Canada’s Office for Religious Freedom has announced funds in the amount of $226,630 for CNEWA Canada’s projects in Ukraine that promote interreligious dialogue and build bridges among youth from various regions and religions of the country. The program will run from November 2014 through November 2015, benefitting more than a thousand Ukrainians.
According to CNEWA Canada’s national director, Carl Hétu, “the program will help enhance the culture of dialogue among the future Ukrainian leaders of the western and eastern regions who are of different cultural and religious backgrounds. One of the goals is to help establish a truly democratic and inclusive society in this Eastern European country that, right now, has to deal with so many enormous challenges.”
Since the Russian annexation of Crimea, and the subsequent outbreak of violence in the eastern Ukrainian regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, there has been a significant increase of discrimination and violence perpetrated against religious minorities in those areas. Among those targeted are Orthodox Christians, Catholics, Jews, Crimean Tatar Muslims and many others who want to live according to their religious traditions but do not support the separatists. Since Ukraine’s independence in 1991, Ukrainians of different cultural and religious backgrounds have lived with one another in relative peace and harmony.
Designed by CNEWA in close cooperation with its Ukrainian partners, the program will help develop youth leaders and enhance relations between eastern and western Ukrainians through the promotion of religious freedom and other democratic values. Among the program’s planned activities are short-term student exchanges, summer schools, public panel discussions, and lectures for university students at public universities in four Ukrainian regions, west, south, center and east.
Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA) is a papal agency for humanitarian and pastoral support established in 1926 with a special mission to work for, through and with the Eastern churches and peoples in the Middle East, Northeast Africa, India and Eastern Europe. Over these years, CNEWA has assisted communities afflicted by poverty and conflict and has promoted sustainable peacebuilding and dialogue.