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Bishop Richard's Weekly Video Message - Transcript 24/02/2022

Hello everyone and welcome to this week’s video. 

I had had something I’d left to broadcast while I was on holiday, but with the events in Ukraine playing out on BBC news behind me it seemed this was more important.  I hope you will forgive the non-clericals as I’m currently in an Airbnb in the Peak District!

I’m sure the Western instinct to minimise our military involvement and concentrate on punitive economic sanctions is the right one. Violence nearly always begets more violence. Whilst it is hard to see what on earth Putin is playing at, none the less we must try to understand his motivations. There is an idolatrous nationalism at work, without doubt, a hankering back to time of power under the Soviet regime and the Russian Empire that preceded it. It’s an attitude that finds it very hard to recognise new regional aspirations.  There is a sense of betrayal over the abandonment of old alliances and relationships as they see it. The decolonisation of the British Empire wasn’t that different.

But there is also insecurity borne of hundreds of years of bitter experience. 26 million Russians and Ukrainians perished in WW2. Perhaps that makes it hard to trust western assurances of non-aggression. The current situation shows what happens when dialogue breaks down.  Attempts at mutual understanding are replaced with circular conversations, each reinforcing a particular point of view.  We see the same principle played out on our social media every day, fortunately without the threat of nuclear weapons. This is a desperately awful situation.

I hope we will all feel led to pray as our first response. Can I suggest we all pause at 6.00 pm each day until there is a resolution, for as long or short as we feel able to bring this crisis to God. I was at a meeting with my friend the Bishop of Europe earlier on this week and he has been in contact with their congregation in Kyiv. They are calling a diocesan time of prayer next Tuesday at 6.00 and it will be good if we can show solidarity with them.  It goes without saying that we will be including it in our intercessions in Church this Sunday.

The Country is now under martial law and to bring it home to us members of that Anglican congregation are being mobilised for military service. Jesus in the Lord’s Prayer invites us to pray, “your kingdom come.” It presupposes God’s kingdom is not yet here in all its fulness. A glance at the news behind me makes that glaringly obvious. It also makes the extraordinary assumption that this prayer might make a difference.

An offer to pray shows our solidarity with those who suffer, but it does more than that. It trusts that God is still at work in the world and that somehow our prayer co-operates with that in effecting changes in circumstances. So, ‘let us pray’, bring peace and justice, protect the weak, restrain the men of violence, let diplomacy succeed and loves be protected, and may this conflict lead in the end to greater understanding and true peace, not bitterness and further conflict.

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