As an evangelical Christian, I specifically call upon my brothers and sisters in faith to make the first Sunday after Easter a day of mourning for the victims of wars.
In war, people die. Rarely are they just soldiers. And even more rarely do people deserve to die. Nor do most soldiers on either side of the front line. They follow their commanders because they have sworn an oath to their country and have now been sent to the front to resolve the conflicts in which their country is involved. Quite a few of them refused to pick up a weapon and were then forced to do so under threat of heavy prison sentences. By the way, on both sides of the respective front. As is currently happening in the war between Russia and Ukraine. Or also between Ethiopia and Tigray, where even, unfortunately so typical for Africa, children are sent to the front. Especially the use of child soldiers as killer commandos shows how perfidious the war machinery in the world has become. It is not these soldiers who should be held accountable in the first place, but those who cause the war, recruit people for war in an undignified way and send them to war. Yes, they kill, but they die themselves in the process. The trauma these fighters come back with is beyond description.
[destacate]The war has once again shown its ghastly face even here in Europe. Armenians, Azerbaijanis, Ukrainians and Russians have lost their lives
[/destacate]Of course, not only regular armies fight in modern wars. More and more often, governments use free-armies, professional militias, and private military companies that earn their pay by killing. Such companies exist in many countries of the world, including and especially in the West. These professional fighters often don't care who they go to war for. What matters is the price.
Thus, the Wagner Group, which originates from Russia and is officially registered in Argentina, can be found on the side of Shiite Syrians and at the same time fighting against Muslim freedom fighters in Mali, Sudan, Congo, in Ukraine in the war against a brother nation, and in the South African Republic as the guard of a dictatorial government. Volunteers from many countries of the world are fighting in the Wagner Group. It would be plain stupid to confuse these militiamen with proper recruits.
No question, they are human beings too, but their brutal approach, their war crimes speak volumes and maybe one or the other professional killer will find his just punishment on the battlefield.
As evangelical Christians, however, we are opposed in principle to any manslaughter. For us, the death penalty is also out of the question for criminals who would have deserved it, even if we reject with disgust every war crime and demand a just punishment. When people die, it fills us with deep sorrow and compels us to pray for the bereaved and for a speedy peace.
Hundreds of thousands have lost their lives in the course of the wars in 2022. Many of them civilians, mothers and children. The war has once again shown its ghastly face even here in Europe. Armenians, Azerbaijanis, Ukrainians and Russians have lost their lives. And in Africa tens of thousands died in Ethiopia, Tigray, Mali, Congo, Cameroon, to name a few countries with warlike conflicts.
"There is hardly a village left with us in Armenia where victims of the war of Azerbaijan and Turkey against Armenia are not mourned," a good friend in Yerevan told me just the other day. "Our population is severely traumatized. It is only good that you from the Evangelical Alliance come to us. The offer of trauma therapy is a first small step toward normality. But will there ever be one?"
[destacate]Their sons were forced to go to battle and died for great goals of politicians, but their families were left with only pain and tears
[/destacate]The words of Ukrainian refugees sound similar. "We can hardly count the dead," a mother from eastern Ukraine told me. "Quickly you are caught between the fighting soldiers and then who asks from whose gun the bullet came that hit your loved one."
Stories like this are heard everywhere in countries with tensions, fighting and war. "This used to be our village," a Sudanese pastor told our staff while visiting the area. "Today it is a cemetery."
And in the cemeteries in Azerbaijan and Russia, too, hundreds of new gravesites are built every day. At them, too, mothers stand and weep. Their sons were forced to go to battle and died for great goals of politicians, but their families were left with only pain and tears.
We, evangelical Christians, mourn with all those who have suffered and call Christians throughout the world to remember them especially in their prayers. Pray for the children who have lost their parents, mothers who weep for their sons and husbands, families who can no longer find comfort in all this loss. Prayer is the greatest help we can give to people in need. Let us pray for them. And let us also pray for those whose hearts can no longer trust and can only hate and cry out for revenge. There is nothing these people need more than reconciliation and peace. And only God, it seems, can give them this peace.
Mourning together is a first step to overcoming anger, hatred and the desire for revenge. No, mourning is not a substitute for just peace negotiations. Wherever possible, we, Christians, should also participate in promoting peace. And yes, war crimes must also be addressed openly, and completely regardless of which side commits them. As a rule, neutral courts will deal with them. They certainly have our support.
But we, the Christian community, God's royal priesthood, are rather on the way as pastors and comforters. We weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice. And this also and especially in times of tensions, war, murder and manslaughter. We are God's priests in the world and priests represent people before God and God before people.
As an evangelical Christian, I specifically call upon my brothers and sisters in faith in the various evangelical and ecumenical associations to make the first Sunday after Easter a day of mourning for the victims of wars. And we invite the families of mourners in the countries from which these victims came to give us the names of their deceased. We want to bring them and their families especially before the throne of the just God.
[destacate]As an evangelical Christian, I specifically call upon my brothers and sisters in faith to make the first Sunday after Easter a day of mourning for the victims of wars
[/destacate]Such a day of mourning can also be used for peace prayer. Invite representatives of refugees from war zones living in your city to your church, give them the space to express their feelings and pray for them and their pain and ask God to give them inner peace. Like no one else, Jesus invited people to come to him and find peace. "Come to me all you who are weary and have heavy burdens to bear. I will give you rest," Jesus said (Mt 11:28). Jesus wants to and can give peace to troubled people. And only when hurting people find rest in God can they work for peace and reconciliation.
But not just yet, skeptics will argue. Why not wait until the war is over and weapons are silent and people are no longer dying?
No, as evangelical Christians we cannot and will not wait. People are dying now. And now we must mourn with those who mourn. And peace never comes by itself. Especially in times like these, we need people who stand up against war and for peace. Who else should take up the issue if not we Christians, whom God himself has appointed as his ambassadors of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:18-20). The association in which I am active, the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA), was founded 176 years ago for this reason, among others. We would be there in any case, I hope.
Johannes Reimer, head of the Department of Public Engagement of the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA).
1. See, among others, my article: Refuseniks are not cowards abd traitors, Dec. 30, 2022, https://evangelicalfocus.com/european-perspectives/20088/refuseniks-are-not-cowards-and-traitors.
2. See UNESKO Report: Child Soldiers in Africa and Worldwide. In: UNESCO, Feb. 7, 2023, https://www.unicef.de/informieren/aktuelles/blog/-/kindersoldaten-in-afrika-und-weltweit/275182 (Mar. 25, 2023).
3. List of Private Military Companies Worldwide: https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liste_privater_Sicherheits-_und_Militärunternehmen (03/25/2023).
4. https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gruppe_Wagner (03/25/2023).
5. Exact figures are not possible. See estimates on the Russia-Ukraine war in: https://www.tagesschau.de/faktenfinder/russland-ukraine-verluste-grafik-101.html (25.03.2023).