How Can I Help Ukrainians? Prayer, Donation, & Petition

I assume that like the rest of the world you’ve seen news reels of the war in Ukraine and that it leaves you with unsettled emotions (perhaps outrage, horror, contempt, and even grief). I hope we are all praying and giving what we can, whether that’s our attention or our resources or both, to aid the Ukrainian cause. Ukrainians are begging us to assist their defence effort against an overwhelming military force.

My overall feeling is helplessness being thousands of miles away from the conflict. Watching the plight of Ukrainian civilians from the comfort of my living room amplifies this distance, both physically and emotionally. I’m tempted to say to myself, “There’s nothing I can do.” And yet there is something that I can do, and I can do it immediately. As a Christian, I believe in the power of prayer and my response can start there. I can start in prayer. My discernment of God’s will is found in reflecting quietly and reading relevant scripture. How do I realize God’s will in my life, in my context, with my means, gifts, and talents? The means and obligations of God’s will are different for each person. It may entail donating money, food, or clothing — or simply signing a petition. Whatever form it is, if it begins with prayer, we can have confidence the Holy Spirit will be at work. And we can get to work. I believe that we can be God’s voice and His hands. As theologian Howard Thurman says, God is on the side of the “disinherited and helpless”. As initially inadequate and helpless as we feel watching Ukraine’s devastation, I trust God to equip us with the wisdom and discernment to make a difference, which begins by time spent in reflection and prayer.

Furthermore, I think reflection and prayer allow me, no matter how many thousands of miles I am from this war to feel closer to these afflicted innocents. To empathize is to listen. Listening takes reflection and even rethinking conceptually the nature of the problem being confronted. In this context, the problem of course is war. For me, it’s been a beneficial exercise to expand my conception of war and its realities. War as hunger. War as tired refugees, desperate, hurting, and disinherited. War as familial estrangement. War as the weapon making factories in Russia. War as the naked exposure of traumatized people being interviewed by foreign media pleading for help. I think of the Salvadorian Archbishop Oscar Romero and his teaching that poverty is violence. It all makes me think of what I am called to do. What action does God require of me?

Through my reflections, I am coming to understand a more expansive definition of war and its sobering consequences. As a boy I idealized war and enjoyed rehearsing the combat scenes that I studied from my countless books on the subject. Now as a twenty year old, seeing the Ukrainian war unfold I abandoning my childish view of war. War is not just the image of collapsing infrastructure, hissing bomb shells, burning metals releasing putrid chemical, or even soldiers exchanging fire and falling in combat. Its brutality is manifested in the thousands of unaccompanied children forever harmed simply because they were in the way of an autocrat.

The initial result of my prayer was a desire to understand how, we all thought was the province of history (an invasion of a sovereign nation in Europe) could happen in 2022. My research took me to independent journalist Johny Harris and his youtube video on the context behind the War’s outbreak. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FQ4hvLqNfqo)

As Harris explains, Putin has manipulated soviet history to justify his, as he puts it “specialized military operation” to liberate Ukraine from neo-nazi’s and restore Russia’s rightful authority over Ukraine. He has censored Russian independent media and is imprisoning dissidents who call it for what it is: unprovoked war. These actions are alarmingly Orwellian. The Kremlin is committing heinous war crimes against innocent civilians in Ukraine. The Russian military had deployed cluster bombs, a technology internationally outlawed because of its uncontrollable destruction. Putin’s army has bombarded civilian infrastructure without the presence of Ukrainian military. Last week Putin targeted a nuclear power plant in Ukraine and that his nuclear arsenal was “on high alert”. Furthermore, Putin threatens to employ chemical warfare. The list of Russian war crimes only continues to grow.

Putin also claims, Harris points out, that Ukraine has never existed historically independent of Russia. This is not true. Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, was a thriving city state long before Moscow even existed. Ukrainian culture is far older and more storied than Russia’s. Here are further sources I explored

📖 Lecture: “Carl Bildt: The history of Ukraine is different from the history of Russia”

📖 A short thread on how Ukraine is fighting for its independence from Russia for ~300+ years by Ostap Andrusiv

My research shifted from examining some of the claims of an autocrat to the people of Ukraine. According CNN, we are witnessing the largest refugee crisis in Europe since World War II. As of yesterday March 8th, 1.7 million Ukrainian have fled west into neighboring Poland, Slovakia, and Romania. Of that number, a staggering 1 million are children, many of whom are unaccompanied by both parents (as many fathers have elected to fight). The innocent orphans and children in critical medical condition arguably bear the greatest burden of this war. Video footage from CNN last night showed a hospital evacuating infants born prematurely while bombs exploded nearby. Many children have, according to one reporter, stopped crying which is evidence of significant trauma. The UNICEF, an international humanitarian organization, is providing food and shelter to displaced orphaned children in Eastern Ukraine.

