A reflection from Bishop David on the anniversary of the invasion of Ukraine

Bishop David wrote this reflection on the anniversary of the invasion of Ukraine:

It has now been one year since the invasion of Ukraine by Russia. It has been a year of conflict, destruction, and death, that we would not have thought possible in our European continent; it is also a war within the territory served by this Church of England diocese. Our chaplaincy in Kyiv is, of course, prominent in our minds. This brave community, made up of Ukrainians and people from around the world, continues to hold regular services, lay-led at this time, while the recruitment of a resident priest to serve them is underway. At the same time, the Chaplaincies in Moscow and St Petersburg witness constantly to the Gospel values of peace and reconciliation.

Our prayer each day this past year has been for an immediate end to this senseless war, to give Ukrainians a chance to rebuild their lives and their country. But the cost in terms of human lives lost and displaced has been high. Not only Ukrainian lives, but the lives of conscripts in the Russian army as well as Russian civilians. Indeed, the war touches upon the fabric of humanity around the world. Globally, there have been consequences for those dependent on energy supplies from Russia. There is increased food insecurity and prices of basic commodities have risen, affecting many of the poor and vulnerable.

The appeal which the Diocese in Europe launched in partnership with USPG has raised over £400,000, enabling us to contribute direct humanitarian assistance within Ukraine, delivered through grass-roots Christian organisations, as well as to offer financial support to initiatives and projects of our chaplaincies in countries where Ukrainian refugees have arrived. Such a response is at the heart of the church’s vocation, to be alongside those in pain and need.

In the short videos which have been prepared to mark this anniversary, you will see just some of the heartrending stories of those who have been helped by your generosity to our appeal. When you view these short clips you will be reminded that these are human lives, not statistics. They are stories of those who have escaped from death, but whose husbands, fathers and brothers are still defending their homeland. You will also hear moving words of gratitude for friendship, welcome, safety and a sense, even temporary, of home.

I encourage Anglicans across our diocese to mark this anniversary with prayer, upholding all those suffering from the ravages of the war and all those working for peace. We remember God’s promise that, despite the destruction of war, that it is God’s will for a new, peaceful, just and blessed society, which arises from the ruins of violence. As the psalmist says, “He makes wars to cease in all the world; he shatters the bow and snaps the spear and burns the chariots in the fire”. (Psalm 46.9-10) And again, “Truth shall spring up from the earth, and righteousness look down from heaven”. (Psalm 85.11).

Below is an appropriate prayer, composed on the anniversary by the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, and shared by them for ecumenical use:

Almighty and Great God, accept our gratitude for your boundless mercy towards us. Hear the supplication of our afflicted hearts for the land and people of Ukraine, as they confront foreign aggression and invasion. Open the eyes of those who have been overtaken by a spirit of deception and violence, that they be horrified by their works. Grant victory over the powers of evil that have arisen and bless Ukraine with your gifts of liberty, peace, tranquillity, and good fortune.

We implore you, O Merciful God, look with grace upon those who courageously defend their land. Remember the mothers and fathers, the innocent children, widows and orphans, the disabled and helpless, those seeking shelter and refuge, who reach out to you and to their fellow human beings looking for mercy and compassion. Bless the hearts of those who have already shown great generosity and solidarity, and those who prepare to receive their Ukrainian brothers and sisters in Ukraine’s greatest time of need. Bring us together as your children, your creation, and instil in us your strength, wisdom and understanding. May you be praised and glorified, now and forever, and to the ages of ages.