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Today in the Mission Yearbook

Webinar focuses on nonviolent action in Ukraine


Members of Congress are urged to support diplomacy

March 28, 2023

Photo by Karollyne Hubert via Unsplash

With the one-year anniversary of Russia’s continued aggression toward Ukraine looming, a webinar was held recently to discuss the impact of nonviolent resistance against the war and to make recommendations to Congress, including stressing the need for diplomacy.

The webinar was put on by the Peace & Security Working Group of the Washington Interfaith Staff Community (WISC) and included two main speakers: Andre Kamenshikov, a peacebuilding activist who’s lived in Kyiv, Ukraine for the past 10 years, and Felip Daza, a scholar and practitioner of nonviolent civil resistance.

The war has resulted in up to 300,000 casualties in the last year, according to media reports, and been denounced by members of the international community, including the United States. This week, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution calling on Russia to withdraw its forces and for Member States and international organizations to redouble support for diplomatic efforts to achieve “just and lasting peace.”

“For the Ukranian people, this is a battle for self-determination,” Daza noted during his presentation, adding later, “It is important to develop a comprehensive protection program for nonviolent activists in the occupied territories but also in Russia and Belarus, where the repression is increasing.”

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has spoken out against the war and participates in WISC, which is a network of more than 70 Washington offices of national religious bodies and faith-based organizations that “collaborate on advocacy for U.S. government policies that advance a more just, peaceful and ecologically sustainable world,” according to WISC’s website.

Daza gave an overview of 235 Ukrainian non-violent civil resistance actions taken from February 2022 to June 2022. They included mass protests, graffiti, the hanging of flags and ribbons, and systemic non-cooperation actions.  Such efforts made a difference, including slowing down the advance of the Russian army, protecting residents, contradicting Russian narratives and building community resilience, according to his research.

The Peace & Security Working Group of the Washington Interfaith Staff Community sponsored “The War in Ukraine: Impacts of Nonviolent Resistance and U.S. Policy Implications.” (Screenshot)

“It was really important, the role of grassroots organizations to daily organize communication actions, solidarity actions towards the people,” he said. “This specific resilience was happening at (the) local level in neighborhoods” and gave “support to the people to maintain and to survive.”

He also spoke about the emergence of self-organized groups making daily decisions on how to provide humanitarian action. This “huge community-organizing process in the whole country is a real school of political empowerment,” he said.

Looking to the future, Kamenshikov suggested trying to win favor with the scores of Russians who have left the country since the 2022 invasion.

“Over a million Russians have left the country after Feb. 24 (of) last year, and each of these people has dozens of acquaintances, friends, relatives and so forth that he can directly communicate with,” Kamenshikov said. “My proposal and my hope is, really, let’s engage these people. Let’s turn them into our allies. … If we can do that in a significant way, that might have an impact on what’s happening internally, because the regime of Putin must end and every day it exists is a disaster for Ukraine, for Russia itself, and for the whole world.”

Kamenshikov went on to praise President Joe Biden’s recent speech in Warsaw, Poland. “I would like this message to be strengthened, to be carried out in policy decisions, and to effectively engage in many ways with the people of Russia itself,” he said.

Eli McCarthy of Georgetown University’s Program on Justice and Peace followed the speakers to summarize policy priorities and recommendations. “Number one, we ask for support and funding for peacebuilding aid and nonviolent resistance action, and number two, we ask for a consistent needs-based diplomacy and negotiations for a just peace,” he said.

Representatives of the U.S. government can help, he said, by encouraging the Ukrainian government to develop a non-cooperation strategy that activists can work with to help resist the occupation and invasion.

Also, members of Congress should make public statements supporting diplomacy and reach out to Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken privately to advocate for diplomacy, he said, adding, “The prevalent logic of waiting for diplomacy until there is military advantage will almost certainly not yield a durable peace.”

Darla Carter, Communications Strategist, Presbyterian Mission Agency

Today’s Focus: Webinar on nonviolent resistance against the war in Ukraine

Let us join in prayer for:

PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Brunhilda Williams-Curington, Executive Assistant for Stated Clerk, Office of the General Assembly
Jeanne Williams, Managing Editor, Curriculum Resources & Geneva Press, Presbyterian Publishing Corporation

Let us pray

Gracious God, we thank you for the way you empower your people to witness in word and deed to your love. We especially praise you for working through our infirmity to show your power and care for a hurting world. Amen.