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. For many Americans, the war in Ukraine touches on a sense of vulnerability. For some, there is disbelief at witnessing the destruction of war unfold in front of our eyes. For others, there is a visceral identification with those of European descent. Beneath the public outcry, there are unspoken words of shock that this could be happening in Europe alongside silent thoughts of shame that this is happening among the “developed” nations.
It should come as no surprise that there is a greater outpouring of concern and support for Ukraine than for other wars and conflicts around the world. As a denomination, we are doing all we can to support the humanitarian response in Ukraine as we call for an end to the violence and justice for the victims. At the same time, our humanitarian response and our work for justice and peace continue in places that do not make the nightly news. The impact on these communities is just as devastating. Yemen, one of the largest humanitarian crises due to conflict since 2015, has over 20 million in need of international aid for survival. The war in Syria has continued for over a decade with 13 million people displaced, almost half as refugees. In Nigeria, almost 3 million people are internally displaced and 400,000 are refugees from the Boko Haram insurgency, now in its 13th year. And while the source of violence may be different in the Northern Triangle of Central America, the lives lost, and the families torn apart, are just as painful. We continue to witness the mistreatment of asylum seekers to the U.S. from Cameroon and other African nations who are routinely detained or expelled without due consideration of their refugee situation.
The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. informed us that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” As people fight for their survival inside and outside their country, may our heartache be felt whenever and wherever war is raged. Let us cast our vision wide to see with the same love of neighbor for anyone brutalized by war. Our compassion must be inclusive as we define all people as worthy of our concern. Let service be demonstrated for all who need our care and attention regardless of who they are or where they live. We must continue to support our sibling churches and mission partners who labor each day out of the limelight to share God’s love in a hurting world as instruments of peace and champions for justice.
This is truly an opportunity to fully embrace the call of Matthew 25 to feed the hungry, visit the sick and release the prisoners, wherever they might be found. As people of God, we call for an end to war in every nation. Jesus celebrates both peoples and nations who have ears and eyes to see and respond to human need. Isaiah 58 reads, “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?”
Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II
Stated Clerk of the General Assembly
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)