I have never known war or violence. I have lived in these British Isles for seventy-five years and have only known peace. There have been wars all during my lifetime but always somewhere else and far away. Even the ‘Troubles’ of Northern Ireland seemed very far away, though they were just across the sea. That was part of the problem. Ulster was for many of us ‘a far away country of which we know little.’ England’s knowledge of Ireland has always been wanting.
When war did involve this country, the UK, it was still far away, down in the Falkland Islands, which many of us had never even heard of, though they were part of our empire. Then, of course, came the Iraq War, a foolish and reckless decision, made in harness with the Bush administration, which had allowed itself to become addicted to revenge. Somebody was going to pay.
There are many wars around the world to this day that I am not even aware of. But now we have Ukraine, and now my peace is truly disturbed. What kind of man is Vladlimir Putin? In the early days his appearance seemed pleasant enough, but appearance is all we ever knew. Knowledge was missing. His regime is one marked by imprisoning of opponents and poisoning of enemies. It would appear that in the name of exercising control over his country he has crossed the line into cruelty and injustice. Mind you democracies can do that as well. Think of the Birmingham Six.
We are fearful now that this war in Ukraine might escalate. The longer it goes on the greater the risk for all of us. The Great War was such a shock that it was called the war to end all wars. The Second World War was a continuation of the first, unfinished business reignited. The end of the Second World War did not bring peace as such, but a cessation of hostilities and the growth of the Cold War.
The Cold War has been the background of my lifetime. We feared Russia just as Russia feared us. We relied on mutual deterrence to keep us all from greater disaster. The eventual break up of the Soviet Union only unleashed uncontrolled greed to gather the spoils, and then the rise of Putin to bring order again to a fallen power.
You can see the reason for Putin’s alarm: All those former satellite states that have since joined Nato. It doesn’t look good from where Putin sits. He has warned the West to keep out of this. His expedition into Ukraine is a local matter between neighbours. Clearly Nato exists to defend its members against the threat of Russia. That seems to be at the heart of the problem. The confrontation between the West and Russia has been allowed to worsen. We are in danger now of deepening the alienation of Russian people by our sanctions policy. What can we do?
The Lord faced enemies all through his life. At a certain point they had made the decision to get rid of him, to kill him. He called them out on this. He also faced them calmly and spoke with them and to them honestly and firmly. But he never insulted them or tried to wound them. He spoke the truth to them straightforwardly.
In the world you will have trouble he told his friends, but be brave. I have overcome the world. So all our lives long we will have to deal with difficult people and difficult issues. The Lord is our example in how to do this. It will involve suffering. It always does.
This is a testing time. It needs our best selves: To persevere in goodness through it all.
25 March 2022