The video footage of a pregnant woman being carried out of a maternity ward pulled on heartstrings around the world. Then, a day later, those same hearts were broken when it was discovered she and her unborn child died due to complications from her injuries.

While we have been inspired by the resolve and resilience of the Ukrainian people as they stand toe-to-toe with an evil aggressor, we need to remember and reflect on the human cost of war.

Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began three weeks ago, at least 670 Ukrainian civilians – including children – have lost their lives as a direct result of war.  Experts predict the number of civilian casualties will most certainly increase as Russia ramps up its attacks on populated areas.

The U.S. military estimated between 2,000 and 4,000 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed since the invasion began, with Russia losing between 5,000 to 6,000 soldiers. The Ukrainian armed forces contradict the U.S. estimates believing more than 12,000 Russian troops were killed.

In addition to the enormous loss of life, countless injuries have been reported throughout the country.  The increase in violence has prompted some Ukrainians to flee for safety, with over 2.5 million refugees flooding the border, leaving 41.5 million citizens remaining to stave off Russian aggression and suffer under constant attacks.

With the horrors of Russian aggression fresh on our minds, we must not forget the human cost of all wars, including wars led by the United States.  According to a Brown University study, “At least 929,000 people have been killed by direct war violence in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, and Pakistan.”

The report went on to state that out of those 929,000 killed, “Far more of the people killed have been civilians. More than 387,000 civilians have been killed in the fighting since 2001.”

Mahatma Gandhi once reminded the world, “What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or in the holy name of liberty or democracy?”

Gandhi’s words remind the living about the absolute horrors of all wars, regardless of their justification or vilification.  While some wars are an evil necessity to combat an even greater evil, they do not take away the significant cost of human life. All war is hell, no matter how righteous the cause.

Former President Dwight D. Eisenhower said it this way, “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron.”

Therefore, as we watch in horror the scenes of war unfold before us in Ukraine, let us not give up our humanity in our efforts to combat evil.  Let us look for inspiration and examples from the Ukrainian people.

Reports of Ukrainian citizens treating captured Russian soldiers with compassion and dignity have surfaced. Citizens providing soldiers with tea and biscuits while giving them the opportunity to phone home to talk with family.

Even in their adamant opposition to the invasion, they remind their aggressors of the real cost of war.  A grandmother confronted Russian soldiers asking them to place sunflower seeds in their pockets so when they die they will be remembered.  No other weapon can be as pointed and direct as the words of a wise grandmother.

As the human loss of war mounts, let’s keep praying for peace as we attempt to confront this evil act of aggression by Russian President Vladimir Putin.  While peace certainly seems like an elusive reality now, people of good faith can demonstrate solidarity through honoring the dead and committing ourselves to maintain our humanity while facing inhuman behavior.

In the Psalms, it is written, “Come, behold the works of the Lord; see what desolations he has brought on the earth.  He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire.  Be still and know that I am God!  I am exalted among the nations; I am exalted in the earth.  The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge” (46:8-11).

May God remain with the Ukrainian people and may they find refuge in God’s presence.  And may we never forget about the human cost of war, from the dead, the injured and the displaced.  War is hell.

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