War and Conflict symposium to include Ukrainian orchestra and Houghton University conductor

Lviv National Philharmonic Orchestra of Ukraine

War and Conflict: Creating Sanctuaries in Times of Violence will be the focus next week at Houghton University during a series of events which will include a Wednesday night concert by the Lviv National Philharmonic Orchestra of Ukraine, conducted by a Houghton professor.

The annual Kindschi Faith and Justice Symposium, hosted by the University’s Center for Faith, Justice, and Global Engagement, will coordinate the activities which, according to organizers, seek to educate individuals about important issues which connect one’s faith with critical topics of global justice.

Past focuses for the event, started in 2011, have included immigration and refugees, human trafficking, global poverty and hunger, racial justice, interfaith dialogues, the church and global health, church unity, and environmental justice.

Monday through Friday events, from January 30 to February 3, are open to the public, some of them online via Zoom, and, other than the 7:30PM Wednesday concert, are free.

Orchestra history
The 120-year-old orchestra, will feature Ukrainian composer Yevhen Stankovych’s Chamber Symphony No. 3, Ukrainian virtuoso Vladyslava Luchenko performing the Brahms Violin Concerto and Dvorák’s Symphony No. 9 From the New World.

Over the years, it has toured extensively around the world, including Poland, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands and The People’s Republic of China.

Conductor Theodore Kuchar

The orchestra is led by principal conductor Theodore Kuchar, who joined the faculty of Houghton’s Greatbatch School of Music last fall as professor of orchestral conducting.

The professor is said to be the most recorded conductor of his generation, appearing on over 140 compact discs for the Naxos, Brilliant Classics, Ondine, Marco Polo, Toccata Classics and Centaur labels.

He was recently appointed principal conductor of the Lviv National Philharmonic Orchestra of Ukraine and has served as the artistic director and principal Conductor of two of Europe’s leading orchestras, the National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine and the Janacek Philharmonic Orchestra, formerly the Czech Radio Orchestra.

Kuchar also will engage in a lunchtime discussion, A Pointless War – Ukraine’s 500 Years of Dodging Bullets, from noon to 1PM Wednesday in the University’s South End Dining Hall.

He will examine the evolutionary continuation of the attack on Ukraine “which has been all but on-going for centuries,” and has a “much more complicated present-day existence than what many realize.”

Houghton appearance “largely a dream”
The conductor said that “the possibility of presenting the Lviv Orchestra at Houghton as a part of this 40 concert U.S. tour was largely a dream” initially.

“As many of the orchestra members are of a similar age to much of the student body at Houghton, it is my hope that there will exist the possibility of personal interaction, especially with the cruel and largely unimaginable existence today encountered by all Ukrainians as a result of the barbaric onslaught by Vladimir Putin and the Russian nation,” Kuchar added.

Houghton President Wayne D. Lewis, Jr., noted that the orchestra comes to the university “at a moment in world history to never be forgotten as the Ukranian people defend their families and their nation against the atrocities of the Russian army in the most significant conflict on the European continent since World War II.

“In addition to the cultural gifts the orchestra will bring to Houghton, their presence will allow our students and community to faithfully consider our role and the role of the church in responding to war, conflict and humanitarian crises.”

Syposium schedule
The schedule for the full symposium is:

11:10AM to 11:50AM, Monday, February 3 – Wesley Chapel: Belinda Bauman, founder and executive director of One Million Thumbprints of Grand Rapids, Mich., which leads a grassroots campaign seeking to catalyze a groundswell of people focused on overcoming the effects of war against women, will present the message.

7PM to 8:15PM, Monday, January 30 – Library 323: Bauman, who also is an author, will present From Wrong to Strong: How Trauma Can Forge Resilience, and what helps people break free from cycles of violence and trauma which, otherwise, often leaves them wondering “what’s wrong with me.”

4:30PM to 5:45PM, Tuesday, January 31 – Library 323: Elsa Barron, an environmental peace and security researcher, writer, and youth activist who is a Research Fellow at the Climate and Security think tank in Washington, D.C., will discuss Faith in the Future: Environmental Peacebuilding in the Face of Conflict and Climate Change during an interactive workshop.

7PM-8:30PM Tuesday, January 31 – Wesley Chapel Basement Art Gallery: Houghton artist Joel Mulindwa will open a show, Chaos, with an artist’s talk and refreshments.

Born in the City of Nyakunde in the Democratic Republic of Congo, he migrated to the United States in 2014 and subsequently graduated from Houghton University with a major in business administration and minors in political science and art.

His work is designed to “reflect on the duality of nature that manifests itself through beauty and chaos.”

7PM to 8:15PM, Thursday, February 2 – Center for the Arts Recital Hall: A workshop panel will explore Real Life Stories of Hope from Conflict-Induced Migration, with global conflict being “the primary cause of human migration and exacerbates inequalities, poverty, hunger, and other social issues.”

11:10AM to 11:50AM, Friday, February 3 – Wesley Chapel – Matthew Soerens, U.S. director of church mobilization for World Relief, an international organization with over 6,000 churches and 95,000 local volunteers to tackle what it considers are the world’s greatest problems, will provide the message.

Soerens helps evangelical churches understand the realities of refugees and immigration and to respond in ways guided by biblical values, and also serves as the national coordinator for the Evangelical Immigration Table, a coalition that advocates for immigration reforms, also consistent with biblical values.

Several individuals connected with the Houghton community will discuss first-hand experiences with conflict and migration, particularly focusing on the role of the local church in creating a welcoming space for those fleeing conflict-induced migration.

Symposium particularly relevant
Brian Webb, director of the University’s Center for Faith, Justice and Global Engagement and assistant professor of sustainability, said that this year’s symposium theme of War and Conflict “is particularly relevant given the crisis in Ukraine but also the ongoing conflicts in numerous other countries

This year’s event, according to the director, “will feature stories of grace, hospitality and peacemaking as we discuss how the Church can be a sanctuary amidst these crises.”

Further details on the presentations and speakers are available at http://bit.ly/3JkO75g, with information on tickets for Wednesday’s concert at http://bit.ly/3WChmDu.

— Houghton University-provided photos