The following article reflects the personal opinion of John Robinson and does not necessarily reflect the position of the Trustees, Staff/Personnel and Ministry Partners of Linguæ Christi.
As I began my February edition of Sprachspielen, I did so with the intention of writing just a very few, short lines explaining that I had taken a bit of a hiatus from this editorial in January and February due to my intensive travel and networking schedule during the corresponding period of time. I had also planned to mention my intention to continue in March the theme in Sprachspielen that I began back in November.
I fulfilled the intentions mentioned above for my February article, but as the Russian invasion of Ukraine had just happened, I also felt the need to mention the event, as I’d received a number of comments and questions from people about how those events might affect our ministry and my return to Europe in early April. I have had the privilege over the years to travel quite a bit in Ukraine, Russia and even Belarus, and I have a great affinity with that part of the world for reasons which are beyond me. These personal experiences are another reason why I was so very saddened by the start of the war in February, which prompted my adding a mention of Ukraine in my last article.
As I come to the writing of the March instalment of Sprachspielen, I feel that I need to change my previously mentioned plans yet again. The war that was only a few days old in my last article is continuing unabated even now. At the time of writing, we are now twenty days into a war that many expected to last only three with no foreseeable or peaceful end to the senseless violence, needless aggression, and great human suffering which this war has already caused. Consequently, as the depth of this humanitarian catastrophe unfolds before the eyes of the world and with the benefit of some time since the start of this illegal and immoral invasion of Ukraine by Russia, I want to change once again the direction of this month’s Sprachspielen, and I’d like to emphasise the word “action,” particularly relating to our response as Christians to the great tragedy of Ukraine at the moment, as well as other areas of hardship and war in the world.
Many of you, who are reading this article, are already doing many of the things that I am going to suggest here. Others of you, though, may be like many people who are watching and reading about what is happening in Ukraine, and you are simply paralysed with shock and disbelief that open warfare of this scale is happening once again in Europe. It is easy and understandable to have a bit of the “deer in the headlights” response, when confronted with the magnitude of this human and geopolitical tragedy. At the risk of sharing what people have heard elsewhere (I couldn’t imagine that I would have anything original to say in this regard) or are already doing, here are a few thoughts regarding the “action” that we can take in response to this situation.
The first and most important action that we can take is PRAYER. It’s odd that we as Christians often see prayer as a passive response. I suppose it is understandable that some people could have that impression, because while we are the ones praying, God is the one who acts in response to prayer. However, in terms of what WE can do, prayer should be our first act in response to the difficulties of this world, because it is by far the most powerful weapon in our arsenal. I realise that there may be some, who might be somewhat uncomfortable with my using military language in this description. However, it is important for us as followers of Jesus to remember that behind the terror and carnage that we see on the streets of Ukraine, there rages a spiritual battle, which is every bit as vicious and deadly, if not more so. We must use spiritual weapons (2 Cor. 10:3-4), which clearly are not as the world uses in physical war, in order to pray against the evil we can’t see, which is behind the evil that we can see. With that in mind, here are some focus areas for our prayers.
Following up on my previous point, we need to take Paul’s analysis in Ephesians 6:12 very seriously: “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” We must pray against the spiritual evil behind the practical evil which confronts us every day, but specifically in this current war in Ukraine. We must pray boldly for the power of the Holy Spirit and the righteous weapons of love, kindness, forgiveness, generosity, perseverance, courage, and others (such as Gal. 5:22) to vanquish the spiritual powers of evil and the wiles of the evil one himself. It is important to start here in our prayers.
Places & People
Here are some suggestions for the places and their peoples, which should be the focus of our prayers, as well as some bullet points for each.
Obviously, the first focus of prayer should be Ukraine itself. Ukraine is a free and democratic nation, which was illegally invaded by a country (Russia), which had actually pledged itself to honour and defend the sovereignty of their neighbour. The Ukrainians are clearly bearing the brunt of all the evil that is clearly apparent in this war. Here are some bullet points to remember in prayer for Ukraine:
- Pray for Peace in Ukraine.
- Pray for elected and other Ukrainian leaders, especially President Volodymyr Zelensky.
- Pray for Ukrainian soldiers, who are giving their lives to protect their people and Ukraine’s freedom and sovereignty.
- Pray for Ukrainian civilians, who seem to be the deliberate, military target of Russian forces
- Pray for those who have fled the country as refugees, seeking sanctuary in another country.
- Pray for those who are trapped or could not leave their homes, especially those in cities, which are surrounded and face daily bombardment.
- Pray for elderly, sick, and disabled Ukrainians both for those making the arduous journey to escape Ukraine as refugees and those unable to leave due to their condition.
- Pray for Ukrainian children, who have been physically wounded or scarred psychologically and emotionally by the war.
- Pray for Ukrainian Christians, both traditional (Ukrainian Orthodox and Ukrainian Catholic) and Evangelical (Baptists, Pentecostals, Non-denominational, etc.), as they try to give comfort and share hope, courage and new life in the Gospel of Jesus with their countrymen and women during this “dark night of the soul” of Ukraine.
