My dear people of the Diocese of California, we know that all of life is deeply interrelated. And as we come to more intimately know and understand any person, any community, we come to care for, to love those people in a way deeply-inbuilt, human way. As Sheila and I have been watching with growing dismay and sorrow the rapidly-unfolding Russian invasion of Ukraine, I’ve witnessed Sheila become more and more overwhelmed with sorrow and shock. Prior to coming to California in 2006, Sheila led a wonderful global health institute at the University of Alabama, Birmingham, Alabama. One of Sheila’s closest working relationships was with a university and hospital system in Ukraine. I remember so well the warmth of the friendships that blossomed between Sheila and her colleagues in Ukraine. She came to appreciate their culture — music, food, customs.
I feel closer to Ukraine through Sheila than I would have otherwise, honestly. Yet I know that whether I feel a kinship with Ukraine (and with the people of Russia, too) or not, God has woven us all together. It is up to us to act with compassion and courage, with the tools of prayer, persistence in advocacy, and with reconciliation, in the face of either feelings like those Sheila has, or acting upon our faith in the Dream of God of peace for all people.
For my part, I welcome the use of sanctions by the United States and our Western allies as in accord with the practice of nonviolence. Sanctions are not pacifism, but such measures are meant to be distinct from and preferable to armed conflict. Sanctions are a kind of nonviolence. I urge you to follow the Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations for guides to ways we can be supportive in the public sphere.
In the words of Carl Daw’s hymn, let us pray together:
O day of peace that dimly shines
through all our hopes and prayers and dreams,
guide us to justice, truth, and love,
delivered from our selfish schemes.
May swords of hate fall from our hands,
our hearts from envy find release,
till by God's grace our warring world
shall see Christ's promised reign of peace. Amen.