REV OLIVER COSS COLUMN: End to fighting is not enough

It has been a tense couple of weeks, writes Rev Oliver Coss

By Graham Tebbutt (Edited by)
Friday, 11th March 2022, 1:40 pm
Updated Friday, 11th March 2022, 1:42 pm
We've been deceiving ourselves that the mere memory of conflicts past would be enough to prevent new ones emerging
We've been deceiving ourselves that the mere memory of conflicts past would be enough to prevent new ones emerging

The news has been filled with something that few have seen, at least for several decades now, as we gradually come to terms with a state-on-state land war unfolding in mainland Europe, with all the consequences that are gradually becoming apparent.

The post-war consensus had almost convinced us that such things only happened now on other continents, and with great sorrow we realise now that we were deceiving ourselves that the mere memory of conflicts past would be enough to prevent new ones emerging.

A huge aid effort has now begun, addressing what is certainly becoming an acute humanitarian crisis.

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The breaking of ceasefires designed to allow civilians to escape, and the threats to Ukraine’s nuclear power plants, have been just the latest examples of that threat: many more will likely have emerged by the time this goes to print.

Christians have spent the last 10 days doing what they do best: while they’ve joined forces with many others contributing aid and money, they have, more importantly, called people to prayer and worship.

In telephone calls with Pope Francis and the Ecumenical Patriarch, President Zelensky has repeated a phrase which should reverberate in the lives of people of faith, saying “we feel the support of your prayers”.

The question of why we should care more about this conflict than about the many other wars going on in the world hangs in the air, but it swiftly loses the attention of a world concerned that this marks a return to the proxy conflicts that illustrated the Cold War.

The re-emergence of an era of threat comes on the back of a post-Soviet interdependence that means our sanctions are at once self-wounding and more serious.

Self-wounding because the people of a nation in recovery cannot afford a fuel-price crisis; more serious because to inflict so much harm on ourselves is proof of our resolve, and an admission of the consequences of getting our troops involved in such a conflict.

This, and so much more, leaves us with much to hold in prayer.

And it’s right to consider what we are doing when we do, for we are not trying to change God’s mind or pretend there are things which we notice that He has not.

C S Lewis famously wrote “prayer does not change God, it changes me”, and it must be so much more than just asking for things.

If we truly want the world to change, and to set aside its wars and tumults, then our prayer must be as much about penitence, and adoration, and thanksgiving.

Asking for peace in the world is probably more than we can bear, more than we can live with, unless we are willing to change in order to accept such a gift.

It’s normal to feel powerless in the face of world events.

And because we can’t dry the tears of a grieving mother, or rescue a bereft child from the dangerous place that their home has become, and because we can’t readily convince a big man to turn back his big guns, all sorts of reactions and emotions flood from us.

Prayerfully, we need to centre down, and look beyond the kingdoms of this world if it is a lasting peace that we want for the future.