East & West – Lamenting the Ukraine Crisis

East & West – Lamenting the Ukraine Crisis


A few days ago, I was standing on the Polish side of the Medyka border crossing with Ukraine and was watching small groups of people arrive on foot. Almost all of them were women with children, usually accompanied by a volunteer pushing a shopping cart that contained all of their their belongings. A man dressed as Santa was greeting children and giving out snacks and small toys. Most faces expressed a mix of angst, relief, and caution.


There are three and a half million of them, my fellow Ukrainians, who have already crossed several borders. Seven million more of my countrymen were forced to flee their homes but remain in Ukraine. I’m not sure what is causing me to lament more – the sheer scope of the tragedy, or the pain of individual stories that I see and hear every day.


Every single person in Ukraine, and probably every Ukrainian, regardless of location, is suffering. The only question is to what extent, and just how painful is the experience. Suffering at this scale is not new to this part of the world. Consider WWI, multiple revolutions, Holodomor (the forced famine in the 30s), the Nazi regime, WW2, the Holocaust, and 70 years of Communism. These and other events of the Twentieth Century brought innumerable suffering on many millions of people. Yet somehow, it feels like all this belongs to history books. Someday, this war that Russia started with Ukraine will eventually feel like that too, but not anytime soon.


How do we respond to a tragedy of this scope? Like Israel before us in the Psalms and the Prophets, we join in lamenting over the lost lives, lost health, lost relationships, lost opportunities, lost homes and possessions, and even lost toys. This can be a big deal for children. There is a lot I want to say about Putin’s evil regime and its inevitable collapse, Russian people’s responsibility, Western leaders’ fear and NATO’s weakness, and, yes, Ukraine’s own shortcomings and issues. But, I also want to say more about the hope I see as Ukraine emerges from this ‘valley of death’. I have hope that Ukraine will emerge even stronger and more free than before. There will be time for this, as well as for analysis and national introspection, and much else, but right now, I just want to lament, to ‘weep with those who weep’.

Ruslan Maliuta comes from Urkaine and currently serves as Network Strategist at OneHope, a global ministry that helps children engage with God’s story. He is also on the Global Leadership Team of the 4/14 Window Movement and serves on the World Evangelical Alliance General Assembly Committee. He is a co-founder and formerly served as International Facilitator of the World Without Orphans movement.


This Lenten season as we read the gospel accounts or listen to St Matthews Passion, we experience extra layers of pathos. As we lament the story of the unjust and violent sufferings of our Lord on our own behalf, we also lament the unjust and violent sufferings inflicted on our Ukrainian sisters and brothers fighting tooth and nail for freedom and justice both for themselves – mothers and babies, children and teenagers, fathers and grandparents – and for us as fellow Europeans.


We concur on behalf of suffering Ukraine as the Passion choir sings Christ’s lament:  The world has judged me deceitfully / With lies and with false utterance, / Many a snare and secret plot./ Lord, guard me in this danger, / Shield me from false deceits.


We weep with those who weep over the religious deception which has bred an unholy alliance of conservative nationalism, imperialism and militarism blasphemously robed in clerical garments. We lament having allowed our own national and ethnic identity to suppress our greater solidarity with God’s people, east and west, north and south, whatever ethnicity.

We lament the loss of life and limb of Ukrainian soldiers and civilians, of young Russian soldiers merciless sacrified to the gods of war, and the bereavement of all families broken by reckless barbarism. 


We lament having been wooed by those ‘defending the Christian faith’ against those of other race, culture and belief. We lament having allowed fear and hatred to eclipse love and forgiveness by nurturing the hurts of the past. We lament having forgotten the truth spoken by the Russian author Alexander Solzhenitsyn that the line dividing good and evil runs not between countries but through every human heart.


We lament our part in perpetuating the deep and ancient spiritual schism between the Church east and west – occasioned by an argument about the Godhead and a creed which for centuries united, but then divided, God’s people. We lament this spiritual faultline becoming a millennium-long source of ongoing cultural, political, economic and militaristic hostility, directly stoking today’s war.


We lament pursuing consumerist lifestyles of comfort and possessions, neglecting spiritual and moral values, while paying for Russian and Chinese autocracies, military build-up and genocidal campaigns.


We lament as Evangelicals where our absence from persuasion in the public square has allowed ‘European values’ to be defined by freedom to do what we want, rather than freedom to do what we ought; and for our western politicians and diplomats to impose on eastern Europeans such ‘progressive values’ in exchange for ‘club membership’.


We lament that we have allowed the one continent most shaped by the Bible paradoxically to have become the one continent most shaped by the rejection of the Bible.


Lord, have mercy on Ukraine, on Russia, on western Europe, on your Church, on us.

Jeff Fountain has lived in the Netherlands since 1975. After serving as European director for Youth With A Mission for twenty years, he established the Schuman Centre for European Studies. Among Jeff’s books are Living as People of Hope, and Deeply Rooted.

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