NOTE: Pax Christi USA is a co-signer of this organizational sign-on letter on Ukraine addressed to President Biden and delivered April 19, 2022.


President Biden,

As national faith-based organizations and leaders, we urge you to think creatively about how to end this catastrophe rather than maintaining it through violence and escalations.

The war in Ukraine is a spiritual, human, and ecological catastrophe. We have failed to create the social conditions for the prevention of large-scale violence. We have failed to escape the cycle of threats, blame, and retribution which escalates hostility and distrust. We have failed to acknowledge the relevant root causes and acknowledge responsibility for harm from key stakeholders. We have failed to engage diplomacy focused on the dignity and human needs of the key stakeholders, with a willingness to compromise, and a focus on saving lives. We have failed to adequately train people in nonviolent conflict, resistance and civilian-based defense. Let’s not make these mistakes again.

  • We urge you to amplify the courageous and creative actions of nonviolent resistance being done in Ukraine, Russia, and elsewhere (see examples below). Like the Alliance for Peacebuilding, we also urge you to help establish communication hubs for such persons as well as invest and call for others to resource these civil society leaders and activists. This will lend concrete solidarity towards dynamics which are ten times more likely to lead to durable democracy.
  • We urge you to encourage President Zelensky to do all he can to find a diplomatic agreement with Russia to end the war, even if the outcome includes limits to NATO influence or other concessions from the west. This will create space for more insightful thinking about how to address root causes and seek a more sustainable just peace. We know Russian leadership is responsible for their invasion. Yet, we have more influence on Zelensky at this point to take the moral high ground.

  • We urge you to call on donors, governments, and multilateral institutions to support unarmed civilian protection to nonviolently protect civilians. For example, Operazione Colomba is in Lviv helping to accompany and evacuate marginalized persons.

  • We urge you to re-humanize all stakeholders, including adversaries. This is done through the language, labels, and narratives you choose to use. Although difficult, we must avoid labels such as calling persons or groups “evil,” “diabolical,” “irrational,” “thugs” or “monsters.” This doesn’t mean we agree with or justify their actions. Yet, the more we dehumanize others, the more we escalate, narrow our imagination, and enable dynamics of violence. Re-humanization is also done through solidarity with people’s social movements and carefulness that sanctions don’t cause undue harm to their populations, especially in a way that restricts humanitarian, human rights work, or the ability of people to meet their basic needs. This can also be done by offering shelter and protection to Russian defectors. Another example is a willingness to pray for all stakeholders, including adversaries.
  • We urge you to consider strategic delegations or a humanitarian airlift into Ukraine to generate time and space, i.e. peace zones, for interrupting the hostilities. For example, this could include one or multiple allied countries landing huge cargo planes full of medicine and food in Ukraine. Top government (and maybe religious or other) officials would be on board. Cargo planes are not offensive fighter jets. The U.S. executed exactly such a humanitarian airlift when Putin invaded Georgia in 2008 which significantly contributed to the end of those hostilities.

Present examples of creative, courageous nonviolent resistance:

Ukrainians blocking convoys and tanks, standing ground even with warning shots fired in multiple towns, in Berdyansk city and Kulykіvka village people organized peace rallies and convinced the Russian military to get out, hundreds protested abduction of mayor, protests in Kherson vs. being a breakaway state, fraternization of Russian soldiers to lower morale and stimulate defections, humanitarian assistance (Orthodox priests as escorts) and caring for refugees (ICRC, Doctors without Borders in Ukraine), evacuations, etc.

Russians protesting war with nearly 15,000 arrested, ex. interrupted Russian state TV, resigning from state TV), 100,000 Russians from a variety of sectors have signed petitions to end the war, Russians close to the military and foreign ministry, in the Russian oil industry and billionaires, and Russian Orthodox clerics (nearly 300) have spoken out against the war, and at least over 100 soldiers have refused to take part, etc.

External Actors: outpouring of public statements by key political leaders, reducing the flow of money to the aggressor (ex. via banks, media, trade, fossil fuels, etc.), supporting the anti-war protesters in Russia and nonviolent resistance in Ukraine, disrupting the technology systems of the aggressor, interrupting disinformation, coalition building, activating key civil society leaders (ex. religious, athletes, business), challenging theological ideology supporting war, shifting away from retributive justice and toward restorative justice, encourage the acknowledging of responsibility for harm, sharing educational material about nonviolent civilian-based defense, challenging the role of racism and white supremacy in the conflict, etc.

The U.S. is positioned to contribute to ending the cycle of violence and ensuring a just and lasting peace. We urge you to choose that path.

Sincerely,

  • American Muslim Voice Foundation
  • Ansari Institute for Global Engagement with Religion at Keough School of Global Affairs,
            University of Notre Dame
  • Catholic Worker Community DC
  • Center on Conscience and War
  • Church of the Brethren, Office of Peacebuilding and Policy
  • Disciples Peace Fellowship
  • Episcopal Peace Fellowship
  • Federation of Zoroastrian Associations of North America
  • Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR-USA)
  • Global Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and United Church of Christ
  • Hindus for Human Rights
  • Jain Association of North America 
  • Muslim Peace Fellowship
  • National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd
  • Orthodox Peace Fellowship
  • Pax Christi USA
  • Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association
  • Religions for Peace USA
  • Shomeret Shalom Global Congregation 
  • United Church of Christ, Justice and Local Church Ministries

4 thoughts on “Pax Christi USA joins national faith-based organizations in urging support for courageous, creative actions of nonviolence in Ukraine

  1. These are wonderful ideas and I hope they will be undertaken. But, when a group of people, armed to the teeth, are smashing down your door and killing your family there is neither time for name calling nor nonviolent response.

  2. Violent actions based on militarism seem to only provide pain, injury, destruction, and death as a result. Violent responses to aggression have only produced more death and destruction on both sides in this conflict. Instances of nonviolent confrontation of the aggressor(Russia) have shown to save lives and showcase dignity, and halted the progress of Russian troops. Continuance of the war using air power may demand the use of more creative nonviolent strategies. Perhaps use of some of the mentioned strategies must be employed, along with addressing some of the issues(negotiating points) which were present at the beginning of the conflict. Ukrainian representatives have proven their strength of spirit and may have different long range objectives than the US/NATO. It seems now that a key is to safely(somehow) allow space for dialogue and diplomacy to take place. Pray for the Russian Orthodox Church, the Vatican, and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church to unite to influence the behavior of involved leaders and to alert the populaces of the warring nations regarding the need for a stoppage of the hostilities. Although not always seen or experienced firsthand, the strength of violent actions cannot overcome the convictions that come with nonviolence. The latter may be more difficult in a more immediate sense but holds the foundation for longer lasting, just peace.

  3. The ideas and thoughts in this letter to Biden are good and important to express. Would that more USA Catholic groups would have signed on. It’s too bad the sign on list is so short? Why is our government so militaristic when it is Peace that has been needed since the beginning! What’s wrong with us?! Peace is what all people really want deep down.

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