“We need to repent for what we have done, first to God and then to the people of Ukraine”, pastors write in an open letter. Russian authorities impose new restrictions on freedom of speech.
An open letter signed in the last days by at least 300 evangelical worship ministers in Russia condemns the war by calling “things by their proper names”.
According to Christianity Today, the signatories are mainly Baptists and Pentecostal pastors as well as other Christian leaders from Moscow, Saint Petersburg and other cities across Russia. The text has been made public on the website of a Protestant publishing house on 2 March.
“Our army is engaged in full-scale hostilities in another country, dropping bombs and missiles on the cities of our neighbour Ukraine”, says the letter available online to be signed by other Russian evangelicals. “No political interest or cause can justify the death of innocent people. Old men, women and children die”.
Jeremiah 18:7-8 is quoted, and other references to the Bible are mentioned to oppose the war. “Holy Scripture urges us to ‘keep our hands off evil and seek the ways of peace’ and warns that ‘he who sows evil will reap it’”.
The letter ends with these words: “We need to repent for what we have done, first to God and then to the people of Ukraine. We need to reject lies and hatred. We call on the authorities of our country to stop this senseless bloodshed!”
(read full letter translated into English below)
Earlier, the Pentecostal and Baptist church unions in Russia had written to President Vladimir Putin asking to engage in peacemaking processes that could halt the armed conflict.
The Duma, the Russian parliament, met in an extraordinary session on 4 March to discuss pass new measures, including penalties of up to 15 years in prison for citizens who "spread misinformation". The government already restricted freedom of speech in the media and social media in efforts to silence internal opposition to war.
Rumours about the imposition of martial law in Russia would have led to thousands of Russians to leave the country in the last days.
Protests against the invasion of Ukraine have been seen on the streets in the main Russian cities since the invasion of Ukraine began on 24 February. More than 6,500 people have been detained so far.
“If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed, and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned”. (Jer.18:7-8).
Our army is engaged in full-scale hostilities in another country, dropping bombs and missiles on the cities of our neighbour Ukraine. As believers, we assess what is happening as the grave sin of fratricide - the sin of Cain, who raised his hand against his brother Abel.
No political interest or cause can justify the death of innocent people. Old men, women and children die. Military personnel on both sides are killed, cities and infrastructure are destroyed. In addition to military targets, shells and bombs destroy hospitals, civilian buildings and homes. Numerous people have become refugees and war zones are on the brink of a humanitarian catastrophe.
In addition to the bloodshed, the invasion of sovereign Ukraine infringes on the freedom of self-determination of its citizens. Hate is being sown between our peoples, which will create a chasm of alienation and enmity for generations to come. War is destroying not only Ukraine, but also Russia - its people, its economy, its morality, its future.
Holy Scripture urges us to "keep our hands off evil and seek the ways of peace" and warns that "he who sows evil will reap it". If we really want to rely on spiritual values, it is crucial that we heed the words of Jesus Christ: "Put your sword in its sheath, for he who takes the sword by the sword shall also perish”. It is also said, "Judgment is not swiftly brought to bear upon corrupt deeds; therefore the heart of the sons of men dread not to do evil”. But the judgment of God is impartial and unavoidable.
Today is the moment when each of us must call things by their proper names. While we still have a chance to escape punishment from above and prevent the collapse of our country. We need to repent for what we have done, first to God and then to the people of Ukraine. We need to reject lies and hatred. We call on the authorities of our country to stop this senseless bloodshed!
(This translation into English may contain minor differences with the terms used in the original Russian letter)