Is love between Russia and the Ukraine not possible? Between Putin and Zelensky? Between brothers? Between the Russians and Ukrainians?
From a Christian perspective we always believe a change of heart is possible, even the most hardened hearts. This is what conversion is, turning around, looking at your “enemy” differently. Seeing in the other a child of God, whether he speaks Russian or Ukrainian. The other is another “me”: a human being created in God’s image and likeness. The culture may be different, the religion, the language, and yet we are united by a common bond of being children of God.
We have the same desires, don’t we? To be happy. To live in peace. To seek what is good for ourselves and others. To build community based on justice, namely, mutual respect, what is fundamental in human nature.
Where do humans go wrong? We should ask ourselves this because it happens all the time. Since we know what we desire as individuals, can we not build our communities on such desires? Ultimately, truth, goodness, and happiness? Is this asking for too much. Where do we break down?
When something goes wrong, we want immediate answers. A rupture in relations, whether personal, communal, transnational, “Whose fault is it?” We hear a story and repeat it. Or we kick off our shoes lie back on our lazy-chair and allow the news to feed us. And as we nibble and bite and swallow the news, daily habits of being informed, we realise who is at fault, who needs to be punished. We realise who the enemy is. We understand. Right? It’s repeated daily as I sit back and drink beer or wine or coffee and get the updates. We have the answers and explanations. That’s intellectual laziness.
And we convince ourselves, yes, the enemy needs to be punished, blown up to smithereens if possible. That’s what they deserve, him/her, them, “those” people, “that” country. Let them have it!
Certainly, if we look hard and honestly, we will discover how many of “those” countries in the world have a history of horrific crimes of genocide, of massacres, dropping Atomic bombs, blowing up abbeys, responsible for regime changes leading to exodus of refugees or migrants. Exporting/imposing the option of baby-killing, unnatural sexual unions, trans rights -- forms of neo-colonialism: telling others what is good for them, or what they must to do belong to a community, even if it violates God’s laws and nature.
Moral differences are reflected in cultural differences shaped by religions, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and so on. If we go back to our earlier premise that communities are built on mutual respect, then we need to be aware that imposing the Western agenda of bankrupt morality would be the cause of resistance by many nations. Even in the European Union Poland and Hungary have been sidelined and punished by Brussels because these two nations continue to defend and preserve traditional Christian values.
The Canadian PM displayed "democratic irony" when he travelled to Europe to express solidarity with NATO defending liberal democracy just after he refused to meet with truckers, failing to listen to the grievances his own citizens. Instead, he invoked an Emergency Act to clear out the convoy. Or the same Canadian PM refusing to lift travel ban on the unvaccinated in the name of “science” denying unvaccinated Canadians the right to even fly within their own country. When the Canadian PM preaches about democracy, what does it mean? Do people have a voice? Or does only the mainstream media decide what people think, how they feel, and how to vote?
Experience in human relations teaches us that conflicts in friendships and marriage, between communities and nations, the stories are never that simple. Listening is needed. Listening that seems to be difficult nowadays because people already have explanations, answers, and solutions, without even having listened to the “other side.” We are not expected to listen but just repeat the mainstream narrative. How can you have different perspective whether it’s Trump, vaccination, truckers in Ottawa, or Russia-Ukraine? There is only one way to react – without thinking or understanding: repeat what the main stream media repeats reinforced with social media supplements. Beyond that, shut your mouth.
Listening to RT (Russian Television) I heard a woman from the Donbas (southeastern Ukraine on the Russian border) speaking Russian, asking rhetorically, “Why should we join the European Union? Just so we can have LGBTQ activists on our border?” The woman lives by her Christian religion. And by her Russian culture. The eastern regions of Donbas which includes two independent states, Donetsk People’s Republic and Ludansk People’s Republic, are inhabited by a majority of people who speak Russian. When Vladamir Putin spoke of de-nazification of the Ukraine to justify the “special military operation” February 24th of this year, it was the people of the Donbas region whom he intended to defend and protect from “Ukrainian nazis.” The Soviet Russians had pushed the Nazis out of the Ukraine from the last Nazi-Ukrainian stronghold in early 1944. When I had visited Auschwitz I found it difficult to understand how an educated, cultured, and civilised people, could embrace Nazism with its brutal agenda. The Russians Soviets rid the Ukraine of the Nazi presence. But with radical nationalist military movements – namely the Azov Battalion -- “nazis” – continue to threaten the Russian-speaking presence on Ukraine’s eastern borders. Creating independent states of DPR and LPR was an attempt to bring some peace and security to the local population.
Ukrainians who are a Slavic people with the majority being Orthodox share a cultural resemblance to Russia far more than with the rest of Europe. Why would the Ukraine want to be part of the European Union other than US/EU meddling in Ukrainian affairs? Ukraine and Russia are brothers. When Pope John Paul II visited Kiev in June, 2001, in the prayer to Our Lady of Zarvaniza, the Pope thanked her for his visit to the “Kyivan Rus.’” The act of thanksgiving alludes to this historical relationship between Kiev/Ukraine and Rus’/Russia.
NATO is another way to provoke the Russians. Why is NATO even necessary? After all, with the “fall of the Soviet Union” the Soviet Pact countries no longer exist. Do we still need NATO forces? If the Soviet Union accepted the reality of the collapse of their “Empire” with the Fall of the Berlin Wall in November of 1989, leading to former Soviet bloc countries joining the EU, why the need to have a military alliance? And NATO membership has been increasing along with the EU. Is the Russian concern for regional security not legitimate? How did the US feel having Soviet missiles deployed in Cuba? That was enough to spark the Cuban Missile Crisis. The British PM, Boris Johnson, seems to forget that while countries have a right to their own future as he asserts with reference to Ukraine, neighbouring countries also have a right to their security as history teaches us. (Ironically, the British PM overlooks his back yard where Ireland had to fight a bloody war to achieve independence, and Scotland is still working on independence.)
Should the “respectable” democracies of the West not set an example of dialogue to achieve brotherly harmony. Instead, the Maydan protests in Kiev starting in late-November 2013 were backed by western interests to motivate the election of a pro-western/EU government. The Russian-backed president, Viktor Yanukovych, had been conveniently voted out of power. During the crucial political transition in Ukraine one is left to wonder exactly what role Victoria Nuland had to play, the US Secretary of Sate for European and Eurasian affairs, in Ukraine's new government.
There can never be justice without truth. Nor can we love our brother without seeking the truth. That is what we are lacking. Truth. The fight between the brothers could have ended long time ago. But when a stranger comes along and says, “I’ll back you up with lethal weapons to blow up your brother and so you can defend yourself,” well, the butchery drags on. In this battle I wonder who the real demons are. I respect both Putin and Zelensky. I love the Russian and the Ukrainian people. God has created us all in His image and likeness. But there are also fallen angels who have followers and will carry out the work of Satan. The great deceiver wins followers because people fail to use their intelligence.
At the end, truth will triumph and will have the last word. We live in hope, that goodness will prevail. And Christ gives us that hope.
O Blessed Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Zarvaniza,
I thank you for the gift of my visit to the Kyivan Rus’
from where the light of the Gospel spread through this whole region.
Here before your miraculous icon,
kept in this church of Saint Nicholas,
I entrust to you, Mother of God and Mother of the Church,
my apostolic journey to Ukraine.
Holy Mother of God,
spread your maternal mantle over all Christians
and over all people of good will
who live in this great nation.
Lead them to your Son, Jesus,
who is for everyone the way, the truth and the life.
Fr. David Bellusci, O.P.
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