The Pope recently urged that an Easter truce be declared to end the Russian invasion of Ukraine. He hoped that it could lead to “real negotiations” to end the conflict.
Even though Easter passed without a truce, it is time for religious leaders and people of faith to pick up this mantle and join the call for a truce leading to a peace agreement.
The holy books of all three religions speak, in various ways, of loving – or at least not hating – one’s enemies.
Matthew 5:44 is the most direct, “Love your enemies,” while Deuteronomy 23:7 refers to specific enemies, “You shall not abhor any of the Edomites, for they are your kin. You shall not abhor any of the Egyptians, because you were an alien residing in their land.”
And the Qu’ran seems to say that goodness may turn hostility between humans into friendship, “Repel [evil] with that which is fairer and behold, he between whom and thee there is enmity shall be as if he were a loyal friend” (Al Qu’ran 41:34).
Interfaith groups that share these beliefs are coming together to speak against the war.
A meeting that included a former Archbishop of Canterbury, the president of the Council of Christians and Jews, and the leader of the Greek Orthodox Church in Britain, met in Chernivtsi just across the border of Romania. The stated purpose was to “keep pleading for a ceasefire.”
It would seem Baptists in Ukraine have a special need for prayer. Ukraine has the largest number of Baptists in Europe, but they are viewed as a threat by Russia and have been targeted and a number abducted by invading forces.
For people of faith to join spiritual forces across religious lines is a blessed event at any time, but it seems especially auspicious now as the world’s three major religious holidays are overlapping for the first time in 33 years.
While Christians celebrated the resurrection on Easter Sunday, April 17, Jews celebrated Passover through April 23, and Muslims celebrate Ramadan through May 1.
And there is reason to include other major world religions, including Buddhism, for which peace is a central tenet.
But is this enough? What if every religion called for a truce on every major religious holiday – or every day of worship?
Congregants