Churches' response to the effects of the war in Ukraine: Prayer for peace and practical solidarity
On Friday, 27 January 2023, the annual meeting between religious and political leaders of the European Union took place in Brussels. The event was hosted by Margaritis Schinas, Vice-President of the European Commission and Commissioner for the promotion of the European way of life. The event brought together representatives of the European Churches as well as of the Jewish and Islamic communities on the continent. The Orthodox Church was represented by His Eminence Metropolitan NIFON, Archbishop of Targovishte and President of the Representation of the Romanian Orthodox Church to the European Institutions.
This year's meeting was focused on the ongoing war in Ukraine and its effects on the lives of European citizens. Speaking on behalf of the Committee of Representatives of the Orthodox Churches to the European Union (CROCEU), His Eminence Nifon expressed his concern and sorrow at all the suffering caused by this military conflict to the millions of refugees in the conflict zone, but also to the hundreds of millions of European citizens, as a result of the energy crisis, the significant rise in prices and the accelerated widening of the social gap between rich and poor, at a time when economies were still struggling to recover from the two years of pandemic: "We are very concerned in our faith communities about the possibility of the misuse of theological language to justify or support military aggression, in stark contrast to the Christian call to be peacemakers."
Faced with these tragic developments the Romanian Orthodox Church, which find itself in the immediate vicinity of the conflict, reacted promptly, on the one hand by praying to God and making repeated public appeals for an end to hostilities, and on the other hand by an extraordinary practical mobilization, providing, since the first days of the conflict, assistance to hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian refugees who crossed the border into Romania, as well as organizing several hundred humanitarian convoys to various places in Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova. In this regard, His Eminence Nifon called for respect for the principles of international humanitarian law, especially by avoiding at all costs deliberate attacks on the civilian population.
"I strongly believe, however, that we should be hopeful that a peace agreement can be reached soon, but we must also be aware that the post-war reconstruction process will be a long and extremely difficult one, involving significant costs. In this context, the Churches are called to play a central role in the healing of memory and reconciliation," concluded His Eminence.
After having been held online for the past two years, this year's meeting resumes a long-established tradition of bringing together high-level religious and political leaders from across the EU for an open exchange on the pressing issues on the European social agenda and on possible solutions.