«Jewish Observer»
July 2002
5762 Av

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The answer to this question for a Jews is, at the first sight, unequivocal - no. But several years will pass and our families may confront with a problem... Over 90% of religious communities in Ukraine are Christian ones. It is natural, therefore, that the Vinnitsa society of political prisoners and the repressed addressed the authorities to restore an ancient Ukrainian tradition to introduce a morning prayer "Our Father" in kindergartens and junior school grades as a universal instrument of Christian unity. 500 signatures of representatives of different confession, parties, ordinary citizens have been collected. According to the Vinnitsa newspaper "Independent courier" (#24 from June 12, 2002) the petition was backed by Mayor Alexander Dobrovsky. Misunderstanding emerged only with the officials, who, referring to the Constitution of Ukraine, did not issue permission on morning prayers.

The Society of political prisoners is unlikely to stop its efforts. March 20, 2002 President of Ukraine issued the Decree which has the following: "Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine, State Committee of Ukraine on Religion together with Academy of pedagogical sciences of Ukraine and with the participation of churches and religious organizations are to develop proposals on introducing spiritual moral values into a teaching-educational process and to submit them in prescribed manner to the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine". In view of this Decree the Society or other public organizations are sure to struggle for "Our Father".

What may sooner or later happen? The Constitution proclaims that: "Church and religious organizations in Ukraine are separated from the state and school - from church. No religion can be determined as obligatory". That's why the Vinnista authorities refused to issue permission on prayers. The author of the article referred to Yevgeny Zaremba, head of department on religion of the regional state administration. It turned out there are only 41 non-Christian organizations in the region, which constitutes 2,5% of all religious communities. And though Y. Zaremba unequivocally declared all decisions concerning morning prayers should be taken in strict compliance with the current legislation, nobody can guarantee continuity of these laws. Moreover that, according to the information of "Independent Courier", five Ukrainian regions have yet managed to bypass the Constitution and introduced morning prayers. Thus, 2/3 of the votes in the Verkhovna Rada necessary for amendments to the Constitution or, which is even simpler, an instruction by the Ministry of Education may come any moment.

We may long talk about the necessity to respect rights and freedoms of other people, to be tolerant and patient but... Where shall we finally go if we are only 2,5%? Christians in Ukraine constitute an overwhelming majority, and sooner or later we will have to live according to their rules. Moreover, nobody will compel a Jew of Muslim to read "Our Father", it is up to him whether to pray or not.

There remains only one problem - children in kindergartens and a junior school. We'll manage to explain to elder pupils where our religion is and where - not. Their coevals and classmates will understand this. But how shall we explain to a three-year old child this prayer is not to be read?

This game is beyond his comprehension. Why does his life-first friend or girl-friend do it and he can't? What will other children think about it and how will their parents-Christians- explain this to them? Can there appear in our midst such people who will not care about it and say, "Is there any difference here? Let's not traumatize our child, be him like others. In a couple of years everything will get in order".

Alas, in a couple of years it will be too late...


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