It might sound odd, but we need to remember some important prayer points for Russia as well during this time. Because I’ve long had a fascination with Russia, its history, culture, language, etc., this has been personally disheartening to see Russia drawn into a disastrous and illegal war at the whim of one man with the support of his sycophantic cronies.
- Pray for Peace in Ukraine.
- Pray for God to intervene directly in the life of President Vladimir Putin in order to stop this war and begin to rebuild Ukraine as a nation and Russia’s appropriate place on the world stage. Pray sequentially for (1) his salvation in Christ and to show fruit of repentance, (2) a personal change or heart which translates into changed action, or (3) his removal from his position of power and influence.
- Pray for elected and appointed members of the Russian Senate, Duma and Council of Ministers that they would have the clear thinking, fortitude and courage to intervene in this situation and bring an end to this disastrous and illegal war.
- Pray for those in Russian media that they would have the integrity and courage to speak the truth about the war in Ukraine. The Russian people have been fed a steady stream of disinformation and propaganda for years, and Russian, state media has been complicit in this process. As of a few days ago it is actually illegal in Russia to report any news that does not conform precisely to the government’s position. It is even illegal to use terms like “war” and “invasion” to describe what the Putin government calls their “special military operation.”
- Pray for Russian soldiers and military leaders, many of whom are simply unwitting pawns in the prosecution of a war borne from Putin’s evil and vainglorious, personal aspirations. These boys are needlessly and futilely dying in their thousands as the aggressors in an unjust war. Many of them did not realise they were actually going to war, and those who did were faced almost immediately with the disillusionment of reality after years of disinformation from their own government. As the Russian military is already guilty of war crimes in Ukraine (and previously in Syria – lest we forget), pray for these soldiers to do the right thing in laying down their arms and that they would have the courage to defy immoral orders, which are in clear contravention of the Geneva and other international conventions. After the Second World War, the Nuremberg and other trials made it clear to the world and posterity that, “I was only following orders,” is not an acceptable or adequate defence for immoral acts committed by soldiers and officers in wartime. Such defiant actions will come at great cost to these soldiers, which is why we pray for courage and conscience at this time.
- Pray for the Russian people themselves, who frankly deserve much better leadership than what they have at present. Their country is quickly becoming a pariah state in the world, where Russians’ ability to move freely and to maintain their standard of living are quickly diminishing due to the necessary but damaging international sanctions. Pray that the people will be able to see and understand the truth (see my point about media above) of the situation and stand up for what is right, bringing a speedy end to hostilities in Ukraine..
- Pray for Russian Christians, both Orthodox and Evangelicals, that they would speak truth to power and minister to both the physical and spiritual needs of their own people, as well as the people of Ukraine. It is encouraging to hear of so many Russian Evangelicals, who contacted their Ukrainian brothers and sisters almost as soon as the war began in order to pray with them and express their profound grief at what is happening in Ukraine at the hands of Russian forces. Pray for Patriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church, who has so far been vocally supportive of both President Putin and the Russian “special military operation” in Ukraine, that he would have the courage and moral integrity to speak against this war, as many of his Russian Orthodox priests have already done.
Belarus is another player in this tragedy, acting as yet another pawn in Putin’s war against Ukraine. Whereas Russia has at least used the language of democratic processes, Belarus quite openly proclaims itself as the last, Cold-War style dictatorship in Europe. Belarus has been held in the iron grip of their dictator, Alexander Lukashenko, since 1994. Just as recently as 2020, after Lukashenko “won” the election “overwhelmingly” (amid evidence of clearly unfair election procedures), there were mass demonstrations, which were put down ruthlessly by Lukashenko with the personal support of Putin. To return the favour, Lukashenko is enthusiastically supporting Putin in his Ukrainian war by allowing Russian troops to invade Ukraine via Belarus. Everyone seems to have expected Belarusian troops to join Russian forces; however, that has not happened yet, due in large part to what amounts to a mutiny within the Belarusian military, who does not want to enter the conflict actively on Russia’s behalf. In fact, some sources would indicate that Belarusian private citizens are volunteering in large numbers to fight WITH the Ukrainians against the invading Russians. Here are some points to remember for prayer regarding Belarus:
- Pray for Peace in Ukraine.
- Pray for God to intervene directly and in a similar way in the life of President Lukashenko that he would withdraw his support of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
- Pray for the Belarusian military leaders who continue to defy Lukashenko by resisting the use of Belarusian troops in the conflict.
- Pray for the Belarusian people that (1) they will continue to withhold support for the war, and (2) they will one day be free themselves from the tyranny of dictatorship.
- Pray for Belarusian Christians that they too would continue to “speak truth to power,” to offer “a cup of water” in Jesus’ name in meeting the needs coming from this war, to be salt and light, and to proclaim the hope of the Gospel in what seems like a hopeless situation.