What can I do? I should invest my time, donate what little money I have, and continue to pray asking for how I should proceed. According to an article published by the Guardian, Charity Navigator is a consultancy group which assesses charity groups’ efficiency, transparency and other factors. There are several credible charity organization aiding Ukraine currently who have received high marks from the Charity Navigator. This list includes: Doctors Beyond Borders, UNICEF, Save the Children, Care, GlobalGiving, Direct Relief, the International Rescue Committee, and Razom. Thankfully, there is a plethora of organizations to donate. I should pray for the volunteer workers distributing the supplies and organizing the relief efforts on the ground in Ukraine. Some truly extraordinary service members in Ukraine are the Hospitals (medical volunteers). They can be funded at this web site. Fund Hospitallers

🇺🇦 🏦 Perhaps the most streamlined donation can be made to the “With Ukraine” website that is an umbrella group to several Ukrainian fundraisers. This is one of the easiest ways to make a direct influence Ukrainian fundraisers: https://www.withukraine.org/en

Another major concern being raised and petitioned for is the implementation of a no-fly Zone over Ukraine. NATO has rejected such proposal out of fear that it will provoke war with Russia, however Ukraine is experiencing the pains of such opposition. While heroic Ukrainians are fighting Russian aviation and missile strikes, Russia’s air force superiority is growing more evident as it inflicts further causalities and destruction onto Ukrainian forces and civilians. Daria Kaleniuk, a Ukranian lawyer, recently published an op-ed in the Washington Post arguing for the no-fly zone to be implemented. To summarize, Ukraine needs the no fly zone to protect themselves from Russian bombing, for aid to be delivered safely, and for refugees to evacuate safely. I am signing a petition to put pressure on our leaders for this no-fly zone to be implemented, understanding the consequences of escalating tensions with Russia. As politically complex as it is and perhaps naively not understanding Putin’s threat of nuclear war the Ukrainians are desperately pleasing for our aid. If my signature is the difference between an airplane landing safely in eastern Ukraine and providing displaced Ukrainians with food then so be it. They are asking for help and we must help them.

What can I do? On change.org there is a petition urging Nato to implement the no fly zone. I am signing. Here is the link to do so. https://chng.it/2cB5ztJgjC

I am also signing another similar petition which further includes a lot of possible measures, all of which will help Ukraine immensely. In addition to closing the Ukrainian sky, the Ukrainian air force needs more fighter jets and NATO has yet to directly supply them. Here’s the link openpetition.eu/!stopwar.

Western European countries are embracing the mass exodus of Ukrainian refugees and the United States needs to prepare to follow suit. Countries like Poland, Romania, and Slovakia are opening their borders to these immigrants willfully and gladly. I need to petition state governments to accept Ukrainians as refugees here and sponsor them with the necessary support.

What can I do? Yet, throughout this process I return to prayer. Perhaps it’s the most natural thing that I can do and easiest. That said, I don’t want to make prayer a “light lift”. I want to be specific and intentional. I narrow my prayers accordingly: the orphaned; the disabled. I pray for the future generation of disinherited Ukrainians being born into this violence. They have been born into a mess they did not create. The goal of prayer should be for God to influence my nature and discern my proceeding actions. And the core question is “what am I called to do?”. German protestant minister Dietrich Bonhoeffer would say, “Who is Jesus Christ actually for us today?” What is the will of God and what sacrifices are we called to make to advance and fulfill this will? The Prophet Micah has the most direct answer, “And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8). In this context that’s aiding the oppressed in Ukraine.

I take comfort in the words of, Eli Wiesel:

“We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men or women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must — at that moment — become the center of the universe.”

This is also in essence very similar to a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”

With these quotes, I hope to alarm you and myself to the sobering realties that freedom is never free. We are witnessing the terrible price being paid in Ukraine. What could be different? Could Russians have their independence from the tyranny of Putin? Reinhold Niebuhr was an American theologian who commented on the systematic presence of sin in political and social institutions. Invoking Niebuhr contextualizes Ukrainian Russian War into the much larger history of human sinfulness and proclivity to hate rather than do the hard work of love. Though his theological cynicism annoys me at times, I agree with Niebuhr that sin is ingrained in our biases, thoughts, and behaviors. Since Adam and Eve we’ve been at war with God, and since Cain and Abel we’ve been at war with each other. The division and schisms have only grown and intensified through the ages. Now we’re left with this maddening geopolitical socio-cultural pluralism. God has and does help us. He gave us Jesus, our Messiah. His grace redeems us and all the brokenness we’ve created. This is my ultimate prayer.

If you yourself are at peace, then there is at least some peace in the world. Then share your peace with everyone and everyone will be at peace.” — Thomas Merton

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