February 24, 2023 marks one year since Russia’s expanded invasion of Ukraine. Canadians Phil Wagler and Vern Neufeld Redekop reflect. (Words on photo read: "Stop war.")
Obvious are the deaths of soldiers and civilians, thousands of injuries, destruction of cities, towns and infrastructure, and the displacement of millions. Intangible, but very real, are the trauma, broken relationships and identities, and the profound loss of so much that cannot be replaced. It is very possible that we will see an escalation of hostilities and suffering in the months ahead. Further, we recognize soberly the potential for wider and, given the reality of nuclear weapons, even more horrific conflict.
The war in Ukraine is but one of many current examples of the ongoing fracturing of God’s world and the tragic impact it has on individuals, families, communities and nations. Violent conflicts, like Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, have many complex causes connected to past and present identity needs. While Russia exiting Ukrainian territory now in repentance and moving toward reparation would be the best solution, resolving this conflict will be as complex as its causes. Compounding all this is the sadness that even “victories” (as has been the case in past armistices) often sow unwanted seeds for future conflicts.
Despite all this, as Christians we cannot deny that Jesus would have us be responsive and engaged. As we His Church are led by the Spirit to incarnate His way, we realize that to do so now in a manner that would reduce violence, address human suffering and open paths of eventual reconciliation demands action at many levels, using diverse gifts and callings.
Millions of Ukrainians – and let us not forget, Russians and other ethnicities – have suffered, died or been displaced throughout the world as a result of this conflict. Many are now our neighbours, co-workers, fellow students and friends. Furthermore, many are our Christian sisters and brothers. As the war in Ukraine rages on Christians have a high calling as peacemakers and ambassadors of reconciliation that is desperately needed now.
Many individuals, churches, organizations and businesses have been generously responding. The needs will remain for the foreseeable future. Less tangible but no less important are the actions that address the ideologies and impulses that lead to violence and the necessity to build bridges among people that distrust and even hate one another. We must start with intentions that turn into prayers for changes of heart that might end the violence. We must all search for practical wisdom that comes from the Spirit of Jesus and take small but courageous steps.
In view of the current human and natural tragedies impacting the peoples of the world, it is a crucial time for Christians to renew our personal and corporate commitment to Jesus Christ through whom we have been reconciled to God and who has given us the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18). And, as we engage hopefully and courageously in the messy realities of these days, might we consider the following actions as a testament to our faith and calling as followers of Jesus:
- Lament over the brokenness of our age, the repeated warring of humanity, our contribution to this wickedness, and the global catastrophe that the war in Ukraine presents.
- Pray fervently for the suffering and traumatized, for government leaders making decisions, for perpetrators to take truthful and repentant responsibility for wrongs committed, for victims to be truthful about their pain, for the judgment of evil, the end of hostilities and a sustainable peace that will ultimately be found in Jesus and the overcoming victory of His Cross.
- Resist the temptation to allow the headlines and images of the suffering of Ukrainians and others impacted by war to be drowned by our desire for comfort and amusements.
- Actively welcome, love, show compassion, learn from, and share God’s Good News with those whose lives have been irrevocably impacted by the horrors of war, no matter who they are. This includes opening our homes, sharing food and finances, and practising the hospitality and blessing God has shown us in Christ. Christian fellowships should lead the way as centres of God’s shalom and in empowering individual and communal witness and action.
- Build relationships, listen to and partner with Slavic churches in our communities – be they evangelical, Catholic or Orthodox.
- Call governments to look beyond what is increasingly escalating militaristic responses and embrace diplomatic and humble ways of navigating a future where peoples and civilizations may live in peace, mutuality and dignity. Can we encourage our government to even now designate monies for peace work in order to give non-militaristic options a “fighting” chance to make a difference in ending the war and lay a foundation for the work of reconciliation that is to come?
In May 2022 Canadian Minister of National Defence Anita Anand said, “We live in a world that is becoming darker, less secure and more chaotic.” Is there any light on the horizon? We who know the light of the world, Jesus Christ, and the Sovereign God of all hope and comfort must bring God’s salty hope and penetrating light by our praying, presence, unity, voice and action now.
You can support the ongoing work of the Peace & Reconciliation Network through the EFC here.
To listen to the All Things Reconciled podcast go here.
This blog post is a collaborative work of Phil Wagler (global liaison for The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, global director of the World Evangelical Alliance’s Peace & Reconciliation Network), Vern Neufeld Redekop (professor emeritus of conflict studies, Saint Paul University) and the PRN Global Team. The photo was taken by Phil Wagler in Ukraine in 2018. Read more of these blog posts at FaithToday.ca/AllThingsReconciled.