9th Ecumenical Social Week: Migration, a Challenge to Ukraine

The crisis in Ukraine has caused the internal displacement of some 1.7 million Ukrainians. These so-called Internally Displaced Persons now live shattered all over the country, although most of them settled as close to home as they could be. Theme of the 9th Ecumenical Social Week in Lviv was this internal migration. Organiser was the Institute of Ecumenical Studies of the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv. Frans Hoppenbrouwers of Communicantes attended this meeting on 28-29 September 2016.
Internal migration is a huge issue, which has been and still is mostly attended to by individual citizens and civic organisations, among them various Churches. Unfortunately, state policies are not being implemented or just partially. At best national policies have been adapted at a regional level, but they remain largely ineffective due to a serious lack of state funding and human resources.
In a country like Ukraine, where informal networks are of the greatest importance for survival, IDPs often find themselves robbed from the social capital they held, when they were still living in Crimea or Eastern Ukraine. Generally speaking, IDPs have gone through a traumatic experience, which will not heal easily.
Also, internal migration puts great stress on living together on the local level. Often IDPs are being frowned upon as a kind of foreigners, which in the case of the Tatars from Crimea is felt even stronger. For example, two years ago a request to build a mosque in Lviv was turned down by City Hall, after consultation with the local Bishops. Also, the local population looks jealously at the support IDPs may receive from NGOs. After all, irrespectively of their status, IDP or local, most Ukrainians live in dire circumstances.
It was not all gloomy though. Until the protests against former President Viktor Yanukovych (2013-2014), Ukraine had been a country divided into two spheres, one rather pro-Russian, the other pro-Ukrainian. In this context, internal displacement could have as an unexpected side-effect a further integration of the country. This, however, does not happen without tensions and frustration on both sides. Learning to live together with social, cultural and historical differences may well be the way to Ukrainian adulthood. Who knows?
Even if the theme of internal migration as such does not sound too attractive, the Institute of Ecumenical Studies very eloquently brought this huge and difficult issue to the attention of the broader audience. For this we must be thankful for the IES staff. Communicantes was glad to financially contribute to this 9th ESW.