Sunday, April 21, 2024

On Ukraine and the Orthodox Church

“Breaking: Zelensky Announces he is banning the Orthodox Church in Ukraine”

I have a number of Russian and Ukrainian friends, and we all agree that the war in Ukraine is a terrible thing. As an Orthodox Christian, it saddens me especially, to see two Orthodox Countries fighting each other. Saddest of all is that this war didn’t need to be!

What I’ve come to understand however over my years both in politics and in the ministry is that I only know part of the story. I don’t want to discuss why the war is happening or stand up for one side or the other. I pray, as all of us should, for peace!

I’m puzzled however by the silence and apparent acquiescence of our president and political leaders as well as church leaders when I read the headline above.

Since before the war started in Ukraine, the Zelensky regime has been arresting priests, deacons and parishioners, confiscating churches and generally harassing Orthodox churches that have been in Ukraine since they were an independent country. This was not broadly reported, since initially, it seemed to be interchurch fighting between the Ukrainian church that had been there for centuries and in communion with the Russian Patriarchate, and the newly recognized nationalist Ukrainian Orthodox Church created by the Greek Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople (Istanbul) and supported by the West.

Now, what I would have thought would raise the ire of any democratically-minded people in the West, seems to be nearly completely ignored by journalists, politicians and religious leaders. In Zenlensky’s speech announcing the crackdown, he states, "It is necessary to create such conditions in which any figures dependent on the aggressor country will not be able to manipulate Ukrainians and weaken Ukraine from within."

This, of course, from the president of a country that just a few years ago had the reputation as the most corrupt country in Eastern Europe. How could Time magazine’s person of the year, the person that politicians on both sides of the political aisle in America have been holding up as a hero and champion of liberty, how is it that we let him slide when he closes a whole church in his country? Have we lost our minds? Where is the courage to speak up from our leaders? From us?

When this war broke out, many asked, “How should we pray?” One holy elder from Greece encouraged Christians to pray for both sides because atrocities in war happen from both sides. We’re seeing it now. Shutting down churches and places of prayer is not the way to stop the war. Remember our First Amendment freedom of religion! If we don’t protest this action by Zelensky, when will we see it happen in America? We need the courage to speak up, but most of all prayer and repentance.