"All words are symbols that represent unspeakable realities. Which is also why words are magical." (Donald Miller tweet)

Saturday, February 08, 2014

land I love

I've written previously about Maidan. Certainly, I've written about #Ukraine, #landilove. My experiences there have been as a participant in Christian humanitarian work, always through local churches and organizations. I have friends there.

Let me repeat that.
I have dearly-loved friends there.

So I have obsessively watched since the Maidan protests began last November. Every day, I wake up wondering if this beautiful land is still functioning, or if something very terrible has happened while I slept.

The short form is this: The government is corrupt. That's nothing new, sadly. But last November, President Yanukovich decided to ditch the deal they had been working on for years with the European Union, and signed one with Russia instead. People were displeased - not because they all want to join the EU - but because they don't want to be wholly under Russia's power. And they want their democratic rights and voices to be respected and heard, not entirely disregarded at the President's whim.

And so the protests began.

On January 16, 2014, the President passed an unconstitutional law, prohibiting mass protests, criticisms of the government, or even wearing a helmet. He did this with no debate, no warning, and by a show of hands. An increasing number of protesters went missing, were abducted from the streets or from hospitals, were imprisoned, or were killed.

The protests grew.

A few weeks later, the unconstitutional laws were repealed; amnesty was granted to those arrested under those laws, but only if the protesters would, essentially, stop protesting.

The protests continue.

As I write this, the protesters have remained peaceful, for the most part. The Maidan is well-organized. They have set up their own hospital behind the barricades in Kyiv, since other hospitals are not safe. There is a library too. Food, medicine, tents, music - all there.  Women pray at the barricades every day, with signs that beg the Berkut (special forces police) not to shoot fellow Ukrainians. Priests circulate; Bible verses advocating non-violence are displayed. Burning tires obscure the ability of the police to see into the square, which seems to have brought a halt to the sniper shootings.

Despite terrible abuses of human rights - despite one man's ear being cut off as he was tortured - despite beatings of grandmothers - despite kidnappings and property seizures and unconstitutional laws - the protesters have determined to choose non-violent resistance. They are training in "self-defense," true. But they are neither terrorists nor provocateurs, as their own government has labelled them.

They are people, regular people, with a voice.

The world has seen the power of non-violent protest in the past, through Martin Luther King, Jr., through Mahatma Gandhi, through others. The difficulty is - one never knows what the outcome will be until it's all over.

Today, one of the voices of Euromaidan announced another step, to be undertaken throughout the nation. 
"Beginning today, self-defense is the resistance. We emphasize that we are preparing a plan for non-violent, but very active, resistance. We will fight local corruption  we will wage our own information war."
In my world, where road rage erupts when someone drives too slowly, I marvel at the ability of thousands of people to choose non-violence after nearly three months of daily protests in brutal winter weather, under the constant threat of far more brutal retaliation. I wonder how long they can choose that. 

I wonder if I could make that same choice.

I pray that the historically-demonstrated power of non-violent protest will be seen again, and soon. And I pray that when change happens, as it must, that those who suddenly find themselves in power will choose a different road than those who have gone before.

Ukraine: I am proud to stand with you, albeit on the other side of the planet.
Know that you are not alone, that the world watches, and calls for change along with you.
Stay the course, my friends. 

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