For more than nine years, the Russo-Ukrainian war has been raging in Eastern Ukraine, having begun as a low level conflict between irregular paramilitary forces. Largely forgotten outside Ukraine, it has caused widespread suffering, and the deaths of numerous soldiers and civilians on both sides. Since the Russian invasion on 24 February 2022, the war has expanded, with massive attacks of regular armed forces, battles of relentless attrition in the East and with endless missile and drone attacks, many targeted at civilian infrastructure and housing. During this period opportunities for meaningful peace negotiations were missed.
The destruction of the Nova Kakhovka dam highlights the war’s consequences, not just immediately for Ukrainians living along the Dnipro River and for the people of Crimea, but also in its long-term damage to the ecology of the Black Sea region and the global food supply. In this context, an end to the fighting and destruction seems ever more unlikely, and reaching a peace settlement still more elusive. The inevitability of a long war appears to be accepted by many in Ukraine, Russia and the West.
Quakers have long believed war is wrong, and testified to this in the midst of the Second World War:
The savage momentum of war drags us all in its wake. … War is hardening our hearts. In such an atmosphere no true peace can be framed.
True peace involves freedom from tyranny and a generous tolerance; conditions that are denied over a large part of Europe and are not fulfilled in other parts of the world. But true peace cannot be dictated, it can only be built in co-operation between all peoples. None of us, no nation, no citizen, is free from some responsibility for this situation with its conflicting difficulties.
Now is the time to issue an open invitation to co-operate in creative peacemaking, to declare our willingness to make sacrifices of national prestige, wealth and standards of living for the common good.
Part of the passage quoted in Quaker Faith and Practice, 24.09, the original having been issued by London Yearly Meeting in 1943
As in 1943, we are mindful that war causes untold suffering to everyone caught up in the fighting or indirectly affected by it through higher energy and food prices. While fighting continues, we ask for the rights of all soldiers regardless of their nationality to be respected and that they be treated according to the Geneva Convention. No person should be tortured. The right of all conscientious objectors who refuse to fight should be upheld, and they should be given the opportunity of alternative service.
We call on the Ukrainian, Russian, British and all other governments, as well as international organisations, to create the preconditions for a just peace. This will involve planning the reconstruction of the areas devastated by the war and restitution and rehabilitation of the infrastructure destroyed and the rich farmlands damaged. At the same time, the world community should redouble its efforts towards cre-ating the environment in which a lasting cessation of the fighting can take place to enable negotiations for a just and stable peace. Such a joint effort should lead to a more equitable international order which will allow humanity to work together towards solving the existential threats of the climate emergency, a future pandemic and nuclear weapons.
Northern Friends Peace Board, Quaker Meeting House, 50 Silverwell St Bolton BL1 1PP
www.nfpb.org.uk 01204 382330
Charity: SC 024632