by Annette Kurshus, President of the Evangelical Church of Westphalia and of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany
Speech at the Peace Demonstration in Berlin, 27 February
“It’s war! It’s war! Oh angel of God / help and intercede! / It’s war, alas – and I only ask / not to be to blame.” So wrote German poet Matthias Claudius almost 250 years ago – and it seems to me, dear friends and friends of peace, that he wrote it for us today.
There is war in Europe. What seemed unthinkable for a long time has become real. A brutal reality reaches us now. One country attacked another. No, not a country. Fields, meadows and rivers do not attach each other. They suffer from war, like people. One country’s mendacious and power-hungry government has ordered its soldiers to invade another country by sheer force and against all law. This is a crime. The people of Ukraine are shot and bombed. They are defending themselves; hundreds of thousands of them take refuge in cellars or flee the country to save their lives and that of their children.
And no, not even people attack each other. The brave demonstrators, the poets, the researchers and the artists, all those who oppose the war in Moscow – are resisting. All those who are now furious in Russia, worried about the lives of their loved ones, who are sent to arms, are also being invaded – by their own government.
We try to think and speak with precision. In all our indignation, let’s hold on: we refuse to be seduced by hatred. We reject the spiral of violence. We will not give the warmongering clique in power in Russia the gift of hating her people.
We will not play the game of hostility. And – I say this for the Churches in Germany and for the Churches with which we are linked in the states of Eastern Europe – we must protest loudly every time God and faith are enslaved to this evil game of autocratic lust for power.
The inhumanity of war works like this: people are ordered to shoot people. People return fire to defend their lives. The horror begins in a very limited and everyday way: There are two colleagues, one Russian and the other Ukrainian.
Somewhere in a European city they share an office, they sit at the same desk, they do the same job. Until the day before yesterday. Then each of them received his call. A woman tells it – her voice breaks.
The story of Cain and Abel comes to mind. “What have you done?” God asks the fratricide. “What have you done? Your brother’s blood cries out loudly to me from the surface of the earth. “
The blood that is shed in Ukraine cries out to heaven. Yes, they cry to heaven that people who are sister nations have become enemies. That families are torn apart.
Heaven will not remain deaf and dumb to this cry. I hope and pray that justice will be done to the victims and the guilty.
Not only the blood of the slain cries to heaven, not only the sweat of fear of those who fight, not just the tears of those who flee. Even our voices of solidarity rise to heaven, our thoughts and prayers, even our horrified silence.
All this is our echo to the troubled and angry question of God: “What have you done?”
For us too, for each of us, it is now necessary to act. And our actions matter.
Wars are fought with weapons. But wars are also waged with words and thoughts, with rumors and lies, with false images of ourselves and others.
Let’s be careful not to think that we cannot do anything!
Let’s be careful not to think that our words, thoughts and images do not matter.
Where there are wars, it depends on weapons. If there is peace to be made, it depends on us.
It is up to us to weigh the words, to call injustice by his name – and yet not to hate.
It is up to us to show our solidarity to the suffering people in Ukraine, to the frightened people in our neighboring countries, not a cheap solidarity, but one that costs us something.
It is up to us to show our respect for the people in Russia who oppose the war.
It is up to us to help people who flee, to pave the way for them to save their lives and to welcome them.
Blood spilled in war cries out to heaven.
God hears the cry, I believe it with certainty.
And God also listens to the voices of peace. They are heard in the cities and in the villages of Ukraine, in the cities and villages of Russia, in the offices and halls of the Kremlin.
We are listened to in the one sky that extends over all these places.
Annette Kurschus, Rede anlässlich der Friedenskundgebung eines breiten Bündnisses am 27.02.2022 in Berlin, EKD https://www.ekd.de/ekd_de/ds_doc/220227_Rede_EKD-Ratsvorsitzende_ Kurschus_auf_der_Friedenskundgebung_in_Berlin.pdf
Ph. Berlin protests against Ukraine War © Lewin Bormann via flickr