As the world watches the tragic events that are unfolding in Ukraine, the Pope invokes peace. The small Focolare community joins with other Christians to “protest” with their prayers.
During the General Audience of February 4, 2015 Pope Francis stated: “Brothers and sisters, when I hear the words “victory” or “defeat” I feel great sorrow, great sadness in my heart. They are not just words; the only just word is “peace”. This is the only just word. I am thinking of you, Ukrainian brothers and sisters …. Think, this is a war among Christians! You all share one baptism! You are fighting with Christians. Think about this scandal. And let us all pray, for prayer is our protest before God in times of war.”
While world diplomacy is mobilised, the facts seem to belie any prospects of peace. Yet there are people and institutions who work with courage to safeguard it, even at the risk of their own lives.
We ask Vera Fediva from the Focolare Movement and resident of Ukraine: How are the ordinary people living through this situation?
“This is a very difficult time for our country, filled with frustration and suffering. Nearly 5,000 civilian deaths, very many wounded and disabled, thousands of refugees and, unfortunately, we can’t foresee what the end will be. We often remember how our Movement was begun in the midst of the Second World War when everything crumbled. . . but we never would have imagined that it could happen in the twenty first century, nearly in the very heart of Europe and in such a tranquil country like Ukraine. Our community resides at Mukacevo on the western side of the country where there are no armed clashes. But psychologically it is difficult to hold up, also because many have relatives, friends, neighbours and even children who are fighting. Many have lost loved ones. We’re living in the midst of a situation in which nothing is stable. It’s difficult to plan anything. Nobody knows what will happen tomorrow. Perhaps a husband or an only son will leave for the war. We can only count on God who is Love. We do feel that it is important in such circumstances not to allow hatred into our heart, so that we can be able to forgive and even to pray for our enemies.”
As the Pope says, prayer is our protest. A year away from the beginning of the conflict, what did you do as a community and with other Christians so that this “protest” could be felt?
“For several years we have been working in defense of life at all of its stages; this allowed us to build relationships with people from several Christian Churches in our city. We held a few events together like the “March for Life” and “Family Fest”. We were encouraged by the “Ecumena” group from Kosice, Slovak Republic, which follows the spirituality of unity. Last year we organised a large “Prayer for Peace in Ukraine” event in the centre of the city, together with ten different Churches, which was largely attended by the general population. Then we continued to meet, and we shared three great moments of “Prayer for Peace” since the war began. We feel that the unity among us is particularly important now as Christians are fighting and killing one another in a war that is completely senseless. That’s our small and silent response to the Pope’s prayer, to overcome the scandal of the division and make a contribution to peace and reconciliation in our land.”