Ukraine: Humanitarian work and advocacy with political leaders

16 May 2024

LWF President Stubkjær and General Secretary Burghardt met with key political leaders in Ukraine during solidarity visit

Ukraine visit - President office

Photo: Presidential office of Ukraine

During a visit to Kyiv and Kharkiv, LWF leaders discuss humanitarian support and concerns of local church 

(LWI) - The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) President Bishop Henrik Stubkjær and General Secretary Rev. Dr. Anne Burghardt met with key political leaders in Ukraine this week to discuss ongoing humanitarian work and advocate for exemptions for clergy from military conscription. 

During a 12 to 16 May solidarity visit to the country, the Lutheran leaders met with Andriy Yermak, Head of the Ukrainian President’s office. They were joined by Bishop Pavlo Shvarts of the German Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ukraine (GELCU) and Mark Mullan, LWF Ukraine Representative. Discussions focused on LWF’s humanitarian work in the frontline city of Kharkiv, its strong commitment to remain with the people there and its hopes to be part of the reconstruction when peace returns to the city.  

Challenging times 

During the discussions, the LWF leaders also raised the question of exemption of clergy from conscription, a particular concern of GELCU which has only five pastors. Most of them serve more than one congregation and support other vulnerable people in the neighborhood. Some pastors have recently been asked to provide details to the conscription office and risk being drafted to serve on the frontlines of the conflict.  

Andriy Yermak thanked the LWF for supporting Ukraine and its people, recognizing in particular the humanitarian work that is ongoing in Kharkiv. Noting that Lutheran churches have a strong presence in many countries around the world, the head of the Ukrainian President’s Office asked LWF to continue advocating with its member churches for a just peace in Ukraine. He also asked for support to promote a Global Peace Summit which will take place in Switzerland in June to restore peace to the country.

"This is a very challenging time for resilience and protection. Therefore, it is crucial that politicians take strong decisions. That is why I ask you to spread the information about the Summit to support it in the countries that welcome a just peace," he said.

Ukraine visit - Kharkiv Mayor

Photo: Office of the Mayor of Kharkiv 

Cooperation in Kharkiv  

In Kharkiv, the LWF delegation met with the mayor of the city, Igor Terekhov, who expressed gratitude and appreciation for both the long-term commitment and quality of LWF’s work. “We have many people supporting us, but they do not have the courage to come to Kharkiv,” Terekhov said.   

Terekhov then discussed the continued cooperation with LWF on shelter rehabilitation and humanitarian aid through heating points, as well as other upcoming projects. They include livelihoods work and building safe schools for children in underground nuclear shelters. “We know this project is close to your heart and we have identified the first of, hopefully, many locations to start our work,” LWF Country Representative Mullan said to the mayor. 

LWF/C. Kästner