Ukraine: Between War and the Peace to Come


Ukraine: Between War and the Peace to Come

During the second half of May, I had the chance to spend a week in Ukraine. It was a tense time, right when Russian army attacks were escalating in the east of the country, especially in Kharkiv. Rumors of a possible world conflict were everywhere because some Western countries had decided to allow Ukraine to strike Russian territory with NATO weapons and who knows what else.

Amid this tension, I found a haven of peace with the twenty-five Oblates working in Ukraine. These brothers are present in nine communities, and active in eight parishes across six dioceses. They are there with the people and for the people, living in peace and as men of peace. Although they are not at the center of major events in Ukraine, they shine with the light of the gospel, like a lamp on a stand that lights up the whole house.

In the places I visited, I didn’t see the war directly. The war was hundreds of miles away, although the sirens that occasionally sounded and the frequent power outages reminded me that the situation was far from ordinary.

Lviv was one of the cities I visited. It’s a beautiful city where two Oblates take care of a parish. Walking through the city center, I found myself among many young people, couples, and the elderly. While the war isn’t physically present in Lviv, the pain is palpable: many young people from the city have lost their lives in the conflict. In the small village of Tyvriv, where I stopped for a few hours, the Oblate community has turned the old church into a memorial to honor Christian martyrs who died during the communist dictatorship. It’s a place to reflect on the evil that humans are capable of, not just atheists. Leaving this site, I pondered how truly living out the Gospel’s message directs Christians towards peaceful and non-violent paths. From here, too, the war feels distant, but the weight of history puts it in your blood and makes you question “the dehumanization of humanity.”

So, where is the war? People would say it’s at the front, in the country’s east. That’s where many young soldiers from opposing armies have died for the love of their country. But there is also a war in people’s souls because they are confused and angry, questioning the many deaths without the certainty of a political future, unsure of what to think about the continuation of the conflict.

If “peace is not just the absence of conflict,” as the conciliar document Gaudium et Spes states, then war is not just conflict and death. It is also a confusion of reason and judgment; it is not knowing which side to be on anymore. It is not understanding the history we are living in and, therefore, the very meaning of life.

The war will end, and peace will come, but it must be a peace with justice, some say. Justice for whom? For what? What justice, political justice?

Peace will come with justice or vice versa, when the beatitudes are the magna carta of our consciences. These are what make us “put flowers in guns and cannons.” These are what give meaning to history and to human life.

But do we Christians know this?

By Alberto Gnemmi, OMI – General Councillor for Europe

Published on the OMI World website