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Welby calls for future ‘just and stable peace’ on first anniversary of war

24 February 2023


Paper angels — one for each of the 461 children that have died in the war in Ukraine, according to the official statistics — hang from the roof of the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral in London, during an ecumenical prayer service on Friday

Paper angels — one for each of the 461 children that have died in the war in Ukraine, according to the official statistics — hang from the...

THE Russian invasion of Ukraine — which began a year ago on Friday — was a “monumental act of evil”, the Archbishop of Canterbury has said. But he dared to imagine a future with “a just and stable peace [and] a free and secure Ukraine”.

To mark the anniversary, cathedrals are reverting to the yellow and blue floodlighting used in the early days of the war, and churches are holding prayers, vigils, exhibitions, and displays of solidarity.

Speaking on Radio 4’s Thought for the Day on Friday morning, Archbishop Welby reflected on a year having passed since “the thunder of war descended on an innocent country”.

He noted that Ukraine had been at war since 2014, fighting over regions in the east of the country, but that 24 February 2022 marked the “general invasion of Ukraine” by Russian troops.

Drawing on the story of the Good Samaritan, he reflected on the part that the UK plays as “neighbour” to Ukraine. “The challenge from Jesus is that a neighbour is the one who shows love in action. Will we continue to show love in action for Ukraine?”

Doing so, he said, “will cost us, and we may be thankful that it costs us only money, not lives”.

Archbishop Welby also referred to Russia as a neighbour: “What do we do when a neighbour is wickedly attacked, and the attacker is another neighbour?” he asked.

He suggested that the “hardest” thing was to “dare to imagine a seemingly impossible future”, achieved “in partnership with the oppressed, truthful but not hating the oppressor. There must be a future with a just and stable peace, a free and secure Ukraine, and the beginning of a generations-long process of healing and reconciliation based in truth.”

A year ago on Friday, hours after the news of the invasion had broken, Archbishop Welby delivered an unscheduled Thought for the Day, saying: “To wake up to news of war is terrible. To wake up to its reality is orders of magnitude worse” (News, 24 February 2022).

In an article in The Telegraph this Friday, Archbishop Welby writes: “The Russian decision to invade Ukraine was a monumental act of evil. It was a sentence of exile to 18 million Ukrainians — eight million of whom are still refugees. . . It was also a death sentence for thousands of civilians: 200,000 Russians and more than 100,000 Ukrainians.”

He reflects on his visit to Ukraine last year (News, 30 November 2022): “The Ukrainian defence is one of the most heroic examples of courage and improvisation since the British at Dunkirk. Ukraine has paid with the lives of its soldiers and civilians for the security of Europe.”

He emphasises, however: “We are not at war and do not desire war with Russia. Our commitment to Ukraine’s defence is in money, not the lives of our soldiers, and is necessary and right if we want to avoid harder choices.”

It is important, therefore, to “match” support for Ukraine with “investment in peacebuilding engagement and strategy”, he writes. “Provided a just peace between Russia and Ukraine can be achieved, there must be a security structure that makes another war unlikely. Russia cannot end up like Germany after 1919; it must be able to recover and be secure without being allowed to repeat its aggression.”

In a column published in the Yorkshire Post on Friday, the Bishop of Leeds, the Rt Revd Nick Baines, argues that President Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine could not be understood merely in secular terms.

“Putin sees himself as the latest and greatest Vladimir who is destined to bring back together the three elements of Holy Russia [modern-day Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus] which have been disintegrated by a Ukraine that had no right under God in declaring any sort of independence,” he writes.

Russkii mir, or “Russian world” ideology has been condemned by many Orthodox theologians as “false teaching” (News, 25 March 2022).

In April, the Rector of a Russian Orthodox Church in Oxford, Archpriest Stephen Platt, told the Church Times: “The idea of equating a spiritual heritage of different peoples, who are distinct, to a political system which would seek to amalgamate them into one secular power, is mistaken” (News, 8 April 2022).

Bishop Baines, who is the C of E’s lead bishop for international affairs, warned of mission creep in the UK’s support for Ukraine: “The original rationale behind the West’s response was purely to enable Ukraine to defend itself against military aggression. That is now beginning to creep into enabling Russia to be defeated. . . How the move from ‘enabling defence’ to ‘defeating the enemy’ is handled will be vital as the uncertainties of other factors proceed.”

To find a lasting peace would, he suggests, require us to “look further back and further forward than we in the West are sometimes wont to do”.

At a virtual meeting of G7 leaders on Friday afternoon, the Prime Minister was expected to call for Ukraine to be supplied with longer-range weaponry so that they can target Russian infrastructure behind the front line.


ON FRIDAY morning, the Archbishop of York wrote on Twitter: “It’s a year since we saw the invasion of Ukraine and the start of a war that has brought so much pain and suffering. Let’s continue to pray for peace and not tire of showing support and compassion to all those affected by the horrors of war.”

Also marking the anniversary with a post on Twitter, the Suffragan Bishop in Europe, the Rt Revd David Hamid, wrote: “A year of pain & death has been inflicted on brave Ukraine. Our Lady proclaimed the mighty would be put down & the humble exalted. We pray to her Son to end the aggression and turn the hearts of those bent on war & bring peace.”

In a statement marking the anniversary of the outbreak of war, Christian Aid thanked supporters in Britain for their generosity. The charity’s chief executive, Patrick Witt, said: “It is thanks to the solidarity and generosity of the British public, our support for Ukrainian people can go beyond the basics of food and shelter.”

The statement said that Christian Aid had delivered £10-million’s worth of assistance to more than 770,000 people affected by the war.

Funds are being raised through the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), of which Christian Aid is a member. The chief executive of the DEC, Saleh Saeed, said: “These funds have meant that we’ve been able to respond at every stage of the crisis and will continue to do so over the next two years as new challenges arise and needs continue to change. It’s making a huge difference to people who are going through the worst time of their life. Thank you.”

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