Archbishop Stefan Soroka Delivers Remarks during American Jewish Committee Philadelphia

Thursday, 27 April 2017, 07:48
On Monday, April 24th, the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia shared in a program, “Speaking out for the Voiceless: Protecting the Human Rights of Religious Minorities and Women Worldwide”.

This was the second annual Murray Friedman Memorial Lecture organized by the American Jewish Committee of Philadelphia. 

Trudy Rubin, foreign affairs columnist for The Philadelphia Inquirer was the keynote speaker. She has traveled around the world and has written extensively on the issue of women who are without resources and who have suffered unimaginable atrocities. 

The intent of the program is to inform and stimulate advocacy for those suffering religious persecution and denial of human rights. 

We commend the American Jewish Committee’s emphasis on citing that the largest minority suffering religious persecution are Christians in countries where they comprise a significant part of the population.

The following are the remarks given by Metropolitan Stefan Soroka to those who attended the AJC sponsored Murray Friedman Memorial lecture:

 

Good Afternoon!

Something we all share in common in humanity is a restlessness to be more complete as human beings. The major faith traditions emphasize this reality of human existence. The active care for others with a sense of a ‘dare not’ commitment is at the core of Jewish tradition as a people. One of the fundamental teachings of Muhammad stresses that a person cannot be a complete believer unless he loves for his brother what he loves for himself. In the Christian tradition, true joy and fulfillment comes from sacrificing oneself for others, to lay down one’s life for another. It comes through being vulnerable even to those who reject us. It comes through pouring out, emptying ourselves for others, and trusting God to fill us back up.

Our guest speaker, Judy Rubin’s presentation richly reflects the core values of the person being honored this day, Murray Friedman, giving testimony to his commitment to human rights, religious freedom and interfaith dialogue. We leave today reminded that we cannot choose to be willfully blind to the plight of the voiceless throughout the world. Each is challenged to speak loudly and with conviction for the victims of religious persecution and the women and men denied basic human rights.

During the Holocaust, the victims of which we especially remember on this Day of International Remembrance, no one gave voice to the suffering of the millions of victims. The world was silent.

As a Ukrainian-American, I know too well how 7 to 10 million Ukrainians were starved by Stalin in the forced famine or 1932-33 and the world was silent.

In 1945-46, our Ukrainian Catholic Church was liquidated by Stalin with bishops, priests, religious and faithful sent to the gulags of Siberia; faithful were forced to practice their faith in the catacomb church, only emerging from their underground existence with the collapse of the Soviet Union – the world was silent.

Our historical experience commands us to speak out. We cannot remain silent.

In the process of speaking out, daring not to ignore this obligation or leaving it to others to speak for the voiceless suffering persecution and the denial of human rights, we ourselves become more complete in our humanity. We become more God-like, reflecting the desire of the Heavenly Creator who enables our becoming more vulnerable, so that we may grow in our trust in God as we strive to assist the voiceless enduring persecution for their faith and the denial of human rights.

I conclude with expressing heartfelt gratitude to the organizers of this program. God bless all for your participation today.

During an interview with the Jewish Exponent newspaper, Archbishop Soroka make the following comments:

“I really admire AJC gathering different parts of the community to speak up for those who are voiceless,” Ukrainian Archbishop Stefan Soroka said. “We need to draw more attention to those who are persecuted. It’s important for all of us to stand together and share that voice.”

After noting how Vladimir Putin and the Russian government have persecuted religious groups and systematically eliminated any form of dissent in the Ukraine, Soroka explained the value of the discussion.

“Today brings out very much the human story, the human suffering,” he said. “There are personal stories, and that kind of emphasis on the personal suffering that is occurring and gives them voice for that allows for public outcry.”

 

Rev. John M. Fields
Communications Office
Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia

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