“The Bear and the Bees”: How Religious Freedom Strengthened Ukrainian Resiliency

John Moroz Smith leads the law department of a global financial services company. Smith served in the George W. Bush White House, clerked for Judge Samuel Alito, and served as a U.S. Army reservist.

As I layer the daily news of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine over the range of my experiences since 1992 in both countries [1], an underlying, under-appreciated theme strikes me. It helps explain why the initial expectations of Ukraine’s attacker and allies alike were so wrong about Ukraine’s resiliency. It also hints at how this conflict likely plays out.

This is the theme: Ukraine’s relative freedom and openness and governmental weakness (especially as compared to Russia) since Soviet collapse in 1991 has created a busy hive of voluntary civic activity—especially religious activity—that likely will outlast the invasion forces. The nature and intensity of that voluntary activity is unprecedented in that oft-occupied nation’s history. It has reorganized Ukrainian society away from its Soviet legacy, connected Ukrainians with free peoples and powerful institutions abroad, revived Ukraine’s spiritual and moral strength, and strengthened its resiliency against totalitarianism.

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Video: The Russian Orthodox Church and/in/after the War: Interview with Jerry Pankhurst and Alar Kilp

https://youtu.be/m-6rSFdE8MY Sociologist of religion Jerry Pankhurst (Wittenberg University) and political scientist Alar Kilp (University of Tartu) discuss the role of the Russian Orthodox Church in the Russian-Ukrainian war, explain why Moscow Patriarch Kirill supports Putin, and…

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Professor Scharffs in Bukhara, Uzbekistan: Human Dignity—From the Punta del Este Declaration to the Bukhara Declaration

Brett G. Scharffs is Director of the International Center for Law and Religion Studies and Rex E. Lee Chair and Professor of Law at Brigham Young University’s J. Reuben Clark Law School.

International Center for Law and Religion Director Brett Scharffs, along with Associate Director Elizabeth Clark and BYU Law Professor Eric Jensen, participated in an international forum in Uzbekistan, held at the Academy of Public Administration, 16–20 May 2022. In Tashkent, they helped organize a certificate program on religion and the rule of law, co-organized by the University of World Economy and Diplomacy. In Bukhara, Professors Scharffs and Clark participated in a conference on the Dialogue of Declarations that sought to build on momentum from other declarations relating to religious tolerance and freedom and culminated in the promulgation of the Bukhara Declaration. This blog post is adapted from Professor Scharffs’s discussion of the Punta del Este Declaration on Human Dignity for Everyone Everywhere, an initiative he helped lead.

I’ve been invited to speak about the Punta del Este Declaration on Human Dignity for Everyone Everywhere and the role of human dignity in creating communities of toleration and respect, which is one of the primary calls to action in the Bukhara Declaration we are here to adopt and celebrate today. I begin by reading the first sentence of Article One of the Punta del Este Declaration because it resonates with the themes of this conference and with recent efforts to emphasize human dignity in Uzbekistan.

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