UCU Priest Ministered on Maidan

Monday, March 31, 2014


Fr. Mykhailo Dymyd, PhD, is a long-time professor at the Ukrainian Catholic University (UCU). He also exercised his priestly ministry on Independence Square (the Maidan) in Kyiv with great devotion.  Fr. Jeffrey. D. Stephaniuk of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Saskatoon writes about him in the article BELOW.

Maidan and the Inviolable Value of the Individual Human Person

– By Fr Jeffrey D. Stephaniuk –

One of the many priests that ministered at Maidan is Fr. Mykhailo Dymyd. In fact, various news agencies have made him synonymous with the priestly ministry of the movement. In a speech about his involvement with the Maidan participants, he explains a metaphor he uses to describe the stress and trauma of the experience: “It’s as if we were all under water. When we came to the surface, some had the strength to swim to shore, others did not.” Fr. Dymyd speaks about the manner in which lives were transformed through the bond of the Maidan and how the Church continues now to help people “get to shore”: ”Yes, we have individual lives intended by God, but also there has been this communal experience of meaning, and making sense of these events together.”  He personally holds the memory of several men who died on February 20, 2014, through his priestly ministry to them: “Some of the boys who died here on the square had come to me and said: ’I want to confess because I want to die sinless.” They felt that these might be the last moments of their life and they wanted to be in a state of grace if they were to die that day.

Such solid Christian catechism is often summarized by the following statement: “The presence of Divine Grace is necessary for salvation.” It is also a theme of several of the prayers in the military prayer book of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, entitled “Pray and Serve.” A similar theme in this prayer book is that God has the power to bring good out of every situation, no matter how difficult or even how evil it may be experienced to be: “Your wisdom and goodness, My God, govern all things, and nothing happens in the world without your holy will. Because you care for me, and are constantly mindful of me, I gratefully accept all that you have in mind for me. You are able to change the greatest evil into good.” This insight has also been my experience as the priest on the team of Rachel’s Vineyard Saskatchewan, a retreat for the spiritual and psychological healing of post-traumatic stress caused by abortion: healing comes from remembering one’s aborted child in healthy ways, including a commitment to live one’s life in a manner of hope that can only be explained by the fact that God has brought new life out of the death of the abortion.

Fr. Dymyd has been a witness at Ukraine’s “Maidan of Dignity” to this basic principle of Christianity about the power of God to bring good from evil, life from death. In one recorded encounter, he is heard intervening in an argument after the usual pattern of events had led to violence. A group of paid thugs provoked the riot police into hostility that was then directed at the Maidan participants. In response to a frantic question, “Who started this?”Fr. Dymyd is heard to say, “It really doesn’t matter, because this is brother against brother!” In other words, a corrupt government was intentionally provoking violence, then standing back and claiming self-righteousness when it should have been ensuring justice; meanwhile real people were in danger of real harm.

It is my theory that one completely unexpected power in the dismantling of the plans of the Yanukovych government has been the transformative experience of being at the Maidan. The events of the Maidan are so significant and so far-reaching that a former adviser to Putin, Andrey Illarionov, has stated that Moscow’s current military aggression against Ukraine “is a punitive expedition against Ukrainians for the creation of the Maidan.” Tens of thousands of people, including individuals in the new interim government, have participated in Kyiv’s Maidan over the past three months. Further, there is the shocking and traumatic loss of human life, with nearly one hundred people killed and one thousand wounded; several of those being reported as having died of their injuries in the days after the riot police were withdrawn. A phrase now used in Ukraine states that “Your debt to them will be paid in full if you live your life with dignity.” Under the shadow of the “Nebesna Sotnya”, who have also shown the example of true self-defence, there is no appetite for a cavalier loss of human life in the new Ukraine.

Ruslana Tkachenko, a media liaison with the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in Kyiv, has described this transformation in an incredible article entitled “Maidan: Icon of a Resolute Ukraine.” She recalls the evolution of the peaceful protests from “a celebration of freedom into a battle for Ukraine.” Time spent at the barricades may give the impression of doing a lot of standing, when in reality there was all manner of organizing to be done, medical stations to establish, supplies to be collected, and prayers to be said, even by those who had never prayed until that point in their lives. Most surprisingly, the Madian became an environment for a spiritual experience. “I came to realize what all Ukraine was growing aware of, that a return to faith in God was not of secondary importance, but on the contrary of central importance as really the only solution to very difficult moments in one’s life.” As one priest commented, “This is probably the most prayerful revolution in human history… because of prayer we were able to persevere and not succumb to fear and despair in the face of evil.”

After the recent events in Ukraine, the word Maidan now represents the peaceful demonstration by people of integrity willing to risk their health and life to regain the dignity of the human person. Tkachenko writes that “now everyone can hold a Maidan where they live: journalists can write the truth, lawyers can defend fairly in court, so that Ukrainians might realize a sense of belonging.” One of the Maidan principles is that it is not the government that has an absolute sovereignty over human life, but rather that people have an absolute right to life. This right to life is also being demonstrated in the peaceful and prayerful protest against abortion here at home. There is a Maidan occurring in Saskatchewan every afternoon from now until Easter in the public square in front of Saskatoon City Hospital, the Forty Hours for Life in defence of innocent pre-born human life. It is happening in Regina as well in front of the Regina General Hospital. We beg to differ on the wide-spread acceptance of abortion in Canada, and literally there are times when it comes to begging for people to spare the innocent life of the very real and very human life conceived and developing within them.

The Minister of Culture of Ukraine, Yevhen Nyshchuk, had this summary of the Maidan when he called on Crimeans to maintain interreligious peace and tolerance: “The Maidan showed how various denominations can coexist peacefully. The whole world knows about our tolerance in these matters. Today the seizure of places of worship in Crimea is being triggered by Russia… The ideology of the Ukrainian people, their whole history, and events on the Maidan have shown that the individual is highly valued in Ukraine! Whereas, for our northern neighbor, the imperial spirit is most valued and individuals are neutralized. This is the difference between Ukraine and Russia. And so accordingly we have affirmed our membership in the civilized world where respect for the individual is most valued.”

The Maidan principle of the inviolable value of the individual includes the human being in one’s pre-natal time of development.

Source: http://www.skeparchy.org/news-articles-documents/issues-and-reflection/reflections/maidan-inviolable-value-of-individual-person.html

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