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For the first time in 90 years, Ukrainian students have the option of studying Christian ethics in the public schools. Christian ethics for the school curriculum was an initiative proposed by Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko shortly after the Orange Revolution in 2005.
The program calls for voluntary participation and is supported by the leaders of Ukraine’s largest Christian denominations. One Baptist church association, “Hope to People” of Rivne, Ukraine, sponsors teacher training at several fellowship camps throughout the year.
In the summer of 2007, I attended one of these fellowship camps for teachers of Christian ethics as a public high school teacher from the USA. The camp was held at the Vodogray resort in the beautiful Carpathian Mountain region of western Ukraine.
I asked the principal of a school in Kharkov: “Why is the culture and attitude toward religion in western Ukraine so different from that of your city in eastern Ukraine?”
“It’s not the same, eastern Ukraine and western Ukraine, because the western part of Ukraine was added to the Soviet Union later on, about 20 years. And this is why they could keep their national culture and national language as well. They resisted the communists who pressured them so that people here might speak Russian only. The Ukrainian language was forbidden as a language at school and even as a language of common fellowship.”
I told the Ukrainian teachers that prayer and Bible reading has been restricted or banned in American public schools since the early 1960s. I found it ironic that as an American public high school teacher, I was asked to speak to a group of about 100 Ukrainian teachers many of whom teach “Christian Ethics” classes in the public schools of Ukraine, a former communist country.