Christian leaders make urgent appeals for peace to prevail around Ukraine

(Photo: REUTERS / Baz Ratner)Fighters with the separatist self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic army ride on top of an armoured personnel carrier in the town of Debaltseve February 23, 2015. The German government is very concerned that there is still no comprehensive ceasefire in eastern Ukraine, more than a week after it should have taken effect, and urged Moscow anew on Monday to use its influence over pro-Russian separatists.

Church leaders worldwide from across the spectrum are urging caution and calling for prayers as news of a "mad progression" towards war comes from the Ukraine-Russia region.

Pope Francis and the World Council of Churches called for prayers and calm heads as global tensions ramped up due to Russia's troop presence on the border of Ukraine and Moscow's demands for the West to halt NATO moving eastwards.

Russia said it was watching with great concern after the United States put 8,500 troops on alert to be ready to deploy to Europe in case of an escalation in the Ukraine crisis, Reuters news agency reported.

More than 100,000 Russian soldiers are amassed along its border with Ukraine, and the country has announced plans for naval exercises along Ukraine's southern coast, said NPR.

Pope Francis has proposed Jan. 26, as a day of prayer for peace for Ukraine, and has expressed his concern over the increasing tensions that threaten peace and security in Ukraine and in the rest of Europe, Vatican News reported.

In his Sunday Angelus, June. 23, Francis expressed fears that a conflict between Russia and Ukraine could have wider security implications for the whole of Europe.

"I make a heartfelt appeal to all people of good will to raise prayers to Almighty God that all political actions and initiatives may be at the service of human brotherhood rather than partisan interests," he said.

Catholic bishops in Poland and Ukraine have also issued a joint appeal for dialogue aimed at averting a war from which there might be "no turning back," The Church Times reported.

Their statement reaffirms the Pope's fears in warning that any conflict will lead to "senseless slaughter" and be a "great threat" not only to the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, but also "the entire European continent".

"It is with concern that we learn the news that the recent rounds of talks between Russia and the West have not led to an agreement," they said.

Signatories of the statement include the Primate of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church and the President of the Polish Bishops' Conference.


"We want to underline clearly that every war is a disgrace and can never be an appropriate way to solve international problems. It never has been and it never will be because it creates new, more serious conflicts," said their statement.

In Geneva, World Council of Churches acting general secretary Rev. Ioan Sauca, on behalf of WCC member churches throughout the world, urgently appealed for peace for the people of Ukraine

"As we follow the news of the mad progression towards war, we plead for a different logic than one based on geopolitical competition – a logic that considers the death and suffering that any armed conflict would inevitably visit on the children, women and men of Ukraine,' said Sauca.

"We pray for a change of hearts and minds, for de-escalation, and for dialogue instead of threats.'

God's people – and members of the ecumenical fellowship – find themselves on both sides of the current confrontation, noted Sauca.

"But our God is a God of peace, not of war and bloodshed," he said.

"Though the things that make for peace may be hidden from the eyes of those driving the march to war, we pray that they may yet be opened, and that peace may yet prevail."

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