War has no face….
On November 24th, Fr. Andry and I, along with Viktor, a volunteer from the local charitable organization Deti Zaporozhya were visiting war refugees who have fled from Donetsk to Zaporozhye in search of safety.
Now today I am looking at photos of the refugee children. I see on their faces the signs of suffering from war. I see pain, and even through their smiles I see fear. They have been torn away from their homes, forced to flee with their parents. Thankfully at least they have living parents, for so many children have lost them to this horrible, politically suffocating war.
Ukraine began her Passion walk on November 21, 2013. No one could have imagined then that the gates of war would soon open in my beloved homeland. That day the capitol city Kiev was filled with so many people, mostly young people, who wanted to see their country free from government corruption. They were begging for a new foundation to be built – and not with the old, cracked cement of communism. They had nothing but open hearts and a great desire for change.
But change never comes easily. It seems always to come through suffering. That day young people were severely beaten by government security forces, the Berkut, for having such a bold dream of independence and freedom from the clutches of corruption. This day marked a refusal to be silent any longer. Ukraine was united in its fight for freedom against criminal gangs and mafia. Ukrainians called it a revolution for Dignity.
Yes, there is incredibly deep pain. I recall Jesus’ words that brother would go against brother, sister against sister. And our sister country, Russia, veiled herself in black, pretending to be invisible in the darkness. Her heart, beating at the center of the whole organism in the Kreml, showed itself to be a heart of stone. Surely it is still the heart of the red dragon that is not dead, but was only sleeping. Dangerous, like a cunning snake, it slipped into one of the most beautiful gardens of Ukraine – Crimea – and offered to all its poison fruit. Sadly, many chose to eat it.
Then the poison spread further, reaching the most vulnerable places in Ukraine where people, because they have known little of God, also chose to eat the poison fruit, for they have been poisoned slowly for so many years.
And yet there were people who looked to the Cross and knew and recognized the voice of the Good Shepherd, people who refused to be corrupted and remained faithful to their country.
Thousands of lives have been laid down for freedom as children of God, spilling the blood of martyrdom. So many have stood strong and continued to give everything, even their lives, so as never to resemble the country which has called herself our sister.
Men and women, young and old – we who call ourselves Ukrainians – have grown stronger because of one vital thing. We have begun to pray, to beg our Heavenly Father to come and change the face of the world. We have come to understand that peace and freedom are gifts for which we must pray tirelessly. We must care for one another, united in love and treasuring what we have.
Yes, there are many mixed feelings – how can we forgive this betrayal and who can repair the suffering and death of so many people? It is not yet over and Russia is calling on more troops and armaments. There will be no peace unless we pray for forgiveness and learn to forgive as Jesus did.
War has no face, and it is destroying the beauty of the face of a nation and its people. Only God can come and pour out the grace of reconciliation.
In the refugees, it felt like I was touching the wounds of Christ, seeing the eyes of Jesus. My heart was crying as I hugged and kissed the families and children who live in conditions that are indescribable. We brought bags full of food and other necessities. But after each visit, we were the ones who left with hearts filled beyond measure.
Lord, have mercy. Come rescue your little ones.