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Clergy letter

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ
Two weeks ago Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury spoke these words on BBC4’s Thought for the Day: ‘To wake up to the news of war is terrible. But to wake up to its reality is orders of magnitude worse.’ And in the hours since he said those words, we have all been witnesses to the most appalling of scenes from the war in Ukraine brought to us by the world’s media outlets, it's correspondents and private individuals filming on their mobile phones.
Ever since I read the archbishop’s Thought for the Day I cannot forget the image he used of Shakespeare’s Marc Antony, following Julius’ Caesar’s assassination crying: ‘Havoc! and let slip the dogs of war.’
The chaos, destruction and panic that has befallen Ukraine over the past week is unparalleled, at least in Europe, since the unimaginable harm and hardship of World War 2.
And while Marc Antony’s reaction might have at least been partially understandable in the sense that he responded emotionally to a heinous crime committed – there has been no such crime committed by the people of Ukraine! Their only ‘mistake’, since the country came into existence after the fall of the Soviet Union 30 years ago, has been the desire to determine its own future by means of a democratic way of life. And apparently that was enough to provoke the war dogs to attack and cause havoc.
And so we ask ourselves - Where is God in all this? And how can our faith and the Bible help us to make sense of these appaling scenes?
My answer would be - right in the midst of it! Because I cannot read the Bible without being suprised, time and time again how many people ther were who, despite being surrounded by similarly violent and scary situations persevered in faith and loveand especially in HOPE! A hope that rests not in the strength of rockets, guns or superior firepower (or as the Bible puts it, 'in a horse or the legs of a warrior' (Psalm 147:10) – but a hope that is rooted in the unshakable trust that comes from knowing that we are held, as archbishop Welby said, in God’s eternal arms.
I believe for many people in Ukraine it is that knowledge that allows them to be brave and to stand side by side with friends and strangers against this evil that has befallen them.
But I don’t think it is just the people of Ukraine who are encouraged by that divine embrace which emboldens the Biblical characters such as Abraham, Moses, Jacob the disciples and especially Jesus himself.
We too are able to act boldly and bravely in solidarity with the people of Ukraine. Because it is that eternal embrace of God which gives us ‘the peace of God which passes all understanding’  (Philippians 4:7) – a peace that we can experience even when we are in the midst of the most terrible situations.
The apostle Paul in his letter to the Romans puts it this way (Rom 8:38): ‘And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.’
So, I encourage you, as we journey into Lent to heed the call by our two archbishops, the Pope and coutless other religious leaders around the world, to hold up in prayer the people of the Ukraine, in order that the swords of war which have befallen them will soon be turned into ploughshares of peace. Let us pray:
God of peace and justice,
we pray for the people of Ukraine today.
We pray for peace and the laying down of weapons.
We pray for all those who fear for tomorrow,
that your Spirit of comfort would draw near to them.
We pray for those with power over war or peace,
for wisdom, discernment and compassion to guide their decisions.
Above all, we pray for all your precious children, at risk and in fear,
that you would hold and protect them.
We pray in the name of Jesus, the Prince of Peace.
Yours in Christ,