New Welcome Centre website to assist Ukrainians arriving in UK

The Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of the Holy Family of London, in partnership with the Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain (AUGB), have launched a website for the new Ukrainian Welcome Centre to help Ukrainians arriving in the UK.

This is a first step in providing virtual support and resources to help Ukrainians displaced by Russia’s war against their homeland, as well as their sponsors and staff of supporting organisations to access key services and up-to-date information and help. People will be able to access online resources and information, all in one place, to get support and help on such matters as healthcare, employment, housing, education, etc. The service is in Ukrainian and English.

We also plan to open a hub in central London in the coming weeks.

Bishop Kenneth Nowakowski of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy said: “As the invasion of Ukraine has displaced many Ukrainian citizens and the UK has opened its doors, along with our partners we are launching his initiative to help Ukrainians during what is a most difficult time. The UK has a significant Ukrainian community who are looking forward to helping those settling in the UK to access crucial services to feel connected, have a sense of community and to thrive.”

Under the Ukraine Family Scheme and the Ukraine Sponsorship Scheme 71,800 visas have been granted to Ukrainian refugees and so far around 21,600 Ukrainians have settled in the UK.

To visit the website, please go to: www.ukrainianwelcomecentre.org

If you would like to support the initiative or have any queries, please contact press@ukrainianwelcomecentre.org

Update on the Help Ukraine Emergency Appeal

From Anna Dezyk, Organiser, 23 April 2022

This weekend, Eastern Rite and Orthodox Christian Ukrainians all over the world are celebrating Easter according to the Julian calendar. It should be a time of joy, but Russia’s war has displaced millions in Ukraine and left towns, cities and families brutally destroyed. Our partner organisation Caritas continues to work to provide comfort to thousands at this special time. Ukrainian Easter bread (paska) is a powerful talisman of hope and health. Caritas in Ternopil has distributed thousands of Easter breads and food parcels to those in need, including those displaced by war who have found safety there. Caritas in Zaporizhia is caring for hundreds who have managed to flee the destruction of Mariupol, where the Caritas hub was itself destroyed and two Caritas workers tragically lost their lives.

At this Easter time, we thank you all for your donations, which are helping to make a real difference on the ground in Ukraine.

£2,567,000 raised so far – Help Ukraine Emergency Appeal

Ukraine Holy Hour – Cardinal Vincent’s Sky News Interview, 11 April 2022

On Monday of Holy Week, 11th April 2022, Bishop Kenneth Nowakowski (centre) of the Ukrainian Eparchy of the Holy Family was joined by Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Anglican Bishop of London Sarah Mullally, Archbishop Angaelos of the Coptic Orthodox Church, and a number of leaders of other Christian denominations in an hour of ecumenical prayer in a demonstration of solidarity and support for the people of Ukraine.

Prior to the service, Cardinal Vincent Nichols was interviewed for Sky News

Interviewer: Why did the Church leaders decide it was important to have this hour of prayer?

Cardinal Vincent: Well it’s important to understand that we’re meeting in the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral, and this is an important centre here, right in the middle of London, where they’re trying to become a focus for the those in need and those who are arriving here. So the place of prayer is important, the prayer itself is important and the wide range of Christian leadership that will be present here this morning is also significant. We are very united in this determination to support the people of Ukraine as they face this terrible evil onslaught.

Interviewer: And this hour of prayer, is it open to the public? Can anyone walk in and join?

Cardinal Vincent: Certainly it’s open to the public and it’s placed now at midday hopefully that some people in their lunch break will come in. There’s been some publicity for it, and this church is always open, and it’s a Catholic Church but it’s a Ukrainian Rite Catholic Church. So the pattern of prayer here is a bit different and that for some people will be a good experience as well. But it’s the fervour, it’s the intensity of the prayer that reflects the horror and intensity of the challenge that we all face.

Interviewer: Have you had any word on how the Catholic community in Ukraine is faring?

Cardinal Vincent: Well that is exactly what Bishop Kenneth here and his staff are very, very much in touch with. And it depends obviously on the different parts of the country in Ukraine. I’m not familiar with the details of every place, but I know that there is a great affinity always between Catholics across the world and we along with everybody else are responding as generously and as rapidly as we can to the appeals for finance, for practical assistance, and for a welcome here. Despite the difficulties involved in getting Ukrainian refugees here that you have been talking about earlier in the programme.

