I confess that I am having a very difficult time focusing on much of anything today, and I wonder if I am the only one. I find myself bouncing from different news sources to social media like TikTok (where Ukrainians are livestreaming from bomb shelters with shrieking air raid sirens in the background). It is heartbreaking, enraging, and terrifying…and so overwhelming. People are huddling in subway stations, waiting in long lines for 20 liters of gas, sending their children to the countryside to keep them safe. The history of that region is complex, and it is incredibly tough, as a lay person, to understand what the best course of action is for the US, especially when we are just untangling ourselves from other wars that lasted decades. But it is gut-wrenching…
If you haven’t heard it yet, I encourage you to listen to The Daily podcast by the NYT: https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/25/podcasts/the-daily/ukraine-russia-invasion-putin.html It was an extremely moving and thorough report about ordinary Ukrainian citizens from on the ground. I cannot get the sound of their voices out of my head. Just like any situation happening to people far away from us, it is vitally important to pause and listen. We learn and grow by sitting with this discomfort and dis-ease. I am so grateful for fearless journalists who are in harm’s way to keep the rest of the world informed. This is why the freedom of the press is so important to the pursuit of human dignity.
I have also been moved by the numerous Russian citizens who are speaking out about this injustice. There is no such thing as freedom of expression in Russia, and we know that people who speak out against Putin’s regime can face dire consequences. It is important to separate Putin from ordinary Russians who suffer daily under his oppression and who consider Ukrainians their siblings. They are living under a dictatorship, and those who are speaking out are immensely courageous.
I don’t have much wisdom to offer other than to say please continue to pay attention. Many of us are weary of war, and oppression, and injustice and although we do need to carve out time to care for ourselves to maintain our own health and sanity, it is also important to be fierce in our commitment to witnessing human suffering. Ukraine is a democracy. Its people, for the most part, want to be able to self determine their own government. There are no easy answers or solutions, but I know that indifference never leads to justice.
Finally, our biblical tradition was forged in the heat of enslavement, occupation, and exile. It is no accident that our scriptures remind us to not be afraid. In fact, our bible reminds us over 365 times to not be afraid. God is with us. God is with our Ukrainian siblings.
I leave you with the psalmist who prayed this prayer on behalf of creation:
Psalm 46: 1-7
God is our refuge and strength,
a help always near in times of great trouble.
That’s why we won’t be afraid when the world falls apart,
when the mountains crumble into the center of the sea,
when its waters roar and rage,
when the mountains shake because of its surging waves. Selah
There is a river whose streams gladden God’s city,
the holiest dwelling of the Most High.
God is in that city. It will never crumble.
God will help it when morning dawns.
Nations roar; kingdoms crumble.
God utters his voice; the earth melts.
The Lord of heavenly forces is with us!
The God of Jacob is our place of safety. Selah