Your Excellency, the Honourable Ambassador, Mr Mykola Kulinich, Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ.
Слава Ісусу Христу!
We today, almost 90 years later, gather here in this cathedral in Australia, to commemorate one of the most terrible events in Ukrainian history. In 1932, the Soviet Union perpetrated what we now call the “Holodomor”, a famine which killed over 7 million people in Eastern Ukraine. Besides those who died, so many more millions suffered, and are still suffering today from the events of the Holodomor. It has been an unforgettable event in our history and memory.
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Today, the church presents us the reading from St Luke, in the form of the parable of the “Good Samaritan”.
The Holodomor was possible because Soviet authorities declared that “religion and faith” were enemies of the people. They did not allow people to practise their faith, even punished those who did. They took away people’s freedom.
In the Parable of the Good Samaritan we see elements of what happened in Ukraine 87 years ago. We meet the Samaritans, the hated people in Israel at the time. They had no respect or dignity before those in authority. We read about a crime against a fellow citizen. We see the division between “us and them”.
At the same time, we see hope and love in the words of God and the action of good people, especially from one of the Samaritans.
As simple as the Word of God and the Christian message is, we can see in what way we can be healed, and the world can be bought back to normality by the teachings of Jesus.
Jesus was asked. How can we be saved? Where can we find hope? The answer to these questions is found in the “Word of God” which the Soviets rejected 87 years ago.
Jesus teaches us. “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, your strength, and love your neighbour as yourself”.
Simple, words but if we do not follow them it can lead to the horrors we saw in the Holodomor.
What is Jesus telling us today? Do not forget that the Holodomor was not the first massacre in the world. There have been a number of similar tragedies since, and new ones can be created again.
Let us also remind ourselves what the Soviets forbade, the freedom to believe. We ourselves sometimes reject our faith. Although we are not forced to reject God, our lack of commitment to God’s Word, to the church and its’ teaching slowly can erode those values.
The service of our neighbour is an indication of the strength of our faith in God.
In the Gospel, Jesus says, “I was a stranger, hungry, in prison, and sick. If you fail to help, you will also be failing to serve God.
Our faith is not just to be practised in church but also on the roadside as well. The wounded are still with us today.
The question in todays’ Gospel is very important. “Who is my neighbour?” The people in Eastern Ukraine did not find too many neighbours who would help them.
It would be a good idea today to ask ourselves, “who, in my life, needs a neighbour?”
While we are in church today, let us remember in prayer the souls of all those millions of people who suffered in the Holodomor. Let us pray that it never happens again.