I really felt the power of our prayers in Church…

Today I committed to fast for Ukraine. It is approaching midday and I think it is helping give me clarity of thought. On Saturday I was hugely privileged to be at the Rosary (my first ever) and Mass for Ukraine at Sacred Heart, which moved me to tears. I really felt the power of our prayers in Church and I am hugely grateful to Father Paul for enabling this. As I am half Polish, Father Paul suggested I might write something on the horrors that are unfolding in Eastern Europe and what thoughts we can draw from it about God’s will and how we can assist it. All opinions which may be considered political are entirely my own.

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing

I know something of the history of the area and this is both useful and a trap. The Slav peoples which span from Russia through the centre of Europe to Slovenia and Croatia share so much culture and customs, but have been horribly divided by history caused each other so much pain. Evil men have manipulated these differences into war, atrocities and even genocide. The 1990s wars in Yugoslavia was one such example of this.

“We must always pray for wisdom, because no matter how much we learn, we shall always be ignorant….”

Instead of learning from the horrors of history, evil men return to it as an excuse for perpetuating the horror. Putin produced a long essay in July 2021 in which explained how the history of the Ukraine showed it was an artificial construct and it should therefore be controlled by Russia. Elements of this history were indeed true, Ukraine is a borderland fought over for hundreds of years by Mongols, Poles, Russians, Lithuanians, Germans, Turks and even Swedes. However since the fall of the USSR, Ukraine has developed its own identity. Life is not just a summary of history because life has much more depth. Putin has misled himself by his limited understanding of reality – his actions will not destroy the concept of Ukraine as a country, but make it far stronger. I was convinced that Putin would not invade Ukraine, because despite his appalling record, he appeared rational. I also was terribly wrong. We must always pray for wisdom, because no matter how much we learn, we shall always be ignorant.

The manipulation of victimhood

Putin says his war is to “de-Nazify” and demilitarise an “oppressive” Ukraine. While there are small neo-Nazi elements on the fringes of Ukrainian politics, there is no “genocide of Russian speakers”, the Ukrainian President is Jewish and Ukraine is only “militarised” because it is threatened by Russia.

Crimea and the breakaway Donbass areas were added to Ukraine’s territories in 1952 during Soviet times and contain a majority of Russian speakers. This has been Putin’s equivalent of Hitler’s Sudetenland for Czechoslovakia – an excuse of victimhood to justify annexation. In our own lives we must not allow ourselves to use our own perceived or real victimhood in one area to give ourselves the excuse to turn others into victims.

Love really is more powerful than hate

A crisis such as this which shows the truth of this. I quoted at Mass the example of the six year old Ukrainian boy, a refugee from his home who prayed “for the war to end and for the President of Russia to become a good man”. He did not pray for revenge or the deaths of Russian soldiers, he prayed only for love to triumph. Through the eyes of a child we see the innocence and goodness which Jesus told us to learn from and nurture.

God does have a purpose

When we see the awful horror of war and the insanity of the reasons that start it, it is very easy for us to lose faith and hope in God. Why can God not stop this horror, why can he not intervene? I suggest that he does intervene, but in small ways, pointing us towards redemption.

We know of no warlord and dictator who has left this world in a happy state of triumph. Napoleon died a lonely exile in the middle of nowhere not even commanding the giant tortoises that lived with him. Lenin died after a long period of physical and mental paralysis. Hitler committed suicide with his dreams of empire literally pounded to dust around him. Stalin died following a stroke, after lying for hours in a pool of his own urine, while his acolytes debated whether they should summon a doctor (many of them had been shipped off to the gulag after one of his paranoid purges).

God has shown us little miracles.

  • The man whose car was crushed after being driven over by a Russian tracked vehicle, who was pulled from the wreckage with only minor injuries.
  • The incredible bravery of unarmed civilians persuading tanks to turn around by blocking the road.
  • The farmer who towed away an armoured carrier with his tractor after its Russian driver left it unattended.
  • The failure of the all mighty Russian war machine to achieve its objectives as quickly as it imagined it would.
  • The bravery of the 5,000 Russian peace protestors arrested for challenging Putin in the streets.
  • The surprising resolution of the world to sanction Putin – including even neutral Switzerland!
  • We must pray hard to the Lord that his miracles continue and grow in strength. The mighty he will always lay low, but we must pray he does it quickly so lives and homes are saved.

What can we do apart from pray?

Charities are setting up humanitarian aid for Ukraine and Ukrainian refugees. I am sure CAFOD will be setting up a special fund soon, but in the meantime the largest numbers of Ukrainian refugees (almost all women and children) are arriving in Poland and you can help them through the Polish charity providing humanitarian assistance detailed below. Poles are also offering their homes and hospitality to Ukrainians in solidarity.

Polish Humanitarian Action (PHA) is helping Ukraine and their refugees (thousands of whom have fled to Poland) with the basics—food, shelter, warmth, and security. The web site is in English as well Polish (look for the ”EN” ball at the top right of the page.)

Bless you for all your prayers.

Stephen

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