Tag Archives: prayer resources

Letter from the editor IC69

Ukraine Crisis: Truth the First Casualty

guest editorial by Jim Forest
Wars are fought not only with weapons but with words and propaganda. Charge and counter-charge are exchanged as Kiev, Moscow and Washington assert, accuse, and deny. Are the armed “green men” in Ukraine’s Donboss region in fact Russian military, as Kiev and Washington allege, or are they Ukrainians merely replicating locally what was done on the Euromaidan in Kiev a few months earlier, as Moscow asserts? Who had ordered snipers to open fire back then on the people on the Euromaidan? Who distributed leaflets ordering Jews to register with authorities? Was it the new government of the self-proclaimed Donetsk Republic, as Kiev claims, or was it a provocation aimed at discrediting pro-Russian separatists? Who killed three men at a checkpoint in Slovyansk in late April, Russian military intelligence or Ukrainian nationalists? Who is to blame for the blaze in Odessa on the 2nd of May that trapped and killed so many on the pro-Russian side? Day-by-day such questions multiply.

Spend an hour or two on the web reading texts about the conflict in Ukraine. It’s impressive how much bluster, hyperbole, exaggeration, conspiracy theorizing, overheated rhetoric, and plain lying have come from every side: Kiev, Moscow, Washington, London and other European capitals. Hour-by-hour the ancient Greek proverb—“In war, truth is the first casualty”—is being amply demonstrated.

No one would deny that the former Yanukovych government was corrupt, as was the government that preceded it. That many Ukrainians were fed up with such leadership is understandable. It’s no less understandable that Ukraine’s Russian-speaking minority is outraged and, after being treated for years as second-class citizens, that many of them might prefer either a high degree of regional autonomy or even being part of Russia. Only free elections, not only at the national level but oblast-by-oblast, can demonstrate the will of the people. Meanwhile the Ukrainians have a right to sort out their own affairs without outside interference. Regardless of the outcome in Ukraine, the US, NATO, and Russia should stand back.

But of course they are not standing back. It is reasonable to assume that much that is happening in Ukraine is encouraged if not choreographed by strategists in the US and Russia plus various European capitals. In the western press, the fact that the CIA has been quietly meddling in the affairs of Ukraine has been regarded as a detail of minor significance, even though the CIA has so often in the past played a decisive role in arranging “regime change.” White House spokesman Jay Carney confirmed that CIA Director John Brennan visited Kiev in mid-April and met with principal Ukrainian officials. With a straight face Carney said that it was absurd to imply that US officials meeting with their counterparts in Kiev was anything other than routine. The claim would be laughable if the consequences of enmity were not so disastrous.

Certainly the major powers have their special interests and goals. Western European countries see an opportunity to include Ukraine in the NATO alliance and to bring Ukraine into the European Union while in the process “reforming” Ukraine’s economy as is being done, for example, in Greece. Russia seeks to keep NATO at a distance and, having reclaimed Crimea, may also see an opportunity to reabsorb the more Russian-speaking oblasts in eastern Ukraine that were lost when the USSR collapsed. Even if Russia does not seek to expand its borders, it may want to force any future elected Kiev government to grant a considerable degree of autonomy to oblasts in which the majority of the population are Russian speakers.

A major factor in the conflict is ultra-nationalism, which infects not only a large part of the overall population but also the membership of churches. There are three Orthodox jurisdictions in Ukraine whose borders are drawn in part along lines of language and nationality (Ukrainian or Russian). There are also both Eastern rite and Western rite jurisdictions in communion with Rome, especially in western Ukraine.

It is not a situation in which Christians on the outside can embrace one side and denounce the other. All sides have legitimate claims—and each side has its fanatics and thugs. The only hope for a peaceful solution is dialogue and free elections. Perhaps it is by stressing a deeper unity that Orthodox Christians working for peace can best help remind our fellow Christians in the midst of this conflict of a communion that transcends national and linguistic identity. While deep divisions are obvious and unhealed wounds many, all Christians, no matter of what jurisdictional segment, would respond to the exclamation “Christ is risen!” with the immediate and unified response, “He is risen indeed!”

That Paschal affirmation should shape our response to the world we live in, but often it doesn’t. Not only in Ukraine and Russia but in every Orthodox jurisdiction, national identity often influences our sense of self and our public identity more than the fact of being baptized Christians among whom “there is neither Greek nor Jew”—a Christ-centered community in which all national labels are secondary.

As Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople recently said, while on a visit to The Netherlands, “The concept of the nation cannot become a determining factor of Church life or an axis of Church organization. Whenever an Orthodox Church succumbs to nationalist rhetoric and lends support to racial tendencies, it loses sight of the authentic theological principles and gives in to a fallen mindset, totally alien to the core of Orthodoxy.”  IC

A damaged dome in the yard of an Orthodox church damaged by shelling in Kuibyshevski district in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine.
A damaged dome in the yard of an Orthodox church damaged by shelling in Kuibyshevski district in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine.
Resources for parish and private prayer as well as various relevant texts can be found on the Ukraine Crisis page posted on the OPF’s In Communion web site: www.incommunion.org/2014/03/17/pray-for-peace/

Several statements, prayers and appeals of Patriarch Pavle

-- Patriarch Pavle, speaking at a news conference June 28, 1999, at the 14th-century Orthodox monastery in Gracanica
— Patriarch Pavle, speaking at a news conference June 28, 1999, at the 14th-century Orthodox monastery in Gracanica

“If the only way to create a greater Serbia is by crime, then I do not accept that, and let that Serbia disappear. And also if a lesser Serbia can only survive by crime, let it also disappear. And if all the Serbs had to die and only I remained and I could live only by crime, then I would not accept that; it would be better to die.”

Here is a small collection from the writings and sermons of Patriarch Pavle.

Memorial service in February 1992 for war victims:

Today, on this the Sunday following the feast of St. Sava, as on every other Sunday, brothers and sisters, the Holy Church celebrates the weekly commemoration of the greatest event of our salvation, the Resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ. Sunday is for every week what the Feast of Easter is for the whole year.

Before the Son of God, the One Who out of love for us and for our salvation was Crucified on the Cross and Resurrected by His Divine power, we prayed today, for the peace of the whole world, for the salvation of our souls, and for all our fathers and brothers who have gone before us.

In particular we served a general requiem where we prayed for all the souls of our brothers and sisters and children who shed their blood and lost their lives in the terrible of this senseless war.

In humbleness of heart we pray to God to receive their souls mercifully and give them rest in the Kingdom of Heaven, where there is neither sickness, nor sorrow, nor sighing, but life reigns everlasting.

With tears and sighs we bemoan all those brothers and sisters who remained alive but were driven from their homes and are now refugees from their birth places; those who have been left physically and spiritually disabled. With tears we bemoan all the children left without the homes of their childhood, left without their childhood, and left without one or, in many cases, both parents.

While lamenting those closest to us by faith and blood, for all the hardship that came upon them, destroyed homes, churches, irretrievable destroyed treasures of historical and cultural significance, we lament the Croatian people also, for their misfortune and suffering as well as the destruction of their property and churches, their cultural and historical monuments, knowing that had we been better Christians and better men, this disaster could have bypassed us.

I appeal to you all, brothers and sisters, to spend this following week in fasting, in humility of heart, in prayer and repentance, that our conscience and mind at least be awakened from these tragedies, so that we see the teaching of the Gospel that it is not terrible to die for the sake of God’s righteousness, but it is terrible to die for the sake of sin, not seeing and feeling its horror and the need for repentance, the correction of our lives, the return to God’s way, the way of humanity, justice and truth.

Let us grasp the teaching of the Holy Apostle Paul, that one cannot accomplish good by evil means — a lesson our mothers taught us through the ages, warning us that evil never brings good. Oh, that God would help us to understand that we are human beings and that we must live as human beings, so that peace would come into in our country and bring to an end the killing of Serbs and Croatians.

Lord, give rest to the souls of Thy servants who have been killed, our brothers, sisters and children. Lord, show Your mercy to all, and upon us. Amen.

[S. M. / Translated from Pravoslavlje, February 15, 1992]

Petitions composed by Patriarch Pavle for inclusion in all services:

At the Great Litany:

“For the mercy of God for us, His unworthy servants, to keep us all from hatred and evil deeds, to implant in us unselfish love, whereby all may recognize that we are disciples of Christ and people of God, as were our saintly ancestors, so that we may always know to ally ourselves with the truth and justice of the Heavenly Kingdom, let us pray to the Lord.”

“For all those who committed injustice against their neighbor, whether they saddened the poor or spilled innocent blood, or returned hatred with hatred, that God grant them repentance, enlighten their minds and hearts, and illumine their souls with holy love even toward their enemies, let us pray to the Lord.

Litany of Fervent Supplications:

“O Lord, how many are the foes who war against us and say: ‘There is no help for them from God or from man.’ Lord, reach out Thy hand to us that we remain Thy people, both in faith and in works. If we must suffer, may it be on the road to Thy justice and Thy truth, and not because of our injustice or hatred toward anyone. Let us all say fervently, Lord have mercy.”

“Again we pray to God, the Savior of all men, even for our enemies, that the Lord who loves mankind turn them away from violence against our Orthodox people; that they not destroy our holy temples and graves, that they not kill our children and persecute our people, but that they also find the road to repentance, justice and salvation. Let us all say fervently, Lord have mercy.”

From the Introduction to the book, War Damage Sustained by Orthodox Churches in Serbian Areas of Croatia in 1991:

We cannot pass through this world without suffering and hardship. The history of mankind is filled with so much devastation caused by the elements, so much misery caused by man to his fellow man.

