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Invasion of Ukraine is considered imminent as troops mass on the border

Presbyterian Mission Agency global partners say through prayer, each of us can become a missionary of peace

by Kathy Melvin | Presbyterian News Service

Dietrich Brauer, the Archbishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of European Russia (ELCER), participates in a service put on by the Russia Mission Network. (Photo by Connie Weaver)

LOUISVILLE — The White House has announced that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is no longer “likely,” but now “imminent.”

For the past few months, Russia has amassed both heavy weapons and more than 100,000 troops along the border it shares with Ukraine. Now, with Russia holding exercises in Belarus, Ukraine is surrounded on three sides.

Ellen Smith, World Mission’s regional liaison for Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Poland — who lived in Russia with her family for over two decades — has been in close contact with Presbyterian Mission Agency partners and following closely the news from the region.

“I don’t really believe that Russia wants to invade Ukraine,” she said. “The perception is that the West uses Ukraine against Russia. This does not mean that they will not invade if the current situation continues. This is not about Ukraine, but about NATO and perceived Western aggression. The U.S. has been involved in Ukraine since the Maidan revolution in 2014.”

Faith communities, including PMA partners, met for a prayer service on August 26 organized by the community of St. Egidio in Kyiv. St. Egidio was founded by a Catholic priest, but the community in Kyiv is ecumenical — Catholic, Orthodox (both patriarchies) and others. People from different backgrounds and different social status met together.

The prayer was led by the Apostolic Nuncio to Ukraine, Archbishop Visvaldas Kulbokas. In his reflections, he cited the Gospel of Luke: “Jesus Christ sends his disciples — and each of us — as missionaries of peace. Whatever house you enter, say first: Peace be upon this house!”

The Apostolic Nuncio also stressed the importance of prayer:

“We cannot leave everything to Jesus himself, but we must give ourselves to prayer in action. For without us, even Jesus, the Son of God, remains, so to speak, ‘powerless’ in this world, which often prefers its own interests and conflicts to the thoughts of God, its Creator.”

He asked the group to consider putting pride and politics aside.

“The result is the temptation to prefer what divides rather than what strengthens human brotherhood,” he said. “Instead, when our hearts are directed to God together, the Kingdom of God becomes our primary desire. Everything else becomes secondary, and therefore all divisions in families, in the city, in the people, and between nations become much less.”

The Apostolic Nuncio concluded his speech with this prayer:

“Have mercy on our country, its families, children born and unborn, have mercy on all of us. Just say the word, and peace will be embodied by your angels and men of goodwill. Lord, do not look at our sins but accept our humble prayer: in the name of your Son, Jesus, we ask you to give us peace.”


Yuriy Lifanse speaks during a Jan. 26 prayer service in Ukraine. (Contributed photo)

 Calls for peace have come in other ways as well. The Archbishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of European Russia (ELCER), Dietrich Brauer, offered the following poem on a Russian poetry site:


Peace, as his precious covenant, the
Lord bequeathed to us to keep.
He, the Reconciler of the whole universe,
promised the victory of life.

But how many times have we again trampled
In the dirt his sacred gift,
And unfoundedly declared,
There will never be a war.

Lord, have mercy on us sinners
And pour out your grace.
May hell not swallow up
Your senseless children.

Grant enlightenment to the blind leaders,
Put your love into their hearts.
Send the arrogant admonition,
Do not let the blood of the innocent be shed. After all, no one will gain his paradise
by strength, power and wealth. Peoples, countries, human brotherhood lives by you alone, Lord.

 “Our partners are peacemakers and have been a profound witness to me through all these years,” said Smith. “They have navigated a difficult context and trying times with grace, working toward peace, not just during these tense days at hand.”

Last week the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) joined a dozen fellow faith-based organizations, including several other mainline denominations, in calling for peace in the simmering conflict.

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