As the Russian invasion sows pain and devastation in Ukraine and threatens to spread, other wars continue to claim victims in Syria, Yemen, Ethiopia, and elsewhere. Those who pay the highest price are most defenseless, especially children. Ordinary people want peace.
Now, more than ever, we dream of Isaiah’s prophecy: “They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; One nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again” (Is 2:4).
For too long here in Europe, we have taken peace for granted. War was the business of others, of distant peoples; we could forget about those wars, since we were involved in them only by the cries of refugees in search of a new hope.
We were perhaps insensitive to the pain of those people. Those wars are still there: Syria, Yemen, Ethiopia, and many others. People still flee those wars, just trying to stay alive.
Like night and day
Life, sometimes, changes suddenly. The night before the Russian invasion, crowds filled the streets and restaurants of Ukrainian cities. People tried not to think about the massing of Moscow’s troops on the border. No one imagined that the drama would come within hours.
The evening was filled with peace, yet the night brought outright war. The evening saw couples walking arm in arm, while the next day those same people carried rifles under their arms.
One young couple got married right after the invasion and enlisted to defend their country. Many children were taken out of Ukraine, as many others huddle still under falling bombs. It is a new slaughter of the innocent.
Near or far?
We have grown too accustomed to peace. We complain daily about so many petty things. But when war suddenly breaks out, we see clearly what is essential.
Peace is essential. Psalm 144 reminds us of this: “May there be no breach in the walls, no exile, no outcry in our streets. Blessed the people so fortunate.”
Now fighting has returned to Europe. We find ourselves afraid and distressed. For others, perhaps, this remains another distant war.
For Ukrainians it is in their land which someone wants to steal. For Europeans the war is close. The nightmare of nuclear war looms. Missiles could hit a nuclear power plant.
In the midst of this anxiety there is an outpouring of solidarity for those who have been attacked. Saturday morning’s Lauds reading says, “Relieve the oppressed” (Isaiah 1:17).
What can we do to help?
Ordinary solidarity and prayer
We want peace! We do not want the war of the powerful who aim to amass more power with the blood of others, even that of their own children, who are used, deceived, and sent to kill and die.
How can we stop this madness? Some resort to sanctions, others to weapons, and still others walk the path of diplomacy.
What can ordinary people do? Help out. Stand in solidarity with the Ukrainian people. And pray for peace.
Living in peace
Today, more than ever, we dream of another prophecy, in which enemies will finally live together in peace.
“Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat; The calf and the young lion shall browse together, with a little child to guide them” (Is 11:6).
Lord, give us peace!
With thanks to Sergio Centofanti and Vatican News, where this article originally appeared.