April 24, 2013

Feldman: The main unsolved issue is the return of objects of worship and property of religious communities

The people’s deputy of Ukraine Oleksandr Feldman, during the interview to the RBK-Ukraine, told about the Kyiv Interconfessional Forum, about the place of religion in modern Ukraine, and about the policy of Ukraine in the area of the international and interreligious relations.

RBK-Ukraine: why the topic of the Kyiv Interconfessional Forum is the place of different religions in the life of the modern society? Is this problem urgent in Ukraine?

 Oleksandr Feldman: Ukraine is the place, where three the largest world religious successfully co-exist during the centuries. In addition, the politics as the whole has recently become more humanitarian, or dealing with the range of issues of religion, faith, and traditions. Moreover, the main humanitarian conflict of the present does not develop by the East-West line, or by the Islam-Christianity line, but by the line of the traditional society (the religious one) and the liberal society (the secular one deprived of religious fundamentals). That is why, both the selection of the topic, and the place of the holding are timely and appropriate.

 RBK-Ukraine: The religious values in the clerical regimes are protected from the infringement of the secular world; the secular society in the liberal regimes is protected from the diktat of the traditional values… Who should be protected in Ukraine and from whom?

 Oleksandr Feldman: It is necessary to arrange the dialogue between the bearers of the different values in order to have no estrangement and conflicts. And it is necessary to protect ourselves from radicals who may use the religious slogans and the slogans of protection of the personal freedoms to stir up the hostility in the society.

 RBK-Ukraine: One of the researches of Your Institute stated that the representatives of one of the traditional religious confessions become the object of attacks and hate more frequently. Apparently, the matter was in the Russian Orthodox Church headed by the Moscow Patriarchate. Do You really think that something threatens this confession in Ukraine?

 Oleksandr Feldman: I do not think that something cardinally threatens any of the confessions in Ukraine (however, there are some problems in each of them). The result of the research stated the obvious fact that certain politicians and activists admit the public attacks of the representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church headed by the Moscow Patriarchate in their anti-Russian rhetoric.

 Last year, for example, there were several acts of vandalism and hooliganism directed against the Russian Orthodox Church headed by the Moscow Patriarchate, such as “a punk prayer” of Pussy Riot in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow, and the Femen’s “Cross-felling” in Kyiv. These actions were unprecedented and resonant.

 RBK-Ukraine: Two comical events have happened in Europe recently: the first one was the permission of the court in the Netherlands to carry out the activity of the party of paedophiles, because any citizen has the right to establish any party and express any political views; the second one was the arrest and the fining of a man in France who wore the sweater with a picture of a man, a woman and children (this picture was considered discriminatory towards the same-sex couples)… What is more undesirable – the obscurantism of clericals or too liberal values?

 Oleksandr Feldman: Any extremes are dangerous. These liberal excesses may turn even rather tolerant people into radical haters of sexual minorities. The same way the excesses of fundamentalists create problems for the perception of certain religions by other people.

 If somebody thinks that the second variant is better because the global migration flows, including the ones from the countries with radical religious traditions, move to the liberal countries, he is wrong. There is the big movement the other way. And this way is taken not by separate individuals, but by the whole countries.

 The deepest conflict of the present is when the first and the second categories of people appear to by the members of one society. And that is the main problem and the reason for concern.

 RBK-Ukraine: What is Your attitude to the modern art, which often uses the traditional religious symbols so that the representatives of the religious circles express their indignation? By the way, many people consider the scandalous action of Pussy Riot a song, and not the act of vandalism… Where is the border between innovative art and blasphemy according to Your opinion?

 Oleksandr Feldman: I am not an admirer of modern art. Moreover, I do not understand it… And is it really art: does it include more artistic or tempting features?

 If this creative displays affect somebody’s feelings and dignity, they should be condemned.

 If somebody wishes to express himself this way, and considers himself a great creator of new art, than, as a real artist, he must be ready to the fact that the society and contemporaries shall not appreciate him, to put it mildly.

 RBK-Ukraine: The new Pope started his mission with the cardinal reduction of his own maintenance costs and started to fight with the traditional pontifical luxury (refuse from the Popemobile, the throne, the luxurious rooms, etc). Is this the return to the ascetic origins or the smart promotion under the conditions of the global financial crisis?

 Oleksandr Feldman: This is very deep question and really the Great Person. These questions and these figures shall not be discussed in the lobbies…

 The worst thing is when a person bearing a certain religious message, is appraised from the philistine point of view. It is inadmissible. People must listen to these people, and try to understand; not to get to the bottom of them by the secondary signs.

 RBK-Ukraine: Many experts say that the percent of people “turning away from” religion (do not go to churches, do not observe rites and traditions, etc.) is very high today, while none of the religions admits this. What is the reason of this disappointment in religion and what does this mean?

