Russia’s aggressive war against Ukraine has destabilized the decades-old position of peace politics for many Catholic Christians. But in light of the global situation, the yearning for peace no longer precluded the demand for military support.
For decades, the days of the Catholic Church were the lofty position of peace politics, and a disguised plea for peace without weapons as the only solution. Putin’s aggressive war against Ukraine shattered this certainty. One moment that made this clear was the “Sharing Life Is Sharing Sorrow and Hope” peace walk in Castle Garden on Friday.
On stage, Inna and Gisela described her escape from Bucha, who became known through Russian atrocities. There she stayed in a supermarket with her 14-year-old daughter, Sophia, in the basement. Then she veiled her daughter so that the Russian soldiers could not recognize her as a little girl and dared to flee, hoping that the soldiers would not shoot her in the back.
Bucha horror photography
Ina and Geziloua said everyone wished for peace. She stressed that in Bucha, “the dead and the rapists could have been avoided, but we had no weapons.” Like some other Ukrainians, she added a request to hand over heavy weapons to her country with protest panels in front of the Kirchentag Theatre. In the future, she hopes that no child like her daughter will have to “walk among the corpses” in war.
Ermi Stetter-Carp, chair of the Central Committee of German Catholics, explained in her speech that this war is also forcing Christians to “rethink the previous ethic of peace.” According to the police, Stetter-Karp was not the only one of the approximately 1,500 marchers who fought back tears and their voice faded in “mourning for the many deaths and accidents” in Ukraine. Many of the attendees showed their solidarity by wearing the Ukrainian national colors as well as the red Church Day sash.
A forced change of position is painful
“Kirchentag turned blue and yellow,” said Andreas Gref, who came from Ahln in Westphalia with his wife Andrea. The 59-year-old, who wore the national flag of Ukraine in the form of a headband, admitted that the change in attitude was causing him “emotional problems”. But since Vladimir Putin seeks to “eliminate an entire culture”, Andreas Gref sees no other way than to “confront” this. But he admitted: “It hurts me.”
Stanislav Shirokoradzhok, the Catholic Bishop of Odessa, described the situation in southern Ukraine in a video. In the face of rocket fire and bomb blasts, one encounters “day and night air raid alerts.”
Creating peace through more guns?
The subject of peace politics was also the subject of a panel discussion entitled “Peace under threat – Freedom under threat” in the morning at the House of Economy. Former Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlov Klimkin said that in Germany “one should not misunderstand pacifism”. Even if you are for life and against war, you need to realize that in Ukraine at the moment “weapons save lives”. Andrei Waskovich, Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid at the World Congress of Ukrainians and long-time president of Caritas Ukraine, said the current humanitarian crisis caused by the extreme cruelty of the war there “can unfortunately only be eradicated with weapons.” Faced with Russia’s hybrid war, which also uses energy supplies, food security and immigration as a weapon against the West, he warned against pushing Ukraine “to make concessions because war is uncomfortable for other countries.”
Rebecca Harms, a former MEP for the European Parliament, sees this danger in Italy’s recent negotiation proposal, for example. “The West cannot afford war,” which is why many countries “did not want to take responsibility for tougher but better solutions.” The fact that now the reference is made again to the Minsk Agreement, which did not even lead to a ceasefire, shows that many still do not understand the actions of dictator Putin. Harms said that the “appeasement path” with early concessions with Putin would at best lead to “things going again after a few years”.
Reconciliation is out of the question at the moment
Archbishop Bohdan Dzyorach, Apostolic Emissary to the Ukrainian Catholics of the Byzantine Rite in Germany and Scandinavia, who prayed for peace with Bishop Gebhard Fürst in the palace garden, stressed earlier in the discussion that churches should also contribute to “reconciliation” between Ukraine and Russia. However, Pavlov Klimkin made it clear that this is unthinkable with “Putin’s Russia”.