Interviewer: Were you surprised when the Pope himself on Sunday, called for an Easter truce in Ukraine? That he so publicly came out and gave his voice?

Cardinal Vincent: No, I was not at all surprised and I think it’s very important that what he asked for was a truce not a ceasefire. He said we don’t need a ceasefire in which people re-arm themselves, we want a genuine truce, an end to these hostilities so that there’s space for humanity’s needs to come to the fore. And that means people giving way on the stands they might have taken initially, for the good of humanity, for the good of the people of Ukraine, who in some places are suffering the most appalling atrocities as we know day by day.

Interviewer: Exactly, the picture, the footage, the stories they’re so horrific. What would you say to the people who hear you’re holding an hour of prayer and say, well that is a lovely gesture but you need to do more, the Catholic community needs to do more, the global community needs to do more?

Cardinal Vincent: Please don’t misunderstand, that prayer doesn’t excuse us from every other effort. But prayer adds dimensions to these struggles. It gives an inner strength and it opens up a wider horizon. It tells us that the immediate moment and how we respond to it, is not the whole story. It’s a very important part of the story, but prayer generates hope and prayer generates courage and prayer generates solidarity. And those three things hope, courage and solidarity are needed in every practical effort as well.

Interviewer: Cardinal, just before we spoke to you we played a package about refugees trying to get to the UK and some statistics: nearly 80,000 people have applied but only 12,000 have got here. Do you think we as the United Kingdom could and should do more and should have done more?

Cardinal Vincent: I think that’s perfectly clear, that the process is overcomplicated. I know friends of mine have applied and they are experts at filling in forms, and they are very, very frustrated that somehow the promises that were made a couple of weeks ago are not being worked out. Now, I don’t know whether this is to do with incompetence or whether it’s to do with fear and excessive caution. But I think the heart of most people in this country is to say let them come, just let them come. We are ready to receive and welcome and do our best. Of course there has to be prudent caution but that should not be obstructive and this is a time I think, when this system really ought to be reviewed and put into working order.

Prayer for Ukraine

Almighty and Great God, accept our gratitude for your boundless mercy towards us. Hear the supplication of our afflicted hearts for the land and people of Ukraine, as they confront foreign aggression and invasion. Open the eyes of those who have been overtaken by a spirit of deception and violence, that they be horrified by their works. Grant victory over the powers of evil that have arisen and bless Ukraine with your gifts of liberty, peace, tranquillity and good fortune.

We implore you, O Merciful God, look with grace upon those who courageously defend their land. Remember the mothers and fathers, the innocent children, widows and orphans, the disabled and helpless, those seeking shelter and refuge, who reach out to you and to their fellow human beings looking for mercy and compassion. Bless the hearts of those who have already shown great generosity and solidarity, and those who prepare to receive their Ukrainian brothers and sisters in Ukraine’s greatest time of need. Bring us together as your children, your creation, and instil in us your strength, wisdom and understanding. May you be praised and glorified, now and forever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.

With thanks to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales

Hour of Prayer at Ukrainian Cathedral of Holy Family in Exile – 11th April 12noon

..... Theotokos of Vladimir..... image public domain

Theotokos of Vladimir (image public domain)

At the last meeting of the London Church Leaders, it was decided that an Ecumenical Hour of Prayer for Ukraine will take place at the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral on Monday 11th April at noon.

The Hour of Prayer will begin with the chanting of the Sixth Hour Office of the Ukrainian Church by the Cathedral Clergy led by the Rt Rev Kenneth Nowakowski Bishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of the Holy Family of London.

After the Office there will be prayers led by:

– The Archbishop of Westminster, His Eminence Cardinal Vincent Nichols

– The Bishop of London, The Rt Rev’d Dame Sarah Mullally

– Archimandrite Niphon Tsimalis, Secretary to HE The Archbishop of Thyatira and Great Britain

– The Moderator of the United Reform Church North Synod, The Rev’d George Watt

– An opportunity for open prayer from other leaders

– Archimandrite Niphon Tsimalis, Secretary to HE The Archbishop of Thyatira and Great Britain

– The Moderator of the United Reform Church North Synod, The Rev’d George Watt

– An opportunity for open prayer from other leaders

The Leaders will then join together to pray the Prayer for Ukraine of the Ukrainian Catholic Church.

