“It’s a hidden crisis that requires the attention and the solidarity of Europe”, claimed Bishop Borys Gudzjak, in charge of foreign relations for the Greek Catholic Church of Ukraine, reporting on the humanitarian crisis that his country has been experiencing for the past two years. It’s a forgotten conflict, which was brought at the centre of international attention thanks to Pope Francis. On Sunday, April 3, at the end of Regina Coeli prayer, the Pope launched a special collection for Ukraine to be held in all Catholic churches of Europe Sunday, April 24.
The conflict sparked off on 6 April 2014 in Ukraine’s eastern Donbass region. Diplomatic efforts, summit meetings, agreements and attempts to a truce were to no avail. The data that Bishop Gudzjak presents clearly highlight the dimension of a humanitarian crisis that is still ongoing even here, in the heart of Europe.
In Ukraine there are two million internally displaced refugees while over 500 thousand people have left the Country.
To date the conflict has left 10 000 dead and hundreds of traumatized people. As many as 5 million men and women have been directly affected by the war and a million and 500 thousand are in a state of starvation. In Donbass there is a shortage of basic medical instruments and medicines. It means that surgeons are forced to operate without anesthesia. There is a lack of insulin for diabetics.
The conflict has hit the entire country creating a serious economic crisis.
Already in 2014, the national currency had lost two thirds of its value. For the past year and a half the population has been living on very low salaries amounting to less than 200 euros per month, while prices for meat and primary goods are at European levels. Despite widespread poverty, Ukraine – a country with 40 million inhabitants – has generously accepted to welcome two million refugees. “Despite the situation, there are no strikes nor major social demonstrations – observed Bishop Gudzjak – . No one knows the magnitude of crisis that Ukraine is experiencing, to which the Pope has responded by launching his appeal.
“We are very grateful for this gesture of closeness and solidarity, that carries both material and moral significance.”
The fund collection will involve European Churches. The proceeds will be handed over to the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, the Vatican dycastery in charge of coordinating and organizing humanitarian initiatives. Cor Unun will be in charge of distributing the collected sums through the Greek-Catholic and Latin Churches network, as well as other organizations, to ensure that aids will be received by “all those in a state of need.”
“Ukraine’s primary necessity – the bishop remarked – is to end the war.”
“Every day that goes by with the launching of missiles is yet another day of the continuation of the conflict. The devastation caused by the war is expanding.” Roads, bridges, factories, houses, schools and hospitals have been destroyed.
Damages amount to a total of 50 billion euros.
“We firmly believe that the Pope’s appeal, by attracting Europe’s attention, will positively impact the peace process. If Europe is aware of the ongoing humanitarian crisis it will be harder for the armed conflict to continue”, Bishop Gudzjak said.
For the fund collection of April 24, the Ukrainian Bishop turns to the Christian communities across the continent: “The Ukrainian people have demonstrated their commitment to the European values rooted in the Gospel. They believed and fought for the dignity of the human person, for freedom and democracy. Now they need European solidarity. They carried this Cross with dignity for two years. Now they need to know that Europe is aware of their situation. If Ukraine falls under the pressure of this war there will be serious consequences for all, with millions of displaced persons throughout Europe.”