The Church of the Brethren’s Office of Peacebuilding and Policy signed on to an April 6 letter to President Biden, that was sent cooperatively with several other partner organizations. The letter called on the President to “think creatively about how to end this catastrophe rather than maintaining it through violence and escalations” and offered “examples of creative, courageous nonviolent resistance.”
The full text of the letter follows:
April 6, 2022
As national faith-based organizations and leaders, we urge you to think creatively about how to end this catastrophe rather than maintaining it through violence and escalations.
The war in Ukraine is a spiritual, human, and ecological catastrophe. We have failed to create the social conditions for the prevention of large-scale violence. We have failed to escape the cycle of threats, blame, and retribution which escalates hostility and distrust. We have failed to acknowledge the relevant root causes and acknowledge responsibility for harm from key stakeholders. We have failed to engage diplomacy focused on the dignity and human needs of the key stakeholders, with a willingness to compromise, and a focus on saving lives. We have failed to adequately train people in nonviolent conflict, resistance and civilian-based defense. Let’s not make these mistakes again.
We urge you to amplify the courageous and creative actions of nonviolent resistance being done in Ukraine, Russia, and elsewhere (see examples below). Like the Alliance for Peacebuilding, we also urge you to help establish communication hubs for such persons as well as invest and call for others to resource these civil society leaders and activists. This will lend concrete solidarity towards dynamics which are ten times more likely to lead to durable democracy.
We urge you to encourage President Zelensky to do all he can to find a diplomatic agreement with Russia to end the war, even if the outcome includes limits to NATO influence or other concessions from the west. This will create space for more insightful thinking about how to address root causes and seek a more sustainable just peace. We know Russian leadership is responsible for their invasion. Yet, we have more influence on Zelensky at this point to take the moral high ground.
We urge you to call on donors, governments, and multilateral institutions to support unarmed civilian protection to nonviolently protect civilians. For example, Operazione Colomba is in Lviv helping to accompany and evacuate marginalized persons.
We urge you to re-humanize all stakeholders, including adversaries. This is done through the language, labels, and narratives you choose to use. Although difficult, we must avoid labels such as calling persons or groups “evil,” “diabolical,” “irrational,” “thugs” or “monsters.” This doesn’t mean we agree with or justify their actions. Yet, the more we dehumanize others, the more we escalate, narrow our imagination and enable dynamics of violence. Re-humanization is also done through solidarity with people’s social movements and carefulness that sanctions don’t cause undue harm to their populations, especially in a way that restricts humanitarian, human rights work or the ability of people to meet their basic needs. This can also be done by offering shelter and protection to Russian defectors. Another example is a willingness to pray for all stakeholders, including adversaries.
We urge you to consider strategic delegations or a humanitarian airlift into Ukraine to generate time and space, i.e. peace zones, for interrupting the hostilities. For example, this could include one or multiple allied countries landing huge cargo planes full of medicine and food in Ukraine. Top government (and maybe religious or other) officials would be on board. Cargo planes are not offensive fighter jets. The U.S. executed exactly such a humanitarian airlift when Putin invaded Georgia in 2008 which significantly contributed to the end of those hostilities.
Present examples of creative, courageous nonviolent resistance:
Ukrainians blocking convoys and tanks, standing ground even with warning shots fired in multiple towns, in Berdyansk city and Kulykіvka village people organized peace rallies and convinced the Russian military to get out, hundreds protested abduction of mayor, protests in Kherson vs. being a breakaway state, fraternization of Russian soldiers to lower morale and stimulate defections, humanitarian assistance (Orthodox priests as escorts) and caring for refugees (ICRC, Doctors without Borders in Ukraine), evacuations, etc.
Russians protesting war with nearly 15,000 arrested, ex. interrupted Russian state TV, resigning from state TV), 100,000 Russians from a variety of sectors have signed petitions to end the war, Russians close to the military and foreign ministry, in the Russian oil industry and billionaires, and Russian Orthodox clerics (nearly 300) have spoken out against the war, and at least over 100 soldiers have refused to take part, etc.
External Actors: outpouring of public statements by key political leaders, reducing the flow of money to the aggressor (ex. via banks, media, trade, fossil fuels, etc.), supporting the anti-war protesters in Russia and nonviolent resistance in Ukraine, disrupting the technology systems of the aggressor, interrupting disinformation, coalition building, activating key civil society leaders (ex. religious, athletes, business), challenging theological ideology supporting war, shifting away from retributive justice and toward restorative justice, encourage the acknowledging of responsibility for harm, sharing educational material about nonviolent civilian-based defense, challenging the role of racism and white supremacy in the conflict, etc.
The U.S. is positioned to contribute to ending the cycle of violence and ensuring a just and lasting peace. We urge you to choose that path.
Center on Conscience and War
Church of the Brethren, Office of Peacebuilding and Policy
Global Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and United Church of Christ
National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd
Pax Christi USA
United Church of Christ, Justice and Local Church Ministries
Catholic Worker House DC
— Find out more about the ministry of the Office of Peacebuilding and Policy at www.brethren.org/peacebuilding.
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