Skip to main content

March 31 2022 9:04

CPCE Statement on the War on Ukraine

The Council of the Communion of Protestant Churches in Europe held its meeting in Strasbourg between 16 and 18 March, 2022. In addition to a number of topics, they also discussed the consequences of the war in Ukraine. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Hungary (ELCH) was represented by Council Member Klára Tarr Cselovszky, who reported on the humanitarian work going on in Hungary as a cooperation of churches (including the ELCH), the Hungarian state, aid organizations and NGOs. At its meeting, the Council passed the following statement, which can also be found on the CPCE website.

Charkiw GAW 9Mar2022

Executive Summary

The war that the Russian Federation started against Ukraine in 2014 has entered a new stage with the Russian attacks on 24 February 2022. As CPCE, we stand together with all people suffering unbearable hardship in Ukraine. We do so in a threefold way: we pray, we speak out, and we help. Together, we pray, lament and lift up the people of Ukraine to the God of peace and justice. In prayer we are able to articulate the horror and dread we feel as our continent is again torn apart by war. We speak out in condemnation of the breach of international law by Russia’s president Putin as we stand in solidarity with all sisters and brothers who work for peace and reconciliation. We help by giving according to our means to support all who suffer in terms of finance, goods, logistics and assistance to integrate in their new communities. We offer hospitality to those fleeing the atrocities of the war, as church communities and individuals.

As Churches, We Pray

As churches, we are called to prayer (1. Thess. 5:17). We voice our lament and give witness to the power and promise of prayer. In this time of Lent, we join together across the continent of Europe to stand together with our sisters and brothers in need and to intercede before God.

A Prayer for Peace

God Almighty – you are God of peace and justice.
We pray for our sisters and brothers in Ukraine,
and all places suffering because of war.
As we cry out to you in anger and anguish, we pray that peace will reign, and justice prevail.
Kyrie eleison. Lord, have mercy on us.

Jesus Christ – you are the Prince of Peace.
We pray that arms will be silent.
We pray for those who have the power over peace and war.
Grant them wisdom and compassion in their decisions and lead them on the path of peace.
Kyrie eleison. Lord, have mercy on us.

Spirit of Truth and Comfort – you have the power to heal and reconcile.
We pray for those, who have lost loved ones, their homes,
who are in dire need of food, drink, sleep, safety.
We pray that you keep your children safe.
And we pray that you may grant us discernment, open hearts and ready hands to assist those in need.
Kyrie eleison. Lord, have mercy on us.

As Churches, We Speak Out

Witnessing in the face of Power

As churches, we are called to speak out against injustice and suffering and to speak on behalf of those who cannot speak (Prov. 31:8). In the light of our responsibility before God, our fellow humans and creation, CPCE condemns the Russian Federation’s unilateral attack on the sovereign state of Ukraine as a breach of international law and a violation of human rights. As Christians, we are called to be peacemakers (Matt 5:9). This means that churches can never sanctify war or violent conflict. We strongly oppose military aggression as an inadequate and unacceptable means of conflict resolution. At the same time, we are called to responsible action and to protect the vulnerable. Therefore we agree with the United Nations Charter that Ukraine has the legitimate right to self-defence.

We believe it is the vocation of the state to serve God’s will of justice and peace for all humankind. We recognise the decisions that states have taken to offer support to Ukraine through the supply of defensive equipment. The complexities of the issues at stake here might threaten to overwhelm and paralyze us. How can we as churches be agents of peace and reconciliation, yet not be silent bystanders in the face of  gross injustice and human rights violations? There are no easy answers. And we acknowledge that every action – and inaction – involves guilt. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer put it, “Everyone who acts responsibly becomes guilty”. Yet we trust in the grace of God, who calls us to responsible action. Responsibility also includes the willingness to engage in critical self-reflection. We recognize and repent where we, our churches, our theologies have become complacent, focused on ourselves and our needs and neglecting our foremost task to be “salt and light to the world” (Matt 5: 13-16). Responsibility includes the willingness to be discomforted. Effective economic sanctions against Russia inevitably impacts the standard of living within own communities. Here, it is the task of the churches to act as vicarious representatives and to draw attention to the weakest in society, in our own CPCE countries and beyond – as the war in Ukraine has disastrous consequences also for many vulnerable countries in the Global South (for instance, rising food and gas prices).

Standing in Solidarity

We stand in solidarity with the people in Ukraine suffering tremendous hardship. We stand with people in Russia who are willing to risk fines or even imprisonment for their courageous critique of Putin’s war.  We stand with people in neighbouring countries who feel threatened. We support them through our prayers, words and action. At the same time, we make it clear that while we condemn Putin’s war of aggression, we do not hold the entire Russian people accountable. We firmly reject anti-Russian acts and sentiments.

Working for Reconciliation

As churches, we witness to the truth that this world has been reconciled with God through Christ and that we are called to be ambassadors of reconciliation (2 Cor 5:17), not only with God, but also among humankind (Eph 2:14-16). History shows that sustainable peace needs reconciliation. Putin’s war against Ukraine and his threats against NATO and Western countries demonstrate that after the end of the Cold War, opportunities for genuine and sustainable reconciliation were missed as latent hatred, prejudices and stereotypes were allowed to linger. As this war prompts new reflections on issues of security, defence and cooperation in Europe, we commit to participating in this process, not least through our engagement in reconciliation in Ukraine and beyond.

As Churches, We Help

As Churches, We Give

As churches, we are called to give and to support those in need (Matt 25:40). The immediate action of churches involves practical support for those fleeing war as well as for those who stay in Ukraine, alongside with the engagement for refugees from other parts of the world. This is active charity. We express thanks to all who do so. Throughout many European countries, church networks have been formed that organize support in terms of finances, goods, logistics and assistance to help refugees integrate within their new communities.

As Churches, We Offer Hospitality

As churches, we take in refugees and we offer our hospitality to our sisters and brothers in need (Hebr. 13:2). Close to three million people have already been forced to leave Ukraine; countless have been internally displaced. We support, through action and prayer, those countries neighbouring Ukraine who are most actively offering hospitality. Many more people are expected to leave and to look for shelter in other European countries. By activating the Temporary Protection Directive for the first time EU Members states allow for immediate non-bureaucratic support for those in need, and other countries have made quick provision for refugees to obtain easy access to safety.  We see this as a remarkable sign of European solidarity with Ukraine. We uphold in prayer all offering active support and hospitality to refugees.

(CPCE Council Strasbourg, 18 March, 2022)