The hour of prayer is open to the public.

LINK

Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral – www.ucc-gb.com/cathedral

Hope for Troubled Times

Blog by Amy Smith, Westminster Justice and Peace Communications Volunteer

As we approach Easter 2022 we are living through very challenging times. The world faces a war in the heart of Europe instigated by an unjust aggressor; which is destroying countless innocent lives and raising the threat of nuclear war. Here, at home, we are facing a host of other challenges including economic insecurity and climate change, with their potential long term consequences haunting our future. The poor and vulnerable across the world will likely suffer the worst consequences. After witnessing so much suffering or being directly affected, where can we find hope during this Easter season?

Perhaps there are some similarities between the Easter story and these troubled times. Jesus was executed by those in power as his words and actions were seen as a threat to their leadership. It is through His resurrection that God embraces the suffering and trials of our existence and the brokenness of our world. He showed that the love of God can overcome the powers of sin and death. He was not defeated but triumphed over the oppressive powers that nailed him to the cross. His death demonstrates the difference between God and earthly power. Jesus isn’t indifferent to our pain, he suffers with us, His love for us is so strong that he became one of us even experiencing his own torture and execution. During these difficult times we can place our hope and trust in the risen Christ. 

Stations of the Cross in a time of war

A man hugs a cross outside a monastery in Lviv, Ukraine, on Feb. 24, 2022, on the first day of Russia’s invasion. The photographer, Dennis Melnichuk, snapped the image outside the Catholic Bernardine monastery and church. Then, he shared it with the world in a Facebook post. 

Stations of the Cross written by Fr Richard Nesbitt, Parish Priest of Our Lady of Fatima, White City, West London

Introduction

These reflections are entitled ‘Stations of the Cross in a time of War’. We pray them in solidarity with all those whose lives are being torn apart in the world at this time by the misery and madness of war, especially in Ukraine. We remember that Jesus also lived in a land occupied by a brutal foreign power, which sought to eradicate the Jewish people’s identity and traditions. It was a power which also used extreme violence and intimidation to try to break the spirit of the people whose land it occupied. Then as now, it is often innocent civilians – families, children and the elderly who are the targets and victims of this violence. In the midst of such suffering, darkness and agony, Jesus shows us another way – a way of non-violence, of service and self-sacrifice, of love and compassion for all.

As we walk with Jesus, may we learn from him this way of peace, this way of reconciliation with each other and with God.

I – Jesus is condemned to death

We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you.

Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

Defenceless, defeated it seems – Jesus, a prisoner with hands bound, stands before Pontius Pilate, the “evil empire’s” regional commander-in-chief. All the power seems to be in Pilate’s hands – the power to condemn or release. And yet it is Jesus who is at peace, his conscience untroubled, his mission clear. And Pilate? He is caught in compromise, his conscience dulled and dismissed. As Jesus is led away, Pilate washes his hands in guilt. He will never know peace again.

The first victim of war is truth. Violence and brutality construct a convenient story to justify themselves. Propaganda. Lies. But conflict begins in the battles of the individual human heart. What are the lies and deceptions of my own life?

I love you, Jesus, my love above all things. I repent with my whole heart for having offended you. Never permit me to separate myself from you again. Grant that I am may love you always and then do with me whatever you wish.

II – Jesus takes up his cross   (We adore you…)

How perverse, how sadistic it is to make the condemned carry the instrument of their own execution. Yet while others recoil from their cross, Jesus embraces the rough, splintering beam – like a soldier being issued with the weapon that can bring his deliverance. As the jagged cross cuts through his skin, Jesus momentarily closes his eyes in prayer before taking the first steps towards Calvary.

At the outbreak of war, people instinctively reach for different things – for loved ones, for food and water, for weapons, for news… In the face of danger would my first thought be for my own self-preservation or of solidarity with the suffering and the weak?  I love you, Jesus…

III – Jesus falls for the first time     (We adore you…)

The Son of God stumbles and crashes to the ground, the weight of the cross crushing him against the stone cobbles. Deprived of sleep, weakened by the beatings and baiting of the soldiers and guards, a cacophony of abuse ringing in his ears, Jesus is overwhelmed by this blitzkrieg of pain. There are many watching the scene who delight in his fall – this man who has been such a threat to their authority now being publically humiliated and shamed. This should be the end of all that.

In war there is a need not just to overcome your enemy but to break their spirit and bring them to their knees. Victory comes from the total annihilation of the other – this is the way of war. Have there been times when I have delighted in the falls and defeats of others? Take from me, Lord, any envy or jealousy towards others. Lord, teach me how to humble my pride.     I love you, Jesus…

IV – Jesus meets his mother     (We adore you…)

Wives and mothers are often sent away from the battle zone for their own safety, leaving the men in the firing line. But Mary will not, cannot leave her son in his hour of need. Fearlessly and faithfully, she comes forward to offer Jesus, through a tender touch and a gentle gaze, the love and support she has given him since the very first moment of his life in her. Love is more powerful than any threat or force. Love is stronger than death itself. Her heart pierced with grief, Mary unites herself with every mother who has lost a child through tragedy or violence.

War tears families and friendships apart. The deepest human bonds ruptured through separation and exile, loved ones taken away perhaps never to be seen again. Desolation and despair. Let us pray for all families who grieve at this time, for all families who have been separated by war. We entrust them to Mary’s motherly care.   Hail Mary, full of grace…

V – Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus to carry his cross   (We adore you…)

War is like an earthquake, sending out shock waves far from its epicentre. More and more people are shaken by its impact. And so it was that Simon of Cyrene, an innocent passer-by, was dragged from the crowd and forced to help Jesus carry his cross. The soldiers, seeing their prisoner’s frailty, fear he will not make it to the place of execution. Simon is a conscript, forced into service against his will, but these brief moments by Jesus’ side will change his life for ever. In the condemned man’s determination and dignity, Simon sees that this is a life not taken by force but freely given in love. He is the first to be healed by Jesus’ saving blood.

In a time of war there are no bystanders in the heat of the battle. Lord, help us not to be passive observers, passers-by in the struggle between good and evil, between life and death but to walk by your side and, like Simon, help those in need, the weak and the wounded, to carry their cross.                      I love you, Jesus…

VI – Veronica wipes the face of Jesus         (We adore you…)

Brutality cannot be stopped by yet more atrocity but it can be exposed and shamed by tenderness and compassion. Such was the effect of Veronica’s daring to step out of the crowd to offer Jesus the soothing balm of her dampened cloth on his bloodied and beaten face. An exquisite sensation of relief, of human care shielding him from the shrapnel and shards of others’ rejection. He has inspired in Veronica this heroic act of service through his own example of selfless care for so many. She stands there on behalf of all whom Jesus has touched and transformed through his own healing mercy.

Survivors of conflict often tell stories of those who, in the midst of humanity’s most barbaric actions, perform acts of heroic courage and self-sacrifice. Lord, help us to live in the spirit of Veronica, not afraid to stand out from the crowd and reach out to those in need whatever others may say. May we too respond to carnage with compassion.

I love you, Jesus…

VII – Jesus falls for the second time     (We adore you…)

Once again Jesus collapses under the burden of it all, this relentless bombardment of human hate. His bloodied body stains the ground, his open wounds and lacerated skin turning crimson. How fragile, how soft and fleshy our bodies are when our defences and securities are taken away from us. We are so easily cut apart. Who could imagine there was so much blood in one human body?

The walls and floors of military and civilian hospitals in war zones are smeared with blood.  So many who die in war die from bleeding. Shrapnel cutting through veins and arteries. Civilians are the softest target – bombed in their homes and schools, caught by snipers while risking a search in the open street for food or water. Soldiers too – their helmets and jackets no match for bullets and bombs. Let us pray for all medical and emergency teams who try to patch up and save the fallen, bleeding casualties of war. Heal us, Lord, of our human hatred through your saving blood.

I love you, Jesus…

VIII – Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem       (We adore you…)

The spectacle of condemned criminals carrying their cross to their place of execution outside the city walls has become almost a routine, even a daily occurrence at festival times. It is a constant reminder to the Jewish people of the consequences of rebellion and resistance against their Roman oppressors. But people still find ways to show their opposition, such as this band of women, mostly mothers, who have their established station on the execution route where they mourn and lament the prisoners as they pass by. It is their own act of defiance against this institutionalised slaughter.

