As I look around, I see some part of the world awash in a blue and gold filter. Since Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine on February 24, I’ve seen masks, and potholders, and, prayer shawls, all intending to signal solidarity with a country whose peoples, sovereignty and welfare has been irrevocably violated.
I pray daily for the peoples of Ukraine, Russia and Belarus. The Ukrainian people did nothing to bring this calamity upon themselves, and they are my first concern.
But I haven’t picked up any flag. I fear that the widespread adoption of colors starts to look like a team affiliation — complete with merch, scorekeeping and rivals. I’m concerned that once the breaking news goes to the next host spot, the groundswell of outrage will follow. Or that after pumping weapons to a traumatized population, we’ll look into the human rights and corruption records of this nascent democracy, struggling to free itself from Russian interference, and decide to trade in the blue and gold.
As the Episcopal branch of the Jesus movement in this country, we enjoy both the freedom of being a non-established church, and the responsibility of our baptismal vows to seek and serve Christ in all people. That includes the more than two million Ukrainian refugees, mostly women and children, who are fleeing tanks and bombs. It includes the many men (and women) who have been conscripted into military service in Ukraine, and will die fighting for their freedom. It includes the sexual and gender minorities who struggled to find a place in Ukrainian society.
And our care and concern must also extend to the countless Russian soldiers who were misled about their deployment, and to their families whose news sources may be limited to official propaganda. Our solidarity must extend to the Russian protestors who have been imprisoned by the thousands, and may be tortured or killed for their defiance and demonstrations of courage. And it should also extend to the victims and perpetrators of state-sponsored violence elsewhere around the world, much of it hidden from the public eye.
Our care and concern are not limited to prayers, and may be best expressed in some act of generosity toward the people most impacted by the war. One recommendation is Episcopal Relief and Development, and you can learn more about ERD’s partners on the ground.
Our Episcopal-Anglican tradition has carried the mantle of being the via media, the middle way, historically between Catholicism and Protestantism. I think that could extend more broadly to a mean between other extremes, and to a commitment to wrestling with history, including our own country’s complicated involvement in it. In the end, we have to be a church in the way of Jesus, a people seeking the Risen Christ, who promises life abundantly. That life knows no borders, and carries no flag, but follows the way of the cross as the way of peace.
All good things,
The Rev. Canon Anna E. Rossi
Director of Interfaith Engagement