As I write today we are in the fifth week of the invasion of Ukraine, by the time you read this article another month will have passed. It would be amazing to think that a ceasefire had been agreed upon and peace talks were yielding a lasting peace. However, I am more pessimistic and it looks like the Russians are willing to wage a long and drawn-out war. There are real reminders of the conflicts that Russia has supported in Syria and Afghanistan. They have in common the relentless shelling and bombing that destroys everything in its pathway, people are displaced and often end up as refugees in neighbouring countries. I would love to be proved wrong and my worst fears not realised. It feels that at this moment in time, that military might is overcoming people’s rights. Naively, I cannot see what is achieved by turning everything in front of you into a wasteland!
The counterbalance to this destruction and brokenness is the kindness and generosity of strangers. For me, this was most clearly demonstrated on a train station platform where local residents held up plaques giving accommodation details for refugees to come and stay in their homes. It is the essence of loving your neighbour even if you do not know who the neighbour is at all. It does not take effort to see the trauma and shock on the faces of the refugee families, the offer of shelter, food and security is the first step to meeting their needs. It has also been amazing to see people collecting practical things like clothes, bedding, toiletries and arranging for their transportation to the Ukraine border. We have seen volunteers driving vans across Europe, ambulances with medical supplies being driven to the war zone and surplus firefighting equipment being donated. It is wonderful to see the creativity and generosity of helpers. It comes down to what would you hope that someone might do for you if you were in the position of a refugee.
Sadly none of this is new, human history is littered with wars and conflict. I guess this is so much closer to us that we see and feel its effects more acutely. As you read the bible it too mirrors human history. The key message is always to care and look out for the widow, the orphan and the foreigner. It reveals the compassion of God and his expectation that his followers should follow his example. This is further reinforced by Jesus who looks for and helps the outcasts and those on the margin of society. Jesus is unjustly and unfairly treated. We see God caring about love and justice. We rightly renounce hatred and injustice that leads to destruction and devastation. Sadly we see this all too vividly played out in the rages of war. Yet there is still hope for reconciliation and rebuilding as the antidote to war. We keep praying for peace and keep offering practical help to those in dire need.