We might expect Jesus to thank the women for their resistance to power, and solidarity with the condemned, but instead he warns them that the time will come when they and their children will also become victims of this violence. Evil, like a virus, seeks to multiply and spread – it is voracious and all-consuming. War is a cancer which, once started, we struggle to contain. Lord, help us to realise that there are no winners only losers in war – it is a tragedy for us all. We are all invaded. We are all infected.      I love you, Jesus…

IX – Jesus falls for the third time    (We adore you…)

Calvary is in sight, not far to go now. But Jesus is surrounded, under siege from all sides. The human spirit can cope with so much, but when the attacks become relentless and our life-lines are cut, we become overwhelmed and everything falls apart under the sheer pressure of it all. Jesus too is on the brink of breakdown – trembling, barely able to take another step. And yet from within he hears his Father’s voice and picks himself up for one last push.

So many people are on the edge of collapse, fighting for survival in our world today. Victims of war, hunger, crime… The climate around them changing beyond their control. Refugees forced from their communities and homes by crippling poverty, the threat of starvation or the atrocities of persecution and conflict. Torn away from their roots, they seek sanctuary in unknown lands at the mercy of human traffickers and gangs. Lord, guide all refugees, guide all those living on the edge to find the hope and help they so desperately need. May they also hear the Father’s voice and know his loving hand in theirs.      I love you, Jesus…

X – Jesus is stripped of his garments      (We adore you…)

Exhausted, his head throbbing with the incessant noise and dehydration, Jesus finally reaches the hill of Calvary. Now the soldiers begin their sacrificial rite. First his body is stripped naked – nothing left to hide behind or give any sense of human dignity. Total exposure, the removal not only of his blood soaked garments, but also of any human rights.

The victims of war likewise lose all they have – their home, possessions, food, water, health care, family… Stripped of all, they become totally defenceless. This is not just individuals but also whole peoples – the majority of humanity dispossessed and vulnerable while the powerful few look on and cast lots for their clothing.

Lord, help us to respond with compassion not indifference to those stripped bare in our world today. To clothe the naked, feed the hungry and welcome the stranger… To restore dignity to the broken and bleeding. This is the mission we are called to by Jesus.     I love you, Jesus…

XI – Jesus is nailed to the cross      (We adore you…)

The Creator of the universe is pinned to the cross, his hands and feet immobile, impotent. The soldiers with well-trained efficiency hammer the iron nails through flesh and bone, inflicting pain beyond pain on the condemned. And then the raising of the cross into the ground with a shuddering jolt which tears at the prisoners’ wounds. Now the real torture begins – the slow asphyxiation as the prisoners struggle to pull themselves up to breathe. Every gasp for air costs them so much.

As war becomes more desperate, more extreme tactics are used, such as the deployment of chemical weapons, often on civilians – toxic weapons which burn the lungs and skin of their victims. These weapons are designed to cause the most horrific pain and suffering to break the spirit of those they are used against. Lord, take from our human hearts this terrible desire to make others suffer. Cleanse us of cruelty and inhumanity. Restore in us your image and likeness.

I love you, Jesus…

XII – Jesus dies on the cross       (We adore you…)

For three hours Jesus hangs on the cross, conserving every bit of energy so as to have the strength to speak his final words and, in his dying, give the most powerful lesson of his life. To love to his final breath, to continue to minister to both friend and foe, to care for those closest to him. And above all to live his loyalty and love for the Father to the very end.

In war there are clearly defined sides – opposing armies with different uniforms, weapons, languages and military objectives. But on the cross, as throughout all his life, Jesus does not divide people into sides. He prays for all –  the righteous and the unjust, the oppressors and the oppressed, Gentile and Jew. Beneath the different armour and uniforms we are simply men and women, flesh and blood, fathers and mothers, sons and daughters – Jesus offers his life for us all. Lord, help us, faced with so many divisions in our world today, to remember our common humanity, our shared dignity as children of the one God as we pray together Our Father…

XIII – Jesus is taken down from the cross     (We adore you…)

The finality of death. A body which even a short time before had breathed and pulsed with life now stiffens and shrinks. A mere shell it seems, left behind as the soul journeys on… And yet the respect and reverence we naturally show to a corpse speaks of its continued sacredness. This has been a work of God’s hands, a temple of the Holy Spirit. With what sadness but defiant care Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus take charge of Jesus’ body, a public declaration of their faith in him. They gently lower him down from the cross and, for a short time, place his body, already cool to the touch, in his mother’s arms. Jesus ends his life as he began it – in Mary’s tender care.

In war some of the fallen are honoured with a dignified funeral, even a hero’s farewell. But for so many there is no much ceremony as they are entombed in rubble and ruins, or hastily hidden in unmarked graves by alien hands. How many loved ones wait in vain for them ever to be found or identified. There should be dignity in death as in life. Lord, help us to show reverence to every human life, at every stage and state of life.      I love you, Jesus…

XIV – Jesus is laid in the tomb      (We adore you…)

The crowds have all gone home – rushing to prepare for the Passover feast before the sun sets. There is a sudden silence and stillness where before there was so much rage and raw emotion. Jesus’ body is brought to a garden and laid in the earth, like a seed which will bear fruit in due time.

Lord, at this time when the skies over Ukraine thunder and roar with missiles and bombs, when families and communities are torn apart by the carnage of war, we pray for peace to return to Ukraine and to all countries and peoples plagued by war in the world today. Silence once more the weapons of war. Change the hearts of those who choose war. Comfort and console all who suffer, on all sides. May birdsong replace the din of bombardment, bullets and bombs; may freedom and hope be restored and renewed on Ukrainian soil. And may we, as a human family, reject division and empire, greed and domination. May we walk once again the path of peace. Lead all those involved in this terrible war on the road to reconciliation. Just as out of the tomb you rose to new life, so too, we pray, that out of this darkness, Lord, you may bring light. For this we pray.

I love you, Jesus…

We unite our prayers with those of all the Church, as we pray for the Holy Father’s intentions:

Our Father…                       Hail Mary….                        Glory be to the Father…

Pacifism in the face of aggression – the Christian response?

By Maggie Beirne, West London Justice and Peace Network Co-ordinator

We have all watched our TV screens with horror since the 24th February when Ukraine was invaded.  Russia’s unprovoked attack, and the nature of its assault – indiscriminate bombing and killing of civilians leading to the internal displacement and mass exodus of refugees, and the apparent threat to use biological/chemical and even nuclear weapons – has left most of us shocked.  And who has not felt a strong sense of solidarity with the plight of the Ukrainians?  We empathise with their plight; we pray as individuals or in community for their survival; and we try to help practically with financial or other donations.  We feel one with their cause. 

The West London Justice and Peace Network reflected at a recent meeting on the challenge of pacifism in times like this. How would we as individuals respond in similar circumstances?  Would we start training to use Kalashnikovs or insist on suing for peace at whatever cost?  When we experience a sense almost of pride in seeing these ‘plucky’ Ukrainians giving their all to defend their freedom, do we become part of the problem; and what is the Christian response to these challenges?   

Martin Birdseye, member of the Network and long-time peace activist, helped us reflect on some of the difficult issues involved. 

We were reminded of the fact that history is full of examples where in time of conflict, pacifism gets swept away on a tide of solidarity.  We have certainly seen our own elected politicians rush to bolster arms supplies, talking up the importance of ‘hard power’’ and the strength of our military alliances, while unsaid but very apparent, is the increased risk of nuclear war.  Our very human instinct for personal and human security can lead us into an aggressive response, but is this so different from the desire of Russians for security following their terrible experience of WW2 and their fears of NATO ‘expansionism’?

In Britain, our taxes are spent on maintaining a nuclear arsenal, supposedly for our defence.  But is this arsenal keeping us safe, or does it not lend a false justification for both NATO and Russia to vie for control of their respective ‘spheres of influence’?  Instead of nuclear weapons strengthening our security, have they rendered the world a more unsafe place?  Would our taxes have been much better spent on tackling injustices in our own society and actively building peace globally – via aid, tackling government corruption, support for refugees, or fighting climate insecurity.

In the longer term, we also need as Christian peacemakers to examine the role of Britain as probably the world’s second largest arms exporter.  Arms companies and suppliers may be the only ones to gain from the current tragedy in Ukraine.  Most local West London residents were unaware of the international arms fair that was recently held this year in Twickenham, yet such gatherings feed and fuel the violence that we then subsequently deplore around the world (whether in Ukraine, Yemen, or the Horn of Africa). This trade is taking place in our name as the UK government provides export licenses for ‘suitable’ arms manufacturers but claims to bear no responsibility for the resultant human rights abuses.

The network noted that the Ukrainians, like all of us, have a right to self-defence and that pacifism is not ‘passivity’.  But nor can we ignore the fact that the violence perpetrated by one side tends only to beget violence from the opposition, in a never-ending cycle of retribution.  Or, as better said by Mahatma Gandhi, “an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind”.  So, the real challenge is to find out how we can turn to God and help others do so in these times of turmoil.

In our discussion, the network noted that concepts such as ‘justice’ and ‘peace’ can at times like this appear to be in tension but are instead totally inter-dependent.  “No justice, no peace”, albeit a slogan, is accurate. As Christians we have to be active peace makers.  Peace groups have organised zoom prayer meetings; had a spontaneous turn-out of people on the day of the invasion to a prayer gathering; and Religions for Peace UK have submitted a letter to the Chiswick-based Bishop of the Russian Orthodox church, to be sent to the Moscow Patriarch asking him directly to appeal to Putin.  What should we be doing practically all year around to promote the educational efforts of groups such as Pax Christi and the Christian Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament?

When time permits, events in Ukraine may also encourage more reflection on the Catholic teaching around the ‘just war theory’.  This theory sets out some of the principles that will determine if the cause of any war be ‘just’, and if the tactics used in warfare can also be considered ‘just’.  But there is now much debate as to whether the idea of a ‘just war’ has become an obsolete concept given that the massive predominance of civilian casualties in modern warfare undercuts the moral ground for conceiving of almost any war as just. 

So, whilst we need to focus over the longer term on eliminating the underlying causes of violence and war and re-introduce the power of non-violent action, what can be done in the short term?  Right now, Ukraine is being destroyed and its people scattered.   Alongside all the practicalities (of sending humanitarian assistance and being welcoming to refugees), Pope Francis, pleaded: “Let the weapons fall silent. God is with those who seek peace, not those resorting to violence.”

As Christians, we have to join him in condemning those who “trust in the diabolic and perverse logic of weapons” and pray for guidance on how to engage ever more effectively in the search for peace.

Links

Pax Christi: www.paxchristi.org.uk

Christian Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament: www.christiancnd.org.uk

Pax Christi England and Wales seeks new CEO

Pax Christi England and Wales are looking to appoint a new Chief Executive Officer.

The agency is seeking “a creative and energetic peacemaker to be responsible for developing, co-ordinating and implementing the work of our membership organisation.”

If you would be interested in applying for this post, please download the job description and the application form on the link below.

Completed application forms should be sent with a covering letter to chair@paxchristi.org.uk

Closing Date: 19th April 2022

Successful applicants will be informed by 27th April 2022

If you would like more information, please contact admin@paxchristi.org.uk

Download the Job Description and Application Form here: https://paxchristi.org.uk/work-for-us/

Orthodox theologians issue declaration rejecting Moscow Patriarch’s teaching

Church in village of Bobryk, Kyiv region after a "special military operation"  Image: @nexta_tv

Church in village of Bobryk, Kyiv region after a “special military operation” Image: @nexta_tv

More than 530 Orthodox theologians from around the world have issued the following letter and declaration strongly rejecting ‘Russkii Mir’ or (Russian World) ideology currently being promoted by the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow…

Dear Friends,

In the wake of Vladimir Putin’s unconscionable and horrendously destructive invasion of Ukraine, Orthodox Christians across the globe must face a difficult question: how can a nation whose majority embraces Orthodox Christianity possibly justify attacking and killing the people of a sibling nation, who almost all share the same faith?

How, at the beginning of Great Lent, when our tradition calls us to forgiveness, fasting, and prayer, can Orthodox Christians unleash violence and bloodshed against their brothers and sisters in Christ?

The painful truth, but one that we need to confront in this time of repentance, is that our own leadership, and specifically, the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church, has developed and promoted a false teaching known as “Russkii Mir” or “Russian World,” providing Mr Putin with the religious “blank cheque” that underwrites his heinous invasion and annexation of Russia’s peaceful, democratic neighbours: Ukraine.

During this sacred season, Orthodox Christians throughout the world need to declare in no uncertain terms that the “Russian World” ideology is both false and destructive, feeding violence and bloodshed, causing scandal and division in the Church. Nor can we fool ourselves that this ideology is an exception in the history of Orthodoxy: we must condemn all Orthodox ethno-phyletist ideologies akin to the false teaching of the “Russian world” in every age, nation and culture.

Orthodox scholars and theologians have drafted a powerful Declaration (see link below) concerning the theologically condemnable “Russian World” ideology. We urge you to read this Declaration, sign it, and share it with those around you.

We urge you to pray for repentance for those who propagate this evil teaching, which continues to feed the megalomaniacal ambitions of Vladimir Putin. Pray also for the repentance of every Orthodox Christian, for our own complicity in this evil through silence, obfuscation, and denial.

Only if we confront this evil, which thrives both within and outside us, bowing low in repentance with the simple words of the Canon of St Andrew of Crete-“Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me!”-can we truly reaffirm our divided, bloodied community as the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church, united only by our broken and contrite hearts in the person of Jesus Christ, who alone is with us in adversity.

See the Declaration here: https://bit.ly/3KD1HOC (There is a form at the end if you wish to add your name)

The Coordinators on Behalf of the Drafting Committee
Revd Dr Brandon Gallaher
Dr Pantelis Kalaitzidis

Cardinal Vincent Nichols among church leaders urging PM to speed up process for refugees waiting to enter UK

Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral, Duke Street, London, W1K 5BQ

Source: London Church Leaders

Christian leaders in London sent the following letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson on 9th March 2022, urging the government make it possible for Ukrainian refugees to enter the UK as quickly as possible. At the present time, hundreds of desperate women and children, disabled and elderly people with family in the UK, who survived the arduous journey from Ukraine to France have been kept waiting for days while the British government establishes a procedure for granting them visas.

The text of the letter and full list of signatories follows:

We London Church Leaders met today at the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral of the Holy Family to pray with Bishop Kenneth Nowakowski and his people and to share our concerns at the greatest humanitarian crisis since the end of the Second World War now unfolding in Europe. We are encouraged by the government’s family sponsorship programme and welcome the intention to establish a pathway to humanitarian sponsorship.

As the number of Ukrainian citizens seeking shelter outside the borders of Ukraine is estimated to reach close to two million, we cannot but emphasise the urgency to act swiftly and without delay.

As the children and grandchildren of those who experienced the horror of war seven decades ago, it is our moral obligation to provide protection and hospitality to those who are undergoing the same horrors today, unthinkable as that may seem in the 21st century.

Just as so many British children were sent to the countryside far from harm’s way during the bombing of London, so today tens of thousands are hoping to find refuge far from Russia’s relentless, unconscionable, and indiscriminate attacks on homes, hospitals and schools throughout their homeland. Surely, we feel compassion today for Ukrainian mothers with young children, the elderly and those with disabilities, who have undertaken dangerous and arduous travel, and look to the United Kingdom with hope and are now reaching out to us in Ukraine’s greatest hour of need.

How can mothers with young children, the elderly and the disabled, who have travelled a thousand miles be expected to complete online application forms in a language foreign to them? Times of war require swift action and flexibility, the easing of normal procedures and the removal of complex bureaucratic obstacles that can easily turn hope into despair and resignation.

We would ask that sponsorship not be limited to those with family members in the UK, but that those sponsorship criteria be expanded to include all Ukrainian refugees on humanitarian grounds, allowing them to enter the UK as quickly as possible.

Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster
Archbishop Nikitas, Archbishop of Thyateira and Great Britain
Bishop Christopher Chessun, Bishop of Southwark
Archbishop Angaelos, Coptic Orthodox Archdiocese of London
Rev Phil Barnard, Team Leader London Baptist Association
Rev Dr Jongikaya Zihle, Methodist Conference
Revd George Watt, Moderator URC Thames North
Lt Colonel David Shakespeare, Salvation Army
Les Isaac OBE, President of the Ascension Trust
Andy Frost, Moderator of Free Churches Group Jesus International
Bishop Lynne Cullens, Bishop of Barking
Rev Msgr Kevin Hale, Vicar General Diocese of Brentwood
Ven Elwin Crockett, Archdeacon of West Ham
The Ven Luke Miller, Archdeacon of London