulPeter.com.
* * * * *
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