by Malkhaz Songulashvili
Many of us did not believe that Putin’s Russia would attack the coreligionist country of Ukraine. Now worst fears of brutalities and atrocities are coming true. The war as an organized mechanism of murder has been brought to motion. For me as a Georgian this war reopens some wounds of unhealed memories of Russian invasion of Georgia in 2008: deep feeling of helplessness, humiliation, and disappointment in humanity. The same scenario, same tyrant, same lies, same venomous rhetoric. 25th of February is also the day when Georgia mourns its fallen at another invasion of the country by the Russian troops in 1921.
Ukraine has been dragged into in the fratricidal war. The future of our civilization in Europe and beyond now depends on the courage, bravery, and strength of the Ukrainian people. It is our duty as people of all faiths or none to support them.
Our support will require clarity, sacrifice, resiliency, and intentionality. Clarity in our words to speak out against the injustices of war and the lies of leaders who care only for power. Sacrifice of our need to protect only ourselves. Resiliency to not give in when the days grow long and our souls become weary. Intentionality to pray continually for peace and to put our prayers into action.
We are calling our fellow Ukrainians, Russians, Europeans, Americans, and others to pray for peace. We suggest that every day at 7 am and 7 pm we meet in our churches, temples, synagogues, mosques and offer our prayers for peace. If we cannot meet in the houses of worship we should meet in our homes for prayer. If we are not allowed to pray openly for peace let us pray in the sanctuary of our heart. It is essential that we do not succumb to the fear of the murderous forces. The ambition of one single person inflicts suffering on tens of millions of people, animals, birds, and of course the mother earth. This is a suicidal attempt to push the whole of creation towards unprecedented disaster.
Praying is essential but this is not nearly enough, the prayer should be accompanied by action and this action will become a prayer itself. “I felt my legs were praying,“ wrote Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel after the protest walk to Selma. Similarly we need to be engulfed into prayerful action:
If we can use our hands to stop the war, we should use our hands,
If we can use our brains to stop the war, we should use our brains,
If we can use our voice to stop the war, we should use our voice,
If we can use our resources to stop the war, we should use our resources,
If we can use our time and energy to stop the war, we should use our time and energy.
While striving to stop the war we should also need to commit ourselves to show compassion to the innocent people who have already been afflicted by the war: children, elderly, refugees from either side of cruel divide. There is no mother, no parent wishing to see their children brought in bags from the battlefields, there are no children wishing to see their parents dead. It is in such a time when our true identity is tested: who are we, what are the values we affirm, does justice and fairness mean anything to us. We need to be compassionate towards the suffering of the creation and all its members if we want to maintain human dignity.
It is indeed the time of sadness, frustration and anguish. But these circumstances should never blind our perspective that in the end justice will prevail, hatred and lies will be defeated, love and compassion will definitely win. It is essential to believe that forces of darkness and stupidity will fail. It has always been the case, it shall always be the case. Therefore, let us heed the words of the prophet Amos: “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”
Peace Cathedral, Tbilisi, February 25th, 2022