I had never before seen anyone protest an interfaith gathering. But yesterday as we walked out of our hotel in Kiev, Ukraine, a small group of protestors stepped forward to verbally and physically harass our group consisting of religious leaders and foreign dignitaries. The protestors belonged to the Ukranian Orthodox Church and were angered that representatives of their Christian denomination, including Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III, were mixing with followers of other religious traditions.
We hurried onto our bus and traveled to our session, and upon arrival we discovered that
more protestors were awaiting our arrival outside the Parliament of Ukraine. I was fortuitously seated next to Anne-Marie Lizing, who currently serves as the Honorary President of the Senate of Belgium, and we discussed at length the profound challenges to social progress that exist in our modern world. Among other insights, she remarked that such experiences are valuable benchmarks that reinforce the importance of programs like the assembly in which we were taking part — the Kiev Interfaith Forum. She advised that there is much work to be done in nurturing a pluralistic and ecumenical global society and that we cannot take this task too lightly, especially in the context of our modern world.