So many words come to mind as we watch and hear events unfold in Ukraine and indeed in Russia.
Lord have mercy.
The Revd Canon Malcolm Rogers, chaplain of St Andrew’s Anglican Church in central Moscow writes ‘We’re at the centre of power and yet we are powerless’.
“Pray for us, for courage and wisdom and perseverance in faith and love. And we will pray for you.”
People continue to speculate on the psychological, political, and religious backdrop to Putin’s act of evil aggression and I have been grateful for various briefings in recent days. Yet whatever the soil of this abhorrent attack, the reality is that thousands of people are suffering, and Bishop Robert and I invite you to respond in two key ways:
- Financial support: The Diocese in Europe have launched an appeal with USPG for humanitarian aid both in Ukraine and with Refugees across Europe. This will support the work of Churches and Christian Agencies both urgently now and in the longer term. The detail is here: Ukraine appeal release. This is where you can give online https://ukraine-emergency-appeal.raisely.com/
You can also donate to the Disaster Emergency Committee Appeal. Donations to their appeal go to their member charities and their local partners responding in Ukraine and in neighbouring countries. DEC charities are experts in humanitarian relief with decades of responding to crises around the world – from earthquakes to floods as well as conflicts.
It is understandable that people want to collect items such as clothes and equipment and it can psychologically make us feel better, but the reality is that we are being asked not to collect items and seek to transport them, but rather to give financially.
- Prayer: In the face of such overwhelming horror we need to pray. As we bring our heartfelt requests to God so we too are transformed. As we long to ‘have the mind of Christ’ (1 Corinthians 2:16) we enter more fully into the heart of God and desire to see as God sees.
As we pray for the people of Ukraine, let us pray also for the people of Russia.
There is a prayer for peace in Israel Palestine which I find poignant because it speaks of not dividing Arab and Jew, or Palestinian and Israeli in our prayers lest we divide them in our hearts. The same is true of the people of Ukraine and Russia.
Please continue to pray for Christ Church, Kyiv whose members are either sheltering or attempting to flee, and for St Andrew’s, Moscow which is facing considerable challenges in a commitment to be Christ’s light and hope.
Father Liubomyr of the Ukrainian Church in Gloucester, and Father Mark of the Russian Orthodox church in Cheltenham are very grateful for our prayers as fellow members of the Body of Christ.
There will undoubtedly be people gathering to pray in different ways and at different times across the diocese, and one such opportunity we have been asked to mention is ‘Cheltenham Welcomes Refugees’ who invite any who are local to Cheltenham to join in prayer (every Wednesday 6 pm to 6.45 pm) at St. Gregory’s Church, Cheltenham, to pray for the situation in Ukraine. It will also be live-streamed for those people who would like to take part but cannot attend. The link is here.
A desire to do something more …
The Government sponsorship programme has now opened and there may be individuals in worshipping communities who wish to offer a Ukrainian family a home and give them a key to a safe place. There is now a toolkit of information from the Church of England: Homes for Ukraine | The Church of England [Please note that there will be some important information in due course specific to clergy living in accommodation owned by the Diocesan Board of Finance, and contact should be made with the Archdeacons in the first instance. There are some pertinent points on the C of E website in the section headed ‘For clergy considering hosting refugees’ ]
This undertaking is not simply about accommodation but about how people can work together to enable those potentially seen as ‘other’ to find a home in a new community. Someone might offer the room(s) with the support of those who will offer friendship, practical support, and accompany adults and children through the hard experience of integration.
This is no small step and no short interim chapter in anyone’s story. There is much to think and pray through so that people make a careful response rather than an emotional reaction.
A number of us are also keeping in close contact with GARAS (Gloucestershire Action for Refugees and Asylum Seekers) of which I am a patron. They have been working for many years with asylum seekers and refugees and those being resettled in Gloucestershire, including Afghans from the situation in the summer last year, and are wise advisers. Do pray for the staff and volunteers who were already under great pressure even before the invasion of Ukraine.
And finally, as we pray for GARAS and for the awful refugee crisis arising from the suffering in Ukraine, let us also hold in our prayers the many other painful situations across our world where people are being displaced through the horrors of war and conflict, aware that visual images and heart-wrenching stories from these places do not always reach us via our main media channels:
‘Our Father in Heaven,
Hallowed be your name,
Your kingdom come
Your will be done
On earth as in heaven…’
The Lord’s Prayer spoken in Ukrainian: