As most of you know, for several years I have been involved in charity and social activities - mainly in Ukraine and for some time also in Latvia. Thanks to the fact that I am surrounded by goodhearted people who are willing to help others, and have trust in me, we have already managed to achieve some things: we support a number of projects in the Ukrainian villages of Ladancy and Pniatyn, we support the Russian-speaking Lutheran community in Riga. This is partly done through an incorporated foundation, and partly on an individual basis.
With time, however, I started to ask myself the question - WHAT DO ALL THESE PEOPLE I KEEP IN TOUCH WITH AND HELP CONNECT WITH ONE ANOTHER AND SUPPORT ONE ANOTHER HAVE IN COMMON?
The answer is several fundamental values: freedom, responsibility for oneself and others, the ideals of tolerance, humanism and democracy, inalienable human rights. And at the same time, the awareness that, though they connect people of different beliefs, they are rooted in a common spiritual tradition that nourishes them. While respecting other views on the matter, we are convinced that not only are humanism and religion not mutually exclusive, but they inspire and nourish one another.
Once upon a time, my great friend and teacher, the Dominican friar Karl Derksen, dreamed of creating a network of 'ecumenical taverns' - meeting places for people with a critical but at the same time constructive and creative approach to reality. In a sense, I take up this dream and develop it, though Karl has passed away, and the Giordano Bruno House of Utrecht, which he envisioned as the heart of this project, is no more. I have before my eyes a loose, horizontal network of people of good will, who are close to the vision of Europe as a cultural unity based on these ideals. Among them there will be thinkers, creators and activists: people of spirit and people of action. There will be room for deep reflection and practical work for the benefit of others. From a washing machine for a poor family in Ukraine to large-scale projects in various fields.
Because I am driven by historical associations, for this project too I came up with a name that refers to the past: UNITAS HANSAE. 'Unitas' refers to Unitas Fratrum, a religious community that grew out of the tradition of Hussitism, the Bohemian Brethren, which was revived in the 18th century in the town of Herrnhut in Luzyce. This tradition was associated with thinkers close to my heart, such as Jan Amos Komensky or Fryderyk Daniel Ernest Schleiermacher. The motto of Unitas is the principle: 'In necessariis unitas, in dubiis libertas, in omnibus caritas'. Interestingly, this name was referred to in the middle of the last century by Rev. Janusz Szczesny Ostrowski, a Polish Methodist clergyman and activist for the renewal of the Unitarian tradition (Polish Brethren), when he founded an ecumenical center in Chodzież near Bydgoszcz (Bromberg). Fr. Ostrowski, whom I had the opportunity to meet at a meeting of proponents of liberal religion, which took place in the 90s in Warsaw, used to say: 'I am a Unitarian with my mind, a Methodist at heart, and an ecumenist with my whole soul'
‘Hansae’ is, obviously, a reference to the Hanseatic League - a union of Northern European cities from the Middle Ages and the beginning of the modern era. These cities supported each other economically, and at the same time created a real political, cultural and civilizational force. The traditions of the Hanseatic League are alive to this day: especially in Germany and the Netherlands, although also Gdansk (Danzig), Riga, Tallinn (Reval) allude to them. What inspires me the most is the conviction that a citizen of the Hansa is a person who simply does what they are supposed to do, without expecting praise or rewards for it. An example of such a man was Helmut Schmidt - one of my favorite politicians.
Of course, one of the basic conditions for the realization of such dreams is money. In a few days I am turning 50 and on this occasion I want to announce a fundraiser. It may be a somewhat odd one, considering how vague it’s purpose still is. The only thing I can promise at the moment is that all the funds raised will be used for the benefit of the people who need them, as is the case with existing projects that I would now like to collect under this 'umbrella'. And I will be scrupulously reporting on the progress of this venture.