 Oleksandr Feldman: I do not think that the similar sociology is right. There have never been so many people, the majority of which are the bearers of the deep religious traditions (Hinduism, Confucianism, Buddhism, Islam). As far back as 150 years ago, there were only 250,000 Hindus in India and Pakistan, and now there are more than 1 billion of them.

 It may be said with confidence that the modern humanity did not find alternative to Faith; science did not cope with this task.

 RBK-Ukraine: Don’t You think that “a person of faith” is not able to adequately fit in the modern civilization and the modern mode of life of a successful person (civilization and culture have separated from religion and traditions so that they became incompatible)?

 Oleksandr Feldman: Modern times You are talking about is in its 20 year. And a new person, with new values and views, is formed during the centuries. So, let’s not make hasty conclusions. On the contrary, we may say that a rational person, for whom the whole modern western civilization was created, starts to reject rationalism. However, either despondency or mysticism replaces the Faith.

 RBK-Ukraine: Don’t You think that the time of “a person of faith” has passed long ago, and the time of “a person of knowledge” has come?

 Oleksandr Feldman: “A person of knowledge”, as far as I can judge, is a conditional creature that is able to find answers to all the questions of Existence with the help of rational logic, strict scientific thinking and relying on cause-and-effect relations…

 The problem of this “person of knowledge” is not in the fact that these tools do not correspond to an assigned task, but in the fact that the fundamental question may never arise in his head.

 “A person of knowledge” may invent a good pill or a comfortable car, but he is not able to make himself really happy.

 RBK-Ukraine: Was the delegation of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyivan Patriarchate invited to the Forum?

 Oleksandr Feldman: It is a difficult question. We have the traditional partners of the Forum who have their wishes and preferences; and we try to take them into account. Unfortunately, the relations between different confessions are not always serene – sometimes it is simpler to establish a dialogue between representatives of different religions, than between representatives of different religious doctrines within one religion. In order to offend nobody, I shall make no additional concretizations and specifications.

 We would like to host all the religious communities in the work of our Forum. We work on this and shall make everything possibly to achieve this.

 RBK-Ukraine: What have You already reached due to the KIF?

 Oleksandr Feldman: Ukraine becomes famous abroad with the unique dialogue that takes place here. There are not so many similar places in the world. We promote the image of Ukraine and try to make good thing.

 RBK-Ukraine: What religious problem is one of the most important today according to Your opinion?

 Oleksandr Feldman: The most important problem is the conflict of secular and religious societies. We are the witnesses of unique events, which have never had analogues.

 Besides, we try to draw attention of the global community to the existing religious conflicts. The events in Egypt, Libya, Nigeria, Indonesia, Sudan, and Punjab Province are the international tragedy.

 RBK-Ukraine: Do You think the official authorities should support religious organizations? And what questions in the relations between the authorities and religion are unsettled in Ukraine?

 Oleksandr Feldman: The authorities must create the conditions for normal functioning of religious organizations and watch over the absence of conflicts.

 As for the unsettled questions, the main one is the return of objects of worship and property of religious communities.

 RBK-Ukraine: What should be the policy of Ukraine in the area of international and interreligious relations?

 Oleksandr Feldman: In order to answer this question, we must first say what we want. Do we want to maintain what we have? Or to change what we have into something else? And if we decide to change, than into what?

 I think that our ethnic and national policy, which is based on unofficial views, morals and conceptual ideas, is more efficient than the European analogues.

 The only thing we need is not to allow radicals to destroy the existing balances and to break what was formed during the centuries.

 RBK-Ukraine: In the conditional discussion about the wearing of religious clothes and attributes in public places, do You support or oppose this expression of religiousness?

 Oleksandr Feldman: I am against the very statement of this question… Religious clothes are not a piece of wardrobe in the consumer meaning of this word. And it is not right to judge the religious and national attributes from these narrow points of view.

 A religious person differs from a secular person exactly with the fact that there are no unimportant and secondary things for him. And a secular person often decides for a religious one, what is important for the latter, and what is not.

 The discussion about wearing of the religious clothes in public places is a very deep question. And unfortunately, it has not been raised seriously yet…

 This is really a problem – whether the liberal society, which considers that all the questions may be settled juristically, is ready to form the variant of a wardrobe that shall not hurt the feelings of religious people, atheists, Hindus, followers of shamanism, hippy, nudists, feminists, metrosexuals, representatives of traditional family values and same-sex families?... In general, what must clothes symbolize and must they symbolize anything at all? Is the fashion acceptable for clothes at all and doesn’t it violate the rights of consumers? What is the purpose of clothes – to hide or to demonstrate?

 In order to discuss the similar questions, we hold the Kyiv Interconfessional Forum.