A litany for Ukraine: Pray — and act — for peace

A litany for Ukraine: Pray — and act — for peace

(RNS) — One year has passed since Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, and nine years since Russian troops illegally annexed the Crimean Peninsula and the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

World leaders have marked this anniversary with offers to provide more military hardware and rousing speeches intent on battlefield victory. But as a Quaker and person of faith, I marked it with renewed prayers for peace and urgent action to end — not escalate — the war.

One year into the expanded war in Ukraine, it is clear a military approach will not bring peace. Tens of thousands of lives have been lost, millions of people displaced, and the potential for more widespread — even nuclear — conflict is increasing. Yet Congress and the administration seem unable to offer any response besides more weapons and more war.

In Congress, the options have devolved to either supporting endless military aid, with little monitoring or accountability, or cutting off all our involvement. The lack of political and moral imagination of our decision-makers to help end the war is more than disappointing. It is costing lives.

Even discussing the need for diplomacy and a political settlement to end the war is seen as politically dangerous by members of Congress. After a letter to President Joe Biden urging more robust diplomacy faced backlash last year, any congressional leadership pressing for an off-ramp from the conflict has disappeared. But a diplomatic solution is what this war — and the people of Ukraine and Russia — urgently need. 

Military leaders are acknowledging that a clear victory is unlikely and would come at continued cost. Yet Congress has appropriated $113.4 billion in aid to Ukraine, of which $67 billion is direct military assistance. And there is no end to the war in sight. 

The past year has proved clearly that more weapons do not bring peace. With each new tranche of military aid from the U.S. and NATO allies, Russia has responded with its own increased attacks and escalated violence. I hold in my prayers members of Congress and the administration who still think providing more weapons will bring peace. I urge them to act for peace and diplomacy. 

This war, like all wars, has shown us once again that meeting violence with violence only adds to human suffering and deepens the roots of conflict. On this anniversary, I hold in my prayers the Russian and Ukrainian soldiers, their leaders, the innocent civilians whose lives have been uprooted, nearly 8 million war refugees — most of them women and children — and local peace builders working every day to end the war. I commit to doing my part to support them for the long road to recovery ahead.

The longer this war persists, the more dangerous and costly it becomes. Russia has now brought to the fore the possible use of nuclear weapons and suspended its participation in the New START Treaty, a critical pillar of U.S.-Russia arms control.

I pray nuclear war will not happen. I support all those who are working to keep communication and diplomatic channels open between the U.S. and Russia. 

The more the U.S. and NATO allies focus on trying to help Ukraine win on the battlefield, without a clear diplomatic strategy to end the war, the further away from peace the world gets.

That is why, on this anniversary, I pray all parties to this war will seriously engage in robust diplomacy as a counterpoint to a military strategy. And I will be acting to urge my lawmakers to help end the war through diplomacy. The challenging work of peacemaking is that we must do it with our enemies, not just our friends. 

De-escalating the violence and ending the war through diplomacy will not be easy, but it is the only option that does not lead to even more devastation. 

As a Quaker, I am called by my faith to continually work toward the peaceful prevention of violence, resolution of conflicts and rebuilding of relationships. But you do not have to be a pacifist like me to see the dangers of the current course in Ukraine. 

Gen. Mark Milley, chairperson of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said recently the Ukrainian and Russian armies have fought themselves to a standstill. “There are some possibilities here for some diplomatic solutions,” he said on television. If as many people were as hard at work this past year to bring the warring parties around the negotiation table as those who have been working to support the military campaign, we would be at a different place now.

Bridget Moix. Photo via FCNL.org

It is past time to shift focus, attention and resources from winning on the battlefield to gaining long-lasting peace at the negotiating table. It is time for our leaders to start acting, not just praying, for peace. 

(Bridget Moix is the general secretary of the Friends Committee on National Legislation and leads Friends Place on Capitol Hill and the FCNL Education Fund. The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of Religion News Service. )   » …
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