Major Archbishop Shevchuk appeals for solidarity with Ukraine
By Lisa Zengarini
In the aftermath of Russian troops entering the rebel-held territories of Donetsk and Lugansk in Eastern Ukraine, the head of the Greek Catholic Church in Ukraine, His Beatitude Sviatoslav Shevchuk, is calling upon all people of good will “not to ignore the suffering of the Ukrainian people”.
A threat to peace
In a statement released on Tuesday, the Major Archbishop of Kyiv-Halych warned that the recognition by Russian President Vladimir Putin of the independence of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk People's Republics “creates serious challenges and threats for the entire international community and for international law”. “Irreparable damage has been done to the very logic of international relations, which are called to safeguard peace and the just order of societies, the supremacy of law, the accountability of state powers, the defense of the human being, human life, and natural rights”, the prelate said.
Risks of a full-scale military operation
Recalling the “deep wounds” inflicted on the people of the Donbas region since the outbreak of war in 2014, Archbishop Shevchuk said that President Putin’s move has “destroyed foundational principles for a long-term process of restoring peace in Ukraine” and could prelude to a full-scale military operation against the Ukrainian people.
The duty to avert war
While stressing that defending the independence, territorial integrity, and sovereignty of Ukraine is a “natural right and civic duty” of all Ukrainian citizens, the prelate said it is also “the duty and responsibility of all humanity to actively work to avert war and protect a just peace”. Archbishop Shevchuk concluded his appeal imploring God's protection upon the people of Ukraine.
Catholics in Britain called to pray for Ukraine
A call for prayer and support has also been launched by the Ukrainian Catholic Bishop of the Holy Family of London. In a message issued on Monday, Bishop Kenneth Nowakowski thanked the Catholic community in England and Wales for its solidarity, while insisting on the need for calm and de-escalation. He asked Catholics in Britain to continue to hold Ukraine in their prayers so that “no more families have to mourn the loss of their sons and daughters in this war, both from the Ukrainian side and, of course, from the Russian side as well.”
Children affected by the conflict
The eight-year armed conflict in eastern Ukraine has taken a heavy toll on civilians, with nearly 3 million people relying on humanitarian assistance and nearly one million displaced. The resumption of a full-scale war would dramatically worsen the existing humanitarian situation. It would devastate already damaged civil infrastructure, further restrict peoples’ movements, block access to communities in need, and disrupt essential public services such as water, power, transport, and banking.
The most hardly hit by the armed conflict are children and elderly people. According to Unicef some 510,000 boys and girls need urgent humanitarian relief and nearly 430,000 have been psychologically scarred by exposure to war.
Up to 2 million people living in a 20-kilometre zone on both sides of the contact line are now under increased threat of violence and displacement. As shelling resumes the separatist authorities of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk People's Republics are encouraging women, children, and the elderly to leave and take shelter in neighbouring Russia.