LWF leaders visit Ukraine

15 May 2024

“Keep proclaiming Christian hope, in words and deeds,” said the LWF President and General Secretary when they visited Ukraine this week. 

LWF delegation at IDP reception center Kharkiv

LWF delegation with LWF Ukraine staff at an IDP reception center in Kharkiv. Photo: LWF/Anatolyi Nazarenko

In Kyiv and Kharkiv, LWF President Stubkjær and General Secretary Burghardt, express solidarity with people and churches of Ukraine 

(LWI) – We stand in solidarity with the churches and the people of Ukraine: This was the key message of The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) President Bishop Henrik Stubkjær and LWF General Secretary Rev. Dr. Anne Burghardt, as they visited Ukraine this week. “Keep proclaiming Christian hope, in words and deeds.”  

Highlights of the program were visits to two congregations of the German Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ukraine (GELCU), one of the newest LWF member churches, and to humanitarian work of the LWF Ukraine country program in Kyiv and Kharkiv. On Sunday 12 May, they joined a festive service in St Catherine’s Lutheran church in Kyiv. In Poland and Kyiv the LWF delegation was joined by Mr. Morten Dahlin, Danish Minister for Ecclesiastical Affairs. 

Time of aggression and war 

“We have come during a time of aggression and war,” LWF president Stubkjær said to the congregation in Kharkiv. “We are here to show you that you are not alone, and to learn and see with our own eyes how the war affects you.” 

The delegation also met with the head of the Office of the Ukrainian President, Mr Andrii Yermak, and the Major of Kharkiv, Mr. Igor Terekhov. In a discussion with representatives of the All Ukrainian Church Council, they discussed the challenges of the war with faith communities in Ukraine. 

“Since the beginning of the full-scale invasion, LWF has stood with the churches and people of Ukraine through prayers, advocacy for a just peace, and through humanitarian and diaconal work”, said LWF General Secretary Burghardt. “We are particularly concerned by the instrumentalization of religion in this conflict. LWF wants to represent a Christianity which protects human dignity”. 

Meet people, hear stories 

The delegation also included Rev. Dr Ireneusz Lukas, LWF Regional Secretary for Europe, Josef Pfattner, Regional Program Coordinator for the LWF Ukraine response, and Cornelia Kästner-Meyer, LWF Senior Communication Officer. In Ukraine they were met by Bishop Pavlo Shvarts, German Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ukraine, and Mark Mullan, team leader of the humanitarian LWF country program. 

“It was very impressive to meet the people and hear their stories”, the LWF president said. In Kharkiv, the delegation spoke with people whose homes had been renovated by the LWF Ukraine country program and saw the very recent destruction by missiles and drones in the residential areas of the town.  

“We have seen how important the work of our church and our country program are, as they give food and blankets for the people displaced by the war and rehabilitate homes, but also as they proclaim a Christian hope, in words and in deeds”, he added.

LWF delegation with the Lutheran congregation in Kharkiv

LWF delegation with the Lutheran congregation in Kharkiv. Photo: LWF/Anatolyi Nazarenko 

Appreciation to LWF staff and church 

“We could see and experience a little of what people go through”, added the LWF General Secretary. “There were constant air alerts. We met people who are working tirelessly and even putting themselves at risk to help others. I want to express my gratitude and appreciation to the LWF staff and our local partners that are doing very important work under extremely difficult circumstances.” She also thanked Bishop Shvarts for his commitment. “You might be a small church in numbers, but as far as your ministry is concerned, you are quite a big church.” 

“You have come to us in Kharkiv during a difficult time. This visit was very important for us, as an act of solidarity in times of war”, Bishop Shvarts said. “It was an opportunity to meet our small church and its ministry, but also a way for the people going through that war to feel they belong to the larger Lutheran communion”. 

On the way to Ukraine, the delegation, including the Danish minister for ecclesiastical affairs paid a visit to the Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in Poland. They met with Bishop Jerzy Samiec and learned about life and work of ECACP and the LWF program in Poland.

LWF/C. Kästner