24 February 2022

On regarding Russia "vs" Ukraine; first principles

"The editors of Novaya gazeta consider the war insane. The editors of Novaya do not consider the Ukrainian people as an enemy, or the Ukrainian language as an enemy language.
"In this issue, we are publishing important copy in Russian and Ukrainian." Editor-in-chief Dmitri MURATOV. Source.

For most of the last 24 hours I have been keeping an Internet vigil using livecams in Kyiv and near Kharkiv. Right now morning is arriving in Kyiv, and the birds are loud! Every few minutes there are explosions. When I hear the sound of airplanes I assume that they are almost certainly Russian. A building on the Maidan square is flying the Ukrainian flag on its rooftop. I am trying to use these feeds as a prompt to pray without ceasing: let the birds continue, but let the violence stop. It helps a great deal that I remain in touch with people who are in the region and whose perspectives (among the Russians) are similar to the newspaper Novaya gazeta and who are also praying without ceasing.

Another explosion. Another.

If you are reading this blog, you certainly have as much access as I do to sources of information on what is going on in Ukraine, and on the scramble of international players to adopt positions that will benefit Ukraine and themselves. Also, your predictions of short- and long-term outcomes are as good as mine. I just want to take a rest from my Internet vigil over Ukraine's cities long enough to propose a few first principles to help me stay centered in a moment where evil seems again on the march.

7:07 a.m. in Kyiv. Air raid sirens. Once again I'm reminded of Edward R. Murrow in London, even as my blood freezes, today, in 2022.

  1. Put prayer first. Let news feeds and social interactions be filtered through prayer. Let's try not to take in more than can fit through that filter.
  2. As the mind of Christ and the newspaper Novaya gazeta remind us, let's not permit others to define our enemies for us. And even if they really are enemies, we are commanded to love them, not as an exercise in self-brainwashing but through the power of prayer. In this present situation, it appears that the real configuration could be summarized, not as Russia vs Ukraine, but as Putin and a small circle around him vs Russia and Ukraine, but let's not get too fond of glib summaries!
  3. Remember to be cautious and discreet in online conversations with people on all sides of this awful conflict.  Let's balance our (and their) need for solidarity with awareness that others may be monitoring our Internet traffic, looking for evidence of treason as in the height of the previous Russian-Ukrainian conflict. Whatsapp and Telegram may be secure for most routine purposes, but not now.
  4. The information wars, combined with the normal fog of war, make it nearly impossible to rely on any commentary or any photos/videos we get from any source, including those we sympathize with. We should report and repeat facts intelligently, labeling sources and adding our own cautions. Beware of the temptation to say now that there will certainly be tens of thousands of deaths, as some commentators on the "correct" side of things (i.e., the side I usually agree with) have been saying online and in mass media. Those kinds of predictions may have rhetorical power -- massive losses are a real and awful possibility and we should warn about them passionately -- but they are not certain.
  5. As in all conflicts, let's retain some humility about our behavior as humans. All mammals, at least, seem to have behaviors that involve group identity, group mobilization, and defense of territory. Human animals are no different, even though our fancy uniforms and equipment, our mobilizations, and our defense behaviors are impressively elaborate. We don't need to be swayed overmuch by uniforms, anthems, flags, military technology, lines on maps, or stern-faced politicians telling us what our duty is. Our duty is to heed our Creator, who loved us into being, along with all those other animals, and who has been our dwelling place in all generations.
  6. I've been encouraged by how many Russians have expressed a rejection of war and a plea for peace. Let's uphold and amplify the voices of peace; don't grant those who assume the logic of power politics a monopoly of public attention.
  7. Suggest your own additions or deletions in the comments below or wherever you found this post.

Judy in Kyiv. October 2011.
Early today I saw that the Russian Quaker Web site, quakers.ru, published a commentary entitled "This morning" by Boris Fedyukin, a Friend I know through the online Russian-speaking meetings for worship. Here it is in Russian and in English.

Online meetings for worship with a concern for this war will be held under the care of Friends World Committee for Consultation this weekend, for Russian-speakers on Saturday and for English-speakers on Sunday. Information here.

Now: frequent explosions. 

According to Alexei Venediktov, Ukrainian Orthodox metropolitan Onuphry of the Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) stated,

The Ukrainian and Russian peoples came out of the baptismal font of the Dnieper. War between these peoples is a repetition of the sin of Cain, who killed his own brother out of envy. Such a war has no justification either with God or with people.

To quote Edward R. Murrow, "Good night, and good luck." To quote Jesus (emphasis mine!),

Peace I leave with you, my friends. Peace the world cannot give.


Marisa Johnson said...

Weeping, Johan. Just weeping.

Robin M. said...

You are a blessing.

Sue scott said...

Thank you, Johan.

Jim Nichols said...

I miss seeing — hearing the blues
But blues not deep enough for bombs
Not deep enough

Anonymous said...

I had been hoping for a dose of your wisdom. Thanks.

Johan Maurer said...

Jim ... "I'm down on my bended knees..."

Nancy Thomas said...

I've been waiting for your commentary on these sad events, holding it all before God, under the mercy. In all of this, God is still sovereign.

Jody Rutherford said...

I came looking for guidance and found it. Thank you, Johan. Joining you in prayer.

Ann Holzer said...

Thank you, Johan wor your information and your guidance. Holding both Ukraine and Russia in the Light and special prayers for strength and courage for those who continue to seek peace.