by Jonathon Braden | Mar 9, 2022 | Animators, Blog, News and Updates | 0 comments
Natalia Subbotina was fleeing Ukraine for Poland when one of her friends asked the question millions of people have likely wondered during the past two weeks: “Where is God in this event?”
The Russian invasion of Ukraine has already killed thousands of people and created more than two million refugees. On Wednesday, Ukrainian authorities reported that a Russian air strike hit a maternity hospital. Such suffering hardly seems the work of a peaceful and just God.
But Subbotina’s friend provided an answer that gave her hope. “God is present in those who suffer. He’s present in those who die innocently,” she recalled her friend saying.
Subbotina continued: “This is something that brings hope, you know?”
The Laudato Si’ Animator and coordinator of a Laudato Si’ Circle in Lviv, Ukraine, shared her moving story on Wednesday during the “Give Peace a Chance” live event, which was hosted by Laudato Si’ Movement, in partnership with Pax Christi International and the Franciscans Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation office.
Lead your community like Natalia and thousands of others and become a Laudato Si’ Animator today!
WATCH: Catholics unite for peace in incredible ‘Give Peace a Chance’ event
The 80-minute event united Catholics across the world to pray for peace and hear the cry of the poor and the cry of the Earth as they relate to the war in Ukraine. The hundreds watching and participating online also were reminded of the urgent need for a just transition away from fossil fuels, which have long been connected to wars and conflicts. Russian fossil fuels are helping fund the war in Ukraine.
“We should stop using fossil fuels once and forever,” said Svitlana Romanko, a Ukrainian and the Zero Fossil Fuels Campaign Manager for Laudato Si’ Movement.
Read more: Statement on fossil fuels and war in Ukraine
The speakers, including Franciscans in Poland and Italy, as well as Pax Christi officials and Laudato Si’ Movement members in the U.S. and South Africa, also suggested real ways people of faith can unite with their Ukrainian sisters and brothers, such as by divesting from fossil fuels and praying for peace.
“Pray… we are able to do [it] whenever we want and wherever we are,” said Brother Sergiusz Bałdyga, OFM, in Katowice, Poland.
Thanks to ‘Sister Internet and Brother WhatsApp’
He shared an inspiring story about how he and other Franciscan brothers in Poland accompanied 20 students from Ukraine and helped them eventually return to their homeland of Israel. The Franciscan brothers welcomed the students into their homes and fed them.
“It was a practical lesson of service to other brothers, according to the teachings of Jesus. It was real life, according to [the] Gospel,” Brother Baldyga said.
He gave thanks to technology, which significantly aided their work. “I also [am] thankful [to] Sister Internet and Brother WhatsApp because in that case, with distance, different languages, different countries, different nationalities, we were able to communicate because we are all connected,” he said.
Romanko described how the people of Ukraine have been suffering from the Russian invasion yet still have hope for a peaceful resolution.
Read more: Laudato Si’ Movement statement on Ukraine
“War has severe, very severe consequences, and dreadful, dreadful consequences and outcomes. But our Ukrainian nation is so brave and courageous, and there is a lot of global solidarity, which we are deeply grateful for. So we truly believe that we will overcome this war, and this war will be the last war on this planet,” she said.
Subbotina, the Laudato SI’ Animator from Ukraine, said she first felt shocked by the Russian invasion. But those feelings have given way to the solidarity she feels from Europe and the world.
“It’s time to act, to lead this Gospel and do whatever we can to help people around us,” said Subbotina, who is a doctoral student in law at the Ukrainian Free University in Munich, Germany. “As we live through this Lenten time, let’s hope that after suffering there will be resurrection, there will be glory, so the truth will win.”
‘May the Prince of Peace give you His peace’
From Assisi, Italy, the city of peace, Brother Daniel Mary Quackenbush, OFM Conv., read a meaningful reflection on conversion and how war has led people to God throughout history.
People suffering can be “more conscious of [God’s] presence, more aware of how fragile human life is without [God’s] love and blessing,” Brother Quackenbush said. “We friars hold out a promise of heartfelt prayer for all of you, who are victims of war. May the Prince of Peace give you His peace – the peace that this world cannot take away – today, at this very moment.”
To close, Judy Coode, project coordinator of the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative with Pax Christi International, challenged everyone to study the non-violent teachings of the Church and work for peace in their daily lives.
“Violence creates trauma,” she said. “How can we break the dynamics of violence and build a more sustainable peace rather than justify violence?”
Jonathon Braden has more than 10 years of writing and communications experience. He seeks to tell LSM’s story.