UN chief calls for Orthodox Easter truce in Ukraine war
By Robin Gomes
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday appealed for a pause in the Russian assault on Ukraine, in order to be able to open a series of humanitarian corridors to reach those hit hard by the war.
Hope of Easter
For Orthodox Christians who follow the Julian calendar, Holy Week this year began with Palm Sunday, 17 April, and will culminate in Easter on 24 April, the most solemn feast of all Christians that celebrates the resurrection of Jesus from death.
“Easter is a season for renewal, resurrection and hope. It is a time for reflection on the meaning of suffering, sacrifice, death — and rebirth. It is meant to be a moment of unity,” he told reporters at the UN headquarters in New York.
On the contrary, “This year, Holy Week is being observed under the cloud of a war that represents the total negation of the Easter message,” Guterres said standing in front of the “Knotted Gun” sculpture, symbolizing non-violence.
Horrors of war
He lamented that the intense concentration of forces and firepower of the Russian offensive in eastern Ukraine “makes this battle inevitably more violent, bloody and destructive”.
“The onslaught and terrible toll on civilians we have seen so far could pale in comparison to the horror that lies ahead. This cannot be allowed to happen,” the UN chief stressed, adding, “Hundreds of thousands of lives hang in the balance.”
The Secretary-General pointed out that “many good-faith efforts by many parties to reach a ceasefire in Ukraine have failed.”
Need for humanitarian corridors
According to Guterres, the four-day humanitarian pause during the Holy Week for Orthodox Christians, beginning on Holy Thursday and running through Easter Sunday, 24 April, would provide the necessary conditions to meet two crucial imperatives.
First, safe passage of all civilians willing to leave the areas of current and expected confrontation, in coordination with the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Second, beyond humanitarian operations already taking place, a pause will allow for the safe delivery of life-saving humanitarian aid to people in the hardest-hit areas such as Mariupol, Kherson, Donetsk and Luhansk.
With more than 12 million people in Ukraine deprived of food, water and supplies to treat the sick or wounded, the UN chief described the humanitarian situation as “dire”. The UN fears this figure could swell to 15.7 million, or 40 percent of people left in the country.
Silence the guns
“For all these reasons, I call on Russians and Ukrainians to silence the guns and forge a path to safety for so many at immediate risk. The four-day Easter period should be a moment to unite around saving lives and furthering dialogue to end the suffering in Ukraine,” said Guterres.
The UN chief concluded with a call to “all champions of peace around the world” to join his Easter appeal, in order to save lives, stop the bloodshed and destruction, open a window for dialogue and peace, and “keep faith with the meaning and the message of Easter.” (Source: UN News)