At the Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies in Cambridge, we have followed with growing sorrow and heartbreak the escalating war in Ukraine. We deplore aggression. We condemn as a great evil the targeting of civilians, especially women, children and the elderly or infirm, the razing of their dwellings and destruction of the whole fabric of their lives. It is especially painful that this is happening between Orthodox peoples in Orthodox countries and a scandal that it is taking place during Great Lent.
At the same time, we deplore the growth in indiscriminate anti-Russian sentiment across the world and in Britain. The actions of a political regime and its enablers must not be conflated with the entirety of the Russian people – many of whom are indeed victims of the regime – inheritors of one of the world’s richest spiritual and cultural traditions which is inextricably woven into the fabric of European culture, scholarship and science.
As a pan-Orthodox Institute, in the past two decades, we have welcomed Orthodox brothers and sisters from all over the world to study and research, enriching one another and together witnessing to the beauty and depths of Orthodoxy. We affirm the union of love that binds us to all former students, associates and colleagues; those fearing for their lives or forced to flee their homes, but also those isolated as a result of sanctions and the severance of connections with Russia.
There is no greater commandment than the one which Christ Himself gave us: that all of us may be one, just as Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one in the Triune God, so that the world may believe (John 17:21). We are shocked that a fratricidal war – the ultimate sin – could be seen as a legitimate solution to political disputes and we observe with anguish the silence of senior hierarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church in the face of their government’s spiraling aggression against the Ukrainian people, many of whom are members of their own flock.
How can we Orthodox profess our love in Christ when “one of these little ones” (Mt. 18:6) is killed by their brethren? How can we partake of the Holy Eucharist, knowing that our sisters and brothers who communed yesterday are being slain by those who partook of the same Cup? Indeed, each person killed, Orthodox or not, Christian or non-Christian, bears the imprint of Christ’s own face. How can we receive the Body of Christ, if we stay silent or avert our eyes while members of that Body kill or are killed?
It is Christ alone that we acknowledge as our Lord, and before Him all Orthodox urgently need to repent – as we are all members of that same Body. Heeding His call to union in love, we have no greater imperative today than to pray fervently that this war be stopped. And to reject the divisive rhetoric of nationalism and imperialism, wherever it may be employed, as alien to the Church of Christ.
We beseech the Archpastors and Senior clergy in Russia to join with Metropolitan Onufry of Kiev and All-Ukraine and call for the immediate end to all killing and destruction and we implore the Orthodox hierarchs, parishes and people in Britain likewise to come together in striving for peace and in common service to the needs of the victims of this war.
In a spirit of repentance, we pledge to promote, now more than ever, pan-Orthodox theological reflection, dialogue and action that can ultimately strengthen our wounded, grieving, and Holy Orthodox Church, for the life of the world.
The Board of Directors of IOCS