Religion is closely connected with the election campaign in Ukraine both symbolically and strategically. At political rallies, participants have held icons and invoked prayers. Some parties have held religious rallies - tonight the minor party All-Ukrainian Hromada held a vigil at the Virgin Mary statue across the street, with a prayer ceremony led by elaborately dressed clergy. Major parties have used religious imagery, too. Our Ukraine-People's Self-Defense is sponsoring a park dedication tomorrow for the late Pope John Paul II, a popular figure locally. The poster shows a large image of the pope, with the party's logo prominently displayed. Yuliya Tymoshenko has called on Ukrainians to "pray for Ukraine" on September 28. The Party of Regions has circulated a leaflet in L'viv challenging voters to be sure that their vote is appropriate in front of God.
Political parties have also been using religion in more subtle ways. As we entered church last week, we were given a flier. The young people distributing the leaflet were specifically targeting those who were attending mass. The text invokes religion to encourage people to vote for Our Ukraine - People's Self-Defense. It warns that a Yanukovych victory will lead to the impeachment of Yushchenko, "[b]ut God will be over Ukraine." It also flows like a prayer, calling upon "brothers and sisters" to help the president.
As the election approaches, the topic has also infiltrated homilies at our church. We attended a different mass last Sunday, and Erik was having more trouble than usual understanding. Ewa, another Fulbright scholar who speaks Polish, was also there and we chatted after mass. It turns out that this mass was in Polish! But, Erik understood the homily reasonably well, confirming its content with Ewa. The priest talked about the choices that people make - some are important and some are less important. Those choices related to salvation are more important than earthly choices such as the elections. Moreover, one must be careful with the election advertisements and promises and to try and understand what (and who) is behind them. Overall, the homily was a rather pessimistic take on the election process. But, it likely matched the feeling of many Ukrainians who feel left out by machinations in the capital city.