I know that you and I are very concerned about the events which are unfolding in Ukraine. Some would ask why this is happening, what are Russia’s motives and why should we be concerned? I was born at a time which coincided with the height of what we have come to know in history as the Cold War. The war between east and west which developed following the cessation of World War 2. The allies and the Russians having liberated countries from the tyranny of Adolf Hitler were presented with a demarcation of who occupied which territory in Europe. Hence the terms East and West referring to the former USSR and Eastern bloc countries and the USA and western bloc countries. Countries that would exist as democracies and countries which would be under communist rule. The Cold War also created a terror of a nuclear arms race with nuclear weapons on both sides aimed at East or West. Much has happened since the height of the Cold War in 1960s, in fact, the world has matured with societies/countries able to determine their destiny. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) was formed in 1917 and Ukraine was one of the founding states of the USSR. Ukraine gained its independence in 1991 following the dissolution of the USSR.
What is interesting in the history of President Putin was his development as an influential leader at a time when Boris Yeltsin was president. Yeltsin, as president of the USSR, was instrumental in the breakup of the USSR invoking independence to the many states which formed the USSR. Yeltsin resigned unexpectedly at the end of 1999 and appointed Vladimir Putin as his successor. For the last 20 years, President Putin has progressively supported breakaway groups in the independent states to reunite under one Russia. I am sure that the invasion of Ukraine has been a long-awaited plan by Putin following the annexation of Crimea from Ukraine since 2014.
Across history, we see the complexities of countries and their challenge of sovereignty and the destiny of their citizens. Whilst the invasion of Ukraine is an absolute tragedy perpetrated by a Russian president greedy for power and control, equally we see threats of these in other parts of the world and some much closer to Australia. Why should we be concerned? First, any conflict destabilises our world economy and you and I are directly affected by this. Prices in our shops and at the petrol bowsers have already gone up, the share market has dipped and any investments have made immediate losses, travel is compromised but most importantly the people of Ukraine are suffering. There are many families from Ukraine who live in Australia and indeed in our own community. As Christian people we always walk in solidarity with people around the world and in our community, we will walk in solidarity with the people of Ukraine and support them in whatever way we can. Our job is for our young people to be aware of world events, the impacts and how they can exercise their agency with our own Cardijn mantra “With Local Touch and Global Reach”.
Next week marks the beginning of the season of Lent with Ash Wednesday. The significance of Ash Wednesday is a day where we use the symbol of ashes as a symbol of death, but in a positive sense, that from the burnt ashes comes new life. We see this after a bushfire with new growth establishing after fresh rains and time. This symbolism is aligned with our own human frailty of doing wrong and during the season of Lent, we are challenged to recognise our own wrongs and acknowledge that we can change. The 40 days to Easter are a time to grow which brings a newness to our own life. I pray for the people of Ukraine and all peoples who are suffering war, oppression, isolation, dislocation, and misery, that as a people in solidarity we can bring hope and action to bear on the events of today.