‘We are not alone in this war. God is with us, and our big Christian family is with us’
by Kathy Melvin | Presbyterian News Service
LOUISVILLE — The Russian people are demonstrating in the streets against their president’s order to invade Ukraine, knowing the consequences will be dire. Switzerland is neutral no more. United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres pleaded “The fighting in Ukraine must stop. Enough is enough.”
Innocent children are dying.
Still, miles of tanks sit outside Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital city, ready to move forward. Rockets are destroying buildings in the country’s second largest city, Kharkiv.
Just after the hostilities began, the Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II, sent letters to partner churches in both Ukraine and Russia.
“In this troubling time, we pray for peace and unity between the churches of Ukraine and Russia as well as churches in broader Europe and the USA. We seek to stand together as siblings of God’s beloved community, declaring in the face of war that there is another way. Claiming our hope in the Lord our God to protect the vulnerable and watch over those fleeing violence. And we call on God to help stop this war, breaking the instruments of violence, so that there can be peace.”
They have responded, comforted in knowing that prayers are rising all over the world.
“We are still in shock,” wrote one well-known Protestant church leader. “Thank you for the letter. It is so important that we can continue to pray for peace together and hope there is a way out from this hell.”
Ellen Smith, World Mission’s regional liaison for eastern Europe, lived in Russia with her family for more than 10 years and has continued to serve eastern Europe for another 10 years. What they are feeling is very personal. “It pains me, the hard truth of it,” Smith said. “I saw today that independent news services are being shut down in Moscow. Pain upon pain. Our hearts grieve.”
A leader in the Orthodox church says that “such a war has no justification either with God or with people.”
“I call on everyone to common sense, which teaches us to solve our earthly problems in mutual dialogue and mutual understanding, and sincerely hope that God will forgive us our sins and God’s peace will reign on our land and throughout the world!” the church leader said.
The Baptist Union of Ukraine wrote to thank the PC(USA) for its solidarity.
“It’s a great encouragement that so many people are with us in prayers. You share our pain and suffering. We are not alone in this war. God is with us, and our big Christian family is with us. Thank you again and again. We need your prayers and encouragement.”
As they fear for their own safety, one global partner is worried about those living on the margins.
“Pay attention to people on the street, shelter or subway. Offer whatever help you can — food and water, clothing, talk about working shelters, and the latest news. Homeless and poor likely don’t have direct access to news, and certainly no access to food,” this partner said. “At this difficult time for our cities and as a whole country, we need to stand together. Thanks to all of you caring people, together we can protect the country and each other.”
The Belarus, Ukraine, Russia, and Poland mission network reminded its members that the conflict is not just society against society. War impacts individuals. One of the partners has a two-week old baby and another just got married.
“The Ukrainians have been drawn together by the common cause of defending their country,” said Smith. “My Russian friends and colleagues are speaking out against this war in clear and courageous statements. All are lifting prayers for peace. I am humbled by the courage on both sides for the sake of that peace, a just peace.”
Women and children are fleeing to border countries, sometimes waiting in freezing temperatures for hours. Men are staying behind to fight.
Ukraine is bordered by Belarus to the north, Russia to the east, Moldova and Romania to the southwest and Poland, Hungary and Slovakia to the west. The United Nations estimates that the war could displace up to four million people. There are also reports that Black migrants are facing discrimination both within Ukraine and in neighboring countries like Poland.
Presbyterian World Mission and Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) are working together to respond to the growing refugee crisis, as well as working to get humanitarian aid into Ukraine and to the countries receiving refugees. The Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations and the Office of Public Witness are leading advocacy efforts.
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) launched an appeal Tuesday for funds to help support the church’s humanitarian response.
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Categories: Disaster Response, World Mission
Tags: António Guterres, baptist union of ukraine, belarus ukraine russia mission network, ellen smith, kharkiv, kyiv, partners, presbyterian disaster assistance, rev. dr. j. herbert nelson ii, Russia, Ukraine, ukraine appeal, world mission
Ministries: World Mission, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance