Month: February 2022

Peace is a choice

Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell spoke about the situation in Ukraine, in the debate held
in the House of Lords in theBritish Parliament, on Friday.
Here is the text of what he said….

My Lords you may have seen that the Archbishop of Canterbury and I have already spoken about the unprovoked attack on Ukraine as an act of great evil. This is a dark hour for Europe. We have called on Anglican churches to make this coming Sunday a day of prayer for peace  and on Tuesday encourage parishes to join with the Anglican diocese in Europe in prayer at 6 pm, especially for those who minister and witness for peace in Ukraine itself where we have chaplaincies and minister alongside other denominations and faith communities. We are all invited to join with Pope Francis in making Ash Wednesday a day of fasting and prayer for peace.

Perhaps in the west, we have taken peace for granted. The horrors being visited on Ukraine must be a wake-up call for us that peace is something you need to work at. What is happening in Ukraine is truly shocking, but, sadly it is not surprising. We have seen it coming. Ukraine now stands alone, unprotected by the treaties that protect us and allow us to believe that peace is a normal state of affairs. 

But it isn’t. 

Peace is a choice. It is a decision that we need to make each day about the way we live and about our responsibilities to and with our neighbour, be that in our family, in our local community, or between the nations of the world. And we need the policies, the wisdom, the tenacity and the international resolve that will deliver it.

Previous generations knew this. They knew it, because they had experienced the horrors of war that most of us haven’t. 

In the post-war period we invested in international bodies and associations that would bind us to each other. In 1950, for instance, Robert Schuman, the French Foreign Minister, said when announcing a plan to pool coal and steel production, that the plan was motivated so that solidarity in production would make war between France and Germany “not only unthinkable, but materially impossible.”

But Ukraine is not defended by NATO. What we have seen from Vladimir Putin in the last few days is a terrible, flagrant disregard of the Ukrainian people’s legitimate right to self-determination. As the noble Lady Baroness Goldie has put it, he has chosen war.

Right now, as well as generous, humanitarian aid and support for refugees, about which I hope the minister will say more in his summing up – we need to know what is happening – we must use all our diplomatic muscle and energy, stringent economic sanctions, and focused political will to force Russia to step back from this aggression, withdraw its troops and silence the guns, not least because effective sanctions will mean many innocent Russians suffer as well. Our actions must be swift and cohesive if they are to be decisive. 

Jesus urged his followers to be peacemakers, not simply peacelovers. This is an important distinction, because it is a call to action.   

First, in  support of Ukraine, and especially the many innocent children and families, potential refugees living with this conflict and its consequences, and support for those who are bravely protesting on the streets of Russia. But peace, lasting peace, requires more. It requires a new commitment to international instruments of law and order, accountability and investment so that we make peace and choose peace, not just hope to keep it. The suffering of Ukraine, the imperialist ambition of Russia, our own acceptance that ‘immoral flood of corrupt money that flows (from Russia) through London’ has to stop.

And as followers of Jesus, we pray because we believe God’s grace has the final word, not the horrors of sin, not death. 

But we also pray because that prayer will shape our will and will shape our resolve. The prayers of Christian people and of all people of faith and goodwill are with our government, and with all the leaders of the free world, as we both implore Russia to change course, but also determine to play our part in the active pursuit of peace in our world today. 

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
Church of England.

There is another world

My friend, Joyce Smith, has sent me another of her Photo Tweets. The baby swans (cygnets) are beginning their life on earth so hopefully and with determination! Thank You, Joyce.

New Birth, new growth, new light are all signs that our natural world in the Northern Hemisphere just now is turning towards Spring.

Even the storms of the past ten days haven’t deterred the journey of Nature and that will be true of human conflict in the war Russia is waging at present, aided by Putin’s Puppet in Belarus.
Charlie Mackesy in his beautiful book, The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse, says that the best thing about storms are that they end.  As we are now living through the storm caused by Putin it’s something to cling on to. This storm will pass!  says Mackesy.

Maybe those words wouldn’t bring any comfort in the Ukraine right now nor for some time to come but history teaches us that despots and tyrants are, in cosmic terms, short-lived. The 20th century had a number of them – Hitler, Musolini, Stalin, Franco, Mao, Pol-Pot for example.  They created havoc and chaos for a while and destroyed peoples’ lives as they demand obedience to their warped and demonic ideas.
We remember them now for the evil they did and the destruction they left behind. This is the work of the devil and it prospers because we have lost any real sense of the demonic. I think it was possibly C S Lewis who maintained that the greatest victory the devil has is when we don’t believe he exists.
Mostly he is a mischief maker because, in truth, he is already defeated. Christianity maintains that defeat was by Jesus Christ who, sacrificially, poured out love as God’s way of defeating darkness, and sinfulness and unlove.
Even so, there are times when the devil can turn the minds of the weak and tortured. Analysts with far more skill than I have, are already delving into the character of Putin and some fascinating things are beginning to emerge.

He is supposedly a practicing Orthodox Christian. I wonder what his priest will be saying to him on Sunday? I think we can guess it won’t be controversial.

The ‘Storm’ will pass but not just yet so the Jewish Proverb has something important to tell us. We are encouraged to turn to God. As in the story of the Prodigal Son, we will then find God running to us.

The Novelist Patrick White in his novel, Solid Mandela quoted some words possibly by the French poet, Paul Éluard : There is another world, but it is in this one.

We find God in unexpected places and especially when we are surrounded by danger, filled with despair and almost paralysed by anxiety.
We do not know how the raging war against Ukraine will turn out and the aftermath is full of unhappy consequences and foreboding.
But in the midst of that desperate world, the other world continues to show signs of hope and of God.
As the lovely Jewish Proverb tells us; We should walk towards it – maybe only one step but enough to know that it illuminates our world with God’s and He rushes towards us to enfold us with His love.

So Joyce’s photo of the little cygnets is itself a message to us to try to trust in and cherish the tender signs of love which come to us from the heart of God’s world and from His Nature. A world of which we are always a part.  

[Mr G]

Our Common Humanity

(photo source: Radio Free Europe)

Our Common Humanity

 I’ve just been telephoned by my friend Andris who lives with his family in Riga, the capital of Latvia. ). He told me of his anxiety about the situation in Ukraine.

What is happening there may well have implications for the three Baltic States of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. In comparison to Ukraine they are small countries and therefore, possibly more vulnerable. They are however,  part of the EU which gives them added support and a sense of belonging to something which brings its own strength. They are also members of NATO which affords them some protection. However, Andris was still worried about what Putin will do after Ukraine and about the way he is destabilising the region.

So, alongside prayer for Ukraine (and Russia – especially those opposed to Putin), prayer for the Baltic countries and Poland is vital at this time.

As I listened to Andris It occurred to me that I will not be praying for a country but for a people.
For me, Latvia is Andris and his wife, 3 daughters and his mother. They are people I know and  have shared hospitality with here in England. Andris works in Healthcare and a few years ago he spent some time with the NHS in our area. He worshipped with us and prayed with us. Over time I have got to know his family. They are real people. They lead good and quiet lives. They do not wage war on anyone.

I do not know anyone at present in the Ukraine, though I have known people previously. I do know people from Poland, the Czech Republic and other East European countries.
Many of us have links with people in other countries throughout the world, including some of our own families.

They are people, human beings like us. We share with them the time we are on Planet Earth. It doesn’t belong to any one of us and any rights we might have are ’common’ rights; ’allowed rights’. We are custodians of the earth and, other tenants in the Natural world of animals and fish and birds of the air, look to us for care of creation and not exploitation.

When we pray we hold all this fragility and vulnerability up to our Loving God, our Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer.

So for me therefore, Latvia is not just a land mass but a place where people I know and love, live.

That is true for many of us. So whatever the conflict in the Ukraine will ultimately teach us, we can learn an important lesson straight away. Hold people and their countries in your love. And please remember that even if you don’t know anyone in The Ukraine, you do know that they are fellow humans with you and you are related to them in a common humanity under the care and love of God.

[Mr G]

The International Prayer for Peace,.

Lead us from death to life,
from falsehood to truth.
Lead us from despair to hope,
from fear to trust.
Lead us from hate to love,
from war to peace,
Let peace fill our hearts,
our world, our universe.
Let us dream together, pray together, work together
to build one world of peace and justice for all.

We pray this in your Name, Lord God.

Pray for Ukraine

May God’s Divine Spirit look after the people of Ukraine during these trying times. We pray that a peaceful resolution be achieved for them and their nation.

Conference of European Churches General Secretary Dr Jørgen Skov Sørensen, on behalf of CEC Member Churches, offers a prayer for peace in Ukraine amid recently escalating tension in the country.

“The role of churches is to offer hope. Prayer offers hope. Therefore, we pray for peace in Ukraine, thinking of all communities, who can directly get affected by the armed conflict,” he said.  

Lord God,
We ask you to hold the people of Ukraine deep in your heart.
Protect them, we pray;
from violence,
from political gamesmanship,
from being used and abused.
Give, we pray,
the nations of the world the courage
and the wisdom
to stand up for justice
and the courage too,
to dare to care – generously.
Lord in your mercy,
Take from us all,
the tendencies in us
that seek to lord it over others:
take from us those traits
that see us pursuing our own needs and wants
before those of others.
Teach us how to live in love
and dignity
and respect – following your example.
In your name, Lord Jesus, and for your sake,