As the war in Ukraine continues with daily revelations of the atrocities committed, we feel the horror and mourn with our Ukrainian siblings. News reports reveal Russia’s destruction of basic infrastructure (water and electricity), hospitals and other civilian targets. Human rights reports now confirm the torture and killing of civilians in Bucha and other communities. In a country of 40 million people, at least half have been directly impacted by the violence. The number of Ukrainian refugees has already surpassed the prediction of 4 million when the war first began.
There are many reasons that people in the U.S. are drawn to and at times even consumed by the war in Ukraine and the suffering of the Ukrainian people. There are the obvious reasons such as daily news reports, personal connections to families of Ukrainian descent and more recent Ukrainian immigrants. For Presbyterians, there are historical and current ties to Reformed churches in Ukraine and throughout the region. These stories of someone we know (or who knows someone we know) make their suffering personal. The history of two world wars, the Cold War and the nuclear arms race add another layer of anxiety about where this all will lead. We wonder what can stop this war. How will it end?
Let this be a moment to remember that this is part of our human history and our human condition. In the compassion we feel for the Ukrainian refugees, let us be determined to act for peace. May our heartfelt compassion be a call for prayer, donations and advocacy to our government to continue to vigorously oppose this war.
Christians, and yes, Presbyterians, are compelled to stand for an end to hostilities whether waged by individuals or by nations. As followers of the Prince of Peace, our call is to be advocates for peaceful and diplomatic resolutions during times of disagreement and conflict. When nations fight, the innocents suffer, the elderly are abused and children lose their lives. We are constantly reminded by the prophet Isaiah that God detests war and calls us to gather in the peaceful presence of the Lord. “Many peoples shall come and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that (God) may teach us (God’s) ways and that we may walk in (God’s) paths.’ … (God) shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” (Isaiah 2:3-4)
May we work for that day when war is no more as we pray, advocate and work for peace in Ukraine. Know that your national staff is doing all it can to lift your voice in the United Nations, the halls of Congress and with the State Department to end this horror. We are connecting with our partners on the ground to provide relief and comfort for those enduring unimaginable suffering. All of our efforts for peace are multiplied by a God whose heart continues to break over human division and sin. May there be peace on earth.
We offer the prayer below as written by the Rev. Philip Woods, World Mission Associate Director for Programs with the Presbyterian Mission Agency.
Ever-present with your peoples across the world,
You know the pain and suffering of the peoples of Ukraine;
You are there with them,
Suffering alongside them,
Feeling the pain of fear and dislocation,
Of death and separation.
May they feel your presence alongside them;
May they find comfort and strength in knowing that you stand with them,
Holding their pain,
Suffering with them in the cruelty of it all.
May they also find you in the welcome of strangers
And the warm hospitality
Of neighbors receiving those who are fleeing the war.
And as we seek to stand with them, too,
And be present with them in their suffering,
We pray, give them peace,
Give them healing.
Like a pebble thrown in a pond,
The pain of this war ripples out,
Obscuring other conflicts in Yemen, Myanmar, Cameroon
And so many other places.
And bringing new suffering to others
Dependent on the wheat and fertilizers of Ukraine and Russia,
Paving the way for increasing hunger and misery globally.
So, we join our prayers with these peoples, too,
Standing with them in their need,
Leaning into your love and care for all the peoples of the world.
As we offer these prayers,
As we stand with your peoples in their pain and suffering,
Give us grace and compassion
To show the love
And to take the actions we can take to show our support,
And to bring peace and healing to this world,
In your name
For your sake
For your world.
Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II
Stated Clerk of the General Assembly
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)