Refugees on the border between Moldova and Ukraine Refugees on the border between Moldova and Ukraine 

Today we have a choice of life or death for humanity

We are facing a war with unforeseeable consequences for the world. International condemnation of the Russian invasion of Ukraine is almost unanimous, but the bombings, even striking civilians, are becoming increasingly tragic. May the voices of peace grow louder and more widespread.

By Sergio Centofanti

Today, more than ever, humanity holds its destiny in its hands: it can choose life or death. This is the scenario: we are facing a conflict that could have catastrophic consequences for the world. Our hope is to see that those who started the conflict might find themselves increasingly isolated. Humanity wants to live.

In New York, the UN General Assembly overwhelmingly condemned the Russian invasion. In Geneva, almost all the representatives of the various states at the session of the UN Human Rights Council left the room when the speech of the Russian Foreign Minister began: a powerful image condemning the aggression against a free country as utterly out of date. Russia is being driven out of major sporting and artistic events, excluded from the systems of international finance and global transport. Unfortunately, the violence of the attack is becoming even more terrible and more frightening.

There is growing fear and grief among Ukrainians at the slaughter of innocents by the aggressor, but there is also growing courage, resilience, tenacity, the unity of a people and the solidarity of humanity. There is a hope that the cohesion of the Russian front will increasingly break down: many Russian Orthodox priests have openly denounced the war, as have Russian scientists, intellectuals, artists, and athletes. And there are those inside the country who continue to take to the streets to demonstrate against the conflict, at significant personal cost. We hope that these voices for peace will grow louder.

The regime is increasingly isolated. Unfortunately, the violence of the attacks is increasing. Civilians are bombed, residential buildings, schools, hospitals, churches are bombed. The International Criminal Court has opened an investigation into possible war crimes.

In this isolation, the threats are becoming more dangerous. The warnings echo, almost like blackmail: the risk of a nuclear war that would leave neither winners nor losers. The madness of war is truly diabolical: it desires only destruction.

The first reading for today – the Thursday after Ash Wednesday, in the Roman rite – recalls that man has the freedom to choose between life and death (Deut 30:15-20). We can obey the God of goodness and compassion or the idols of selfishness, pride, and violence. We will obtain what we choose. “Remember the end of your life, and cease from enmity,” we read in a passage from Sirach (Sir 28:6). The end is the eternal joy that God wants for His creatures. But we need to be converted to love and justice. We are free. We have life and death before us. Will we be so insane as to choose death?

Lent is a powerful time for conversion. A time for even more intense prayer. The citizens of Nineveh – it seemed impossible – confronted by Jonah's preaching, turned aside from their evil deeds, and found not destruction but peace. We hope that even today those who sow devastation will finally reject evil and choose life. We hope that we can all resist hatred. Today the fate of all humanity is at stake.

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03 March 2022, 13:27