Over the past year, we have grieved the tremendous tragedy that has spread since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022. The violence and horrific loss of life are heartbreaking, though as we sadly know, life in wartime is an agonizing reality in many parts of the world. In addition, the crisis in Ukraine is a particularly complex situation – with historical, religious, cultural, and political components – which requires careful engagement.
One year ago we wrote in our initial statement, “The invasion of Ukraine is a direct violation of international law. The death and destruction already unleashed has only frustrated the hope for a just resolution of differences. To continue this war will only undermine long-term peace for the region. War does not solve the historical and political challenges at the root of this conflict; war is not the vehicle for creating a just peace.” (Read the entire statement here.)
We mourn that these words are proving true – the continued fighting has not clarified anything. Families have been destroyed, lives have been traumatized, so much has been lost, and the political posturing has grown more entrenched.
This week, we sent a letter to Pope Francis as part of a communique with the Vatican from Pax Christi International. The letter asks Pope Francis to appeal directly to President Biden, Catholic leader to Catholic leader, encouraging the president to be a supporting voice for an immediate ceasefire, to end the transfer of weapons, and to call for the initiation of peace negotiations. Our hope is that Pope Francis can have a mitigating role in this conflict much as Pope John XXIII had during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
February 24, 2023 marks “one year since the beginning of this absurd and cruel war, a sad anniversary. The toll of dead, wounded, refugees, those isolated, destructions, economic and social damage speaks for itself. May the Lord forgive all these crimes and all this violence: He is the God of peace.”
“Let us remain close to the tormented Ukrainian people,” Pope Francis said, “who continue to suffer and ask ourselves: has everything possible been done to stop the war? I appeal to those in authority over nations to make concrete efforts to end the conflict, to reach a ceasefire and to start peace negotiations. Whatever is built on rubble can never be a true victory.”Pope Francis, Ash Wednesday, February 22, 2023
Pax Christi USA continues to call for an end to hostilities, for an immediate ceasefire, and for an end to weapon shipments to Ukraine and to Russia. Violence and war are never the answers. Nonviolent strategies must be funded and widely promoted, and peace negotiations must be pursued.
As the anniversary of the Ukraine war approaches this week, we encourage you to pray, study and act for a peaceful resolution to this tragedy. Below you’ll find resources for this week or to use throughout the Lenten season in support of peace.
A prayer for peace in Ukraine
By Sr. Pegge Boehm, PBVM, Pax Christi USA Ambassador of Peace
Christ of Peace,
The first words you spoke to your disciples
after your resurrection were “Peace be with you.”
With us and with all of creation, groaning for peace, we implore your mercy and forgiveness
as we listen to earth lamenting and people crying,
made poor by humanity’s acts of aggression.
As your disciples of peace and nonviolence,
may our first words be at this time of war in Ukraine: “Peace be with you.”
Peace be with you, people of Ukraine,
whose suffering is our suffering,
whose cries unite with our cries for peace.
Peace be with you, leaders of countries,
whose use of force and aggression
be transformed into justice that is restorative.
Peace be with you, protestors in the streets of Russia,
whose courage puts you at risk of your lives,
inspire us to stand up for nonviolence.
Peace be with each one of us,
that as we cry with our Ukrainian kin,
we may be moved to proclaim,
“No more war, War never again.”
Come, Christ of Peace, be with us!
Click here for a PDF version of this prayer.
- Pax Christi Maine shares this rosary novena, offered by St. Paul the Apostle Parish, for peace in Ukraine. The documents lists the starting date as February 24, but starting on any date and praying for nine days would work.
- An online faith vigil for peace in Ukraine was held on Friday, February 24. Use this link to watch via the Episcopal Public Policy Facebook page. Johnny Zokovitch was one of the speakers; you can find his part starting at the 33:28 mark.
Pax Christi International has published a statement on the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine:
23 February 2023: One year after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Pax Christi International expresses our deep concern for countless victims of a war that has led to death, injury, displacement, trauma, and ecological harm. This war has generated almost six million internally displaced persons and eight million refugees; killed more than 7,200 civilians including over 400 children and hundreds of thousands of soldiers; and caused generational trauma.
The war of aggression against Ukraine has clearly demonstrated that no international authority exists with sufficient wisdom to effectively address the root causes or with adequate means to have prevented Russia’s brutal invasion. International law provides every sovereign nation with the right to self-defense. In a world of highly destructive weapons, armed self-defense may trigger an escalation to extremes that can even lead to a nuclear war.
For this reason, Pax Christi International urgently calls on the international community to
immediately facilitate diplomatic initiatives to restore the international order and the territorial integrity of Ukraine. We plead with Russia and Ukraine to enter negotiations directly, on neutral ground, and with a mutually agreeable mediator. …
- “The war in Ukraine: Impacts of nonviolent resistance and U.S. policy implications,” an online briefing for Congressional offices, was held on February 23. Watch the recording here.
- “The war in Ukraine is not as simple as good versus evil for scholars of liberation theology,” by Eduardo Campos Lima in America (written in March 2022, but a good reminder)
Take action: Ash Wednesday, February 22 and/or anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, February 24
>> Ash Wednesday call to action: Pax Christi USA local and state/regional chapters will organize a presence at churches and cathedrals raising our voices for prayer, study and action throughout Lent to end the war in Ukraine by calling for an immediate ceasefire, the end of the flow of weapons to Ukraine and Russia, and the initiation of peace negotiations. Find more here and email firstname.lastname@example.org to add your event to our running list on the webpage.
>> February 24 call for diplomacy: We joined our partners in the Defuse Nuclear War campaign on February 24, the anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, to amplify calls for genuine diplomacy to end this terrible war. We encouraged local groups to organize and participate at locations that seem most appropriate locally.
The day of action focused on urging the United States to lead with diplomacy instead of escalation — to help create a path for ending the war, with genuine diplomatic initiatives instead of continuing with a blank check for huge weapons shipments. Ideas to consider:
- Picket at Congress member’s local office
- Demonstrate in a public place with high visibility
- Flyer/collect petition signatures for local Congressperson in a busy area or park
- Schedule a meeting with your Representative at their home office
- Demonstrate at TV/newspaper offices
- Create your online action and petition using DIYrootsaction
To learn more, please visit February 24 Day Of Action – DefuseNuclearWar.org.
- Write a letter to the editor to your local media. Use this template below for your own letter:
Dear editors, It has been one year since Russia invaded Ukraine, and the U.S. has budgeted more than $100 billion for the war in Ukraine, while the challenges presented by the pandemic, the climate crisis, racial oppression, and economic injustice continue to be woefully underfunded. The flow of weapons into Ukraine and Russia only serve to assure more death and destruction, while nonviolent solutions, including diplomacy, are neglected. It’s time we demand that elected leaders support an immediate ceasefire, work to stem the flow of weapons to both Ukraine and Russia, and call for peace negotiations to begin.
- Support the Back from the Brink campaign. Pax Christi USA is an original endorser of Back from the Brink; many local groups have already signed on in supporting local efforts to get their municipalities or states to pass resolutions to prevent nuclear war. As the conflict in Ukraine has raised the threat of nuclear war, this campaign is more important than ever. Contact Ronnie Fellerath-Lowell, our national organizer with Back from the Brink, at email@example.com to sign on and support the effort. And use this action alert from our friends at the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns to ask your Representative to co-sponsor H. Res. 77, that calls on the United States to “embrace the goals and provisions of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons” and pursue the five policy proposals of the Back from the Brink campaign.