The events that are unfolding in Ukraine do not only affect Ukraine, or even Russia and Belarus. They affect the entire world. The degree of unity among the nations of the world in their condemnation of this illegal war and demand for peace and freedom in Ukraine has been encouraging and a bit surprising. Here are some bullet points in praying for other nations:
- Pray for the “front-line” countries of Romania, Slovakia, Hungary, Moldova, and especially Poland who are receiving the nearly 2.5 million refugees from the War in Ukraine, and the number of refugees is set to continue its rise over the coming weeks and months. Pray that they will have the resources that they need to welcome and assist so many people coming at one time. Pray also for Christians in these countries as they take a leading role in welcoming and assisting Ukrainians in need.
- Pray for the Nato nations of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, and Romania, who fear that a similar, Russian invasion of their countries is a real possibility.
- Pray for leaders of the major, world powers such as the European Union, United States, and China as they consider their next steps, which could affect the situation either positively or negatively. Pray that they would all work together to restore peace to the area as well as Ukraine’s liberation and return to autonomy.
- Pray for other nations of the world, where war and conflict is a current reality and one that has continued for some years in many places. Too often, when such conflicts go on for a long time and they are no longer constantly in Western media usually because another conflict closer to “home” has arisen, we forget about them. As we focus our attention on Ukraine right now, let us also pray for peace and freedom in on-going conflict areas such Afghanistan, Yemen, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Myanmar, and Syria just to name a few.
I do not say this to imply that prayer is not practical. Perhaps, “physical” aid would be more accurate. As we commit to the important work of prayer, we can add good deeds to our prayers, as the necessities and the situation merit our full participation to see that those needs are met, conflict is ended, and peace and freedom restored in Ukraine. Here are a few, very obvious suggestions.
One practical way to help is through financial giving or donating goods or supplies of a specific nature. A number of great organisations have pivoted to be able to concentrate on meeting needs at the point of those needs, when it comes to the conflict in Ukraine. There is not the space here for me to list each of these organisations, as they should also be easily found with even a cursory search on the internet. I would suggest that we take a look at the options and find a way to give/donate to help with very practical needs in this conflict. I would further recommend that when we find a few options that look promising, we do a little research/vetting to make sure that our gifts/donations make the greatest impact possible.
Get Personally Involved
There are a number of ways to get personally involved in helping with the horrific effects of this war. One of the main ways to get involved personally relates to meeting needs of Ukrainian refugees, who are now displaced in other countries. These could be front-line countries, i.e., those with a land border with Ukraine and the “first stop” for refugees, or they could be countries around the world who have offered to receive and house Ukrainian refugees. Here are a few specific possibilities:
Many organisations are now to the place, where they could use more volunteers, especially in areas that are entry points for Ukrainian refugees. If you’d like to give a week or two (or more) to go to one of these areas to volunteer your time and effort, I would think there is a need for it. If interested, check with your local Church or a missionary or humanitarian agency which is familiar to you to see if they have opportunities to help personally with needs closer to Ukraine itself.
Already in the EU and UK, Ukrainian refugees are arriving from the countries having a land border with Ukraine. It is only a matter of time, when countries further afield such as the USA, Canada, Australia, etc. open up to receive Ukrainian refugees. When refugees arrive in a new host country often with minimal or no language ability in the local language, they simply need a lot of help. They need help with knowing where to buy things, how to get around, location of schools (and how to enrol their children), hospitals and other services. They need someone to transport them around upon arrival to help them to do all of the paperwork and formalities that are a part of living with refugee status in another country. They need help registering with a doctor and dentist, setting up a bank account, etc. They also need people who will be a welcoming presence for them and available to them, when they need help or simply need some personal interaction and support. As refugees begin to come to your country for resettlement, take a moment to look for ways to volunteer your time and car to help them upon arrival.
Many countries, who are and will be receiving Ukrainian refugees for resettlement, are already developing strategies for private citizens to open their homes to these war refugees. This is a beautiful way of practicing the Biblical, Christian ministry of hospitality, which was such an important and even integral component of the life of the early Church. Again, if you feel that you can help in hosting Ukrainians in your home, it should be pretty easy to find the information in your country of ways to make your interest known to those making these arrangements.
Another way to help is by being an advocate. It is possible to use your voice and perhaps even your vote to influence the political leaders in your own country to keep as a priority the restoration of peace and freedom to the people of Ukraine. You can be an advocate for helping the refugees, as they seek safety in another country. You can use your voice and your influence and your time and your energy to work toward a resolution to this conflict that restores people to their homeland in Ukraine and Ukraine to its former state of democracy and development prior to the war.
There is a saying which seems appropriate here somehow, one that is often though erroneously attributed to Edmund Burke: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” There is something that rings true in it, especially in uncertain times or when faced with blatant and aggressive evil in the world. However, there are some words of Jesus that I think express the sentiment more powerfully and eternally.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.Matthew 5:9
I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.John 16:33
Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’Matthew 25:34-40