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'Hatred is being sown between our peoples': Russian church leaders urge for a ceasefire in Ukraine

by Tola Mbakwe

Hundreds of Russian church leaders have taken a stand against their country's invasion of Ukraine. 

Dozens of prominent Russian Evangelical church leaders have signed a letter, which condemns the "senseless bloodshed" taking place. 

It states: "No political interests or goals can justify the death of innocent people. Old men, women, children are dying. Soldiers on both sides are dying, cities and infrastructure are being destroyed. In addition to military targets, shells and bombs destroy hospitals, civilian buildings and residential buildings. Many people have become refugees, the war zones are on the verge of a humanitarian catastrophe. 

"In addition to bloodshed, the invasion of sovereign Ukraine encroaches on the freedom of self-determination of its citizens. Hatred is being sown between our peoples, which will create an abyss of alienation and enmity for generations to come. The war is destroying not only Ukraine, but also Russia - its people, its economy, its morality, its future."

Sergey Rakhuba, president of Mission Eurasia, which has been providing emergency support to people in Ukraine told Premier he's impressed that Russian church leaders are expressing their opposition to the war. 

"That's what we like to see more of, this is an unprecedented step of courage," he said. "They will be prosecuted, but they are stepping forward against this war."

He added: "In Russia, there is a huge division in the secular community, as well as in church, unfortunately. Some just took the position just to be quiet because it's dangerous today to talk. Russia is oppressing those who are showing opposition towards the current regime."

Meanwhile, more than 270 Russian Orthodox priests and deacons have signed a joint letter appealing for reconciliation and an immediate ceasefire in the war.

The letter takes a pastoral tone, highlighting the importance of repentance and salvation. 

It states:" We mourn the trial that our brothers and sisters in Ukraine were undeservedly subjected to. 
We remind you that the life of every person is a priceless and unique gift of God, and therefore we wish the return of all soldiers - both Russian and Ukrainian - to their homes and families safe and sound. 

"We bitterly think about the abyss that our children and grandchildren in Russia and Ukraine will have to overcome in order to once again begin to be friends with each other, respect and love each other. 
We respect the God-given freedom of man, and we believe that the people of Ukraine should make their choice on their own, not at gunpoint, without pressure from the West or the East.

"In anticipation of Forgiveness Sunday, we remind you that the gates of paradise are opened to anyone, even a seriously sinned person, if he asks for forgiveness from those whom he humiliated, insulted, despised, or from those who were killed by his hands or by his order. There is no other way but forgiveness and mutual reconciliation."

Very Rev Andrey Kordochkin, Dean of St Mary Magdalene Cathedral of the Russian Orthodox Church in Madrid, authored the letter and told Premier Christian News it was important for the gospel message to be at the forefront during these turbulent times. 

"We remind the state authorities of the fact that even if they avoid human judgment, they will not avoid the divine judgment.
"Our message was not to condemn, our message is not to judge," he said. "The message is to show the way to repentance and to salvation."

These letters come as the World Council of Churches called on the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow to demand an end to the fighting in Ukraine.

On day nine of Russia's invasion. Shelling has continued across the country including in the port city of Mariupol in the south-east.

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