I write this letter on the day that President Zelensky of Ukraine spoke to the US Congress, thanking them for their help but also appealing for them to do more, most notably the establishment of a no-fly zone, ‘closing the sky’. Whatever we may think about the prudence of such an action, the disappointment from a Ukrainian point of view is easy to understand. This war has generated a huge wave of emotion in us all, whether it be a profound shock and disbelief that it could happen in the first place; to anger and despair as we witness the appalling suffering; to quiet admiration at the courage & stoicism of the people as they resourcefully defend their country; coupled with a huge amount of sadness, pity and compassion for the people who have suffered and lost so much. Yet at the same time we admire the extraordinary acts of kindness and generosity of surrounding nations as they open their hearts and their homes to take care of refugees and provide medical and humanitarian assistance where they can.
In the face of so much suffering, it would be easy to lose heart and lose faith wondering – just where precisely, is God is in all this? But of course, God is at work in the hearts of all those who are trying to look after their loved ones and those less fortunate than themselves. He’s in the compassion of doctors and nurses, trying to save lives and bind up the wounded. He’s in the voice of Russian protesters who are trying to speak truthfully to their neighbours in the light of false propaganda. He’s in the massive effort of governments, humanitarian agencies and charities all trying to act as one to relieve suffering and promote peace. Not forgetting to mention those who literally put themselves in harm’s way while trying to protect others. Finally, he’s in all our tears and prayers as we determine together that there must be a better way of being and living life.
Indeed, the Christian will recall that it is for this better way of life that Jesus came. His message was constantly about how we should ‘love God and our neighbour as ourselves’ (Matthew 19.19). In fact, it was precisely because we were so bad at doing this, wishing to promote our own agenda and thinking that we knew better than God, that sin came into the world in the first place, resulting in pain, suffering and death. But Jesus’ death upon the cross was the start of God putting things right, for when we recognise that the death he died, he died for us, and put our faith and trust in him as our Lord and Saviour, then we are forgiven our sins and given the chance to start again. But of course, Christ’s death is not the end of the story, for Christ’s divinity is demonstrated not only by the way he died, but by the way he rose again! The resurrection is therefore the basis of our Christian Easter hope, giving us, by faith, not only the strength to meet the challenges of today, but also a sure and certain hope for all eternity. May this be a real source of peace and comfort to each of us as we continue to demonstrate the love that God has for us in the way that we live and treat one another.
Happy Easter to you all.
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Colossians 3.15
A Prayer for Ukraine
God of peace and justice,
we pray for the people of Ukraine today.
We pray for peace and the laying down of weapons.
We pray for all those who fear for tomorrow,
that your Spirit of comfort would draw near to them.
We pray for those with power over war or peace,
for wisdom, discernment and compassion to guide their decisions.
Above all, we pray for all your precious children, at risk and in fear,
that you would hold and protect them.
We pray in the name of Jesus, the Prince of Peace.
Archbishop Justin Welby
Archbishop Stephen Cottrell