We are approaching the end of the ninth month since the start of the horrible war of aggression by Russia against Ukraine. nine months is the time when a human life takes shape in the womb and then comes to lightbut the one in Ukraine has not been a gestation of life, but only of death, of hatred, of devastation.
There is an aspect of this war that we do not always remember: it is a conflict that involves two peoples who belong to the same faith in Christ and to the same baptism. Christianity in that geographical area is associated with the Baptism of Rus’, completed in the year 988, when Vladimir the Great wanted his family and the people of kyiv to receive the sacrament in the waters of the Dnepr. Russian and Ukrainian Christians share the same divine liturgy and the same spirituality that is typical of the Eastern Churches.
Today there is a tendency to hide this common belonging of faith and liturgical tradition for reasons linked to war propaganda: when you fight, when you kill, you must forget the face and humanity of the other, as the prophet of peace Tonino Bello recalled. And you must even forget that the other has your same baptism.
The fact that what has broken out in the heart of Europe is a war between Christians makes the wound even more painful for the followers of Jesus. We are not facing a conflict that can be classified in the comfortable scheme of the “clash of civilizations”, theory that became famous after the Islamist attacks of September 11, 2001 to mark the differences between “us” and “them”. No, here the aggressors read the same Gospel as the attacked.
The consternation aroused by this observation could lead us to reflect on how far the evangelical message still has to go to enter the hearts of Christians and permeate their culture, to embody the example of Jesus, who in Gethsemane ordered Peter to put the sword back in its sheath. It could even induce us to climb the judgmental and reassuring pulpit of those who want to mark the difference between “our” Christianity and that of the warmongers who mix sacred icons with soldiers’ flags, justifying aggression and violence with religious discoursesas we did until the day before yesterday and as, perhaps, someone would like to do today too.
But this attitude would only be a comfortable escape route for us, a form of self-absolution so as not to keep open the wound generated by this war.
The ongoing conflict in Ukraine teaches us instead that belonging to a common tradition, the memory of an identity and a culture that have their origin in the same evangelical proclamation, are not enough to prevent us from slipping into the barbarism of violenceof hate and murderous war.
Keeping the wound open then means remembering every day that our faith and religious traditions can never be taken for granted or taken for granted. It means remembering that we can only act as Christians by grace, not by tradition or culture.. It means remembering the words of Jesus: “Without me you can do nothing”, to return to being humble beggars of Him, alive and present today, and of His peace.