Protests, demonstrations, prayers, sanctions, show the breadth and depth of opposition to the war but this makes no difference to Putin who knows that his threat of using nuclear weapons and the fear of other nations that this present conflict could escalate into a third world war keeps the rest of the world looking on powerlessly. One of the saddest things about this war for those of us who are Christian is that the Russian Orthodox Church of which Putin is a member supports him wholeheartedly. Well, maybe that’s not quite true. An orthodox priest in Russia was arrested and fined for criticising the war; there have been anti-war protests in some cities and many of those protesters will belong to the Orthodox Church; the Russian Orthodox clergy Amsterdam have separated themselves from the Moscow Patriarchate and asked to join the ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople; more than 280 Russian Orthodox priests and church officials from around the world have signed an open letter, expressing their opposition to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It is the head of the Church, Patriarch Kirill who is firmly standing on the side of Putin. Kirill is Ukrainian and believes in the one nation of Russians, Belarusians, and Little Russians (Ukrainians). In a reply to the World Council of Churches he blamed NATO member states for what he sees is a strategy for undermining and weakening Russia which must be protected at all costs. We see things as we are not as they are. What’s to be done about it.
I don’t think I have felt just as despondent about the world as I do at the moment. We’ve come through, or hopefully are coming through, a pandemic which revealed to us our global fragility and need for cooperation. We have faced the growing threat of climate change, particularly at the last COP gathering in Glasgow, and our responsibility for the future well-being of our planet. We are now facing a war which could easily escalate into a world war and even lead to the use of nuclear weapons and the end of the world as we know it. There seems to be a desperation among people at government and local level to show Putin and Kirill how much they oppose the war and call for peace. No wonder people are afraid of the future which, at the moment, seems so very insecure. What’s to be done about it.
There are of course things that can be done – protesting, letting our voice be heard, supporting charities working on the ground to care for the people of Ukraine, welcoming refugees into our societies, making sure that Russians and Ukrainians citizens in our own land feel supported and respected for it happens so often that conflicts abroad can easily spill over to violence at home. Many people are doing this. What about prayer? Will that help? Will it change President Putin’s heart? Perhaps it can send good energy and hope to the peace talks that are taking place at the same time as the bombing and destruction continue. I’m not too confident about that but for many of us it may be the least we can do to feel we are doing something.
Perhaps the prayer that needs to be prayed is that which feels the pain of this suffering, the pain of the inability of our human family to live together in peace, the pain that those suffering and those perpetrating the violence are our brothers and sisters and because of this we are all implicated. And this is not the only war being waged by our brothers and sisters. This war in Europe is at present dominating our media but there is also conflict in Syria, Afghanistan, Sudan, Ethiopia and elsewhere. Perhaps these conflicts are more easily forgotten as they are further afield and don’t touch us in the same way. So too with refugees. Thousands of people in Britain are opening their homes to Ukrainian refugees but there are thousands of refugees from other parts of the world all trying to find safety and deserve equal treatment. Taking time to pray is to open ourselves to this pain. Will this then help us to see our human family as one and commit ourselves to friendships and relationships that extend beyond definitions. Without that I doubt peace is possible.