In the Holy Scriptures, God points many times to the suffering that awaits His faithful: In the world you have tribulation…; If they persecuted me, they will persecute you: let he who wants to go with me take up his cross and follow (Jn 16:33; 15:20). The Apostle Paul also says that we must enter the kingdom of God through many tribulations (Acts 14:22). The Apostle Peter even teaches that there is a difference between suffering for the sake of righteousness which, he says, is part of the suffering of Christ, and suffering for sins, and he warns the faithful: let none of you suffer as a murderer, or a thief, or a wrong-doer (1 Pet. 3:14; 4;15).

Not heeding this advice draws us into the madness of war that has befallen both the Croats and ourselves. It brings so much spilled blood and loss of lives, so many disabled persons, exiles and refugees, so many ruined material and cultural effects, so many destroyed churches, so many historical and cultural riches accumulated over the centuries that are lost forever.

The inestimable losses suffered, brought before our eyes and the eyes of the world, should jolt our senses and our conscience, and make us remember that we have been a Christian people for more than one thousand years, and that in so much time we have yet to learn the simplest teaching of Christianity: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you (Mt. 7:12). And what have we done with the essence of the faith, love, and love’s highest form, love for our enemies, which means rising to the stature of our Father’s hallowed Son who is in heaven, and the awareness that we are people of God, and to act accordingly. Let us try to achieve this. Then God will hear us and bring an end to the war, so that peace may reign in this turbulent world.

From an address by Patriarch Pavle on October 6, 1992, when he arrived in the US:

For over three decades as the Bishop of Ras-Prizren in the Kosovo-Metohija Province, I traveled by foot to many Albanian and Serbian homes to speak personally with them of peace. Due to the tragedy that has befallen the peoples of the former Yugoslavia, I once again must travel through the war-torn villages of my homeland, down Belgrade streets in protest of war, in search of peace. And now I have come to America to appeal for an end to suffering, for an end to this mindless war.

As you know, on May 27, as the Holy Assembly of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church, over which I preside, condemned with great severity the hate-breeding nationalism that exists on all sides. We called on President Milosevic to step down, supported the Opposition parties’ boycott of elections, and urged them as I urge now that a government of national unity and salvation be created that will enjoy the confidence of all the people.

I come to you just having met with Cardinal Franjo Kuharic, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Zagreb on September 23. Together we appealed and demanded, on the basis of our spiritual position and moral responsibility, for an end to the violence. We condemned ethnic cleansing and the blasphemous destruction of all shrines and places of prayer, both Christian and Muslim….

I appeal to you, as I have appealed to Cardinal Kuharic and Islamic leader Reis-ul-ulimi Jakov, that each side must see the other, acknowledge each other’s suffering, and approach peace through just negotiations. I appeal to you, to pray to God for peace in our country, and that truth illumine the hearts and minds of all those in whose hands the destiny of my people lie.

From a letter of Patriarch Pavle to the Islamic reis-ul-ulemi Jakov Selimovski:

Your Eminence,

I received your letter of June 1 in which with great sorrow you set forth the misfortunes of the faithful of the Islamic community since the outbreak of this mindless war in Bosnia and Hercegovina. You number the thousands of Moslems that were killed, mainly unarmed citizens, women, children and elderly men. You also number those who were interned in camps in the vicinity of Sarajevo, Bratunac, Bosanska Krupa, Zvornik and other places. You said that “all this is happening to a people only because they have a different culture, because they confess the Islamic faith and because they express the will to be free as other peoples are.”

It is understandable that you, heading the Islamic faith community, see and feel the sufferings of your faithful brethren, as I, too, see and feel the sufferings of the Orthodox faithful, for they turn to me as to their spiritual father. But we must both see the other side, that the Orthodox and Catholics are suffering those same misfortunes. How many of them are in detention camps, how many wounded, how many killed, only because they belong to another nation, and to another faith, and because they also wish to be free as other nations are? And therefore they suffer at the hands of isolated individuals, brutes and criminals, whose behavior shows no regard for the faith to which they say they belong.

How many times have I begged and pleaded, spoken and written in the media, that peace must be obtained; that we begin to make a break with the killings and the evil, that we become the human beings that we are, and behave as men of faith in the one God of justice, truth and peace who calls us to righteousness and peace, but whose call goes unheeded.

From an interview in October 1992 in Niagara Falls, Ontario, quoted in the National Catholic Review:

Our goal must be not to see things only from one side, and have one rule by which we justify ourselves and another by which we judge our enemies, because then our enemies will do the same, and there will be no end. A crime committed by my brother is still a crime.

It is only the will of the devil that is served by this war, who through the ages is the killer of man and of everything good. We have the choice now whether to listen to him and follow his way, or to listen to God and follow His way.

Cain and Abel were the closest possible of human beings, brothers alone on the earth. And yet hatred occurred. Whether we are to be Cain or Abel depends on each of us, regardless of the pressures from the world or from our enemies. Our Lord came to this world to teach us how to be true human beings, how to become heavenly beings. His suffering and death give meaning to every instance of our suffering on the way to his justice. We should never fear dying for the sake of God’s justice; but we should fear committing evil, for such sinners are the walking dead of this world. God has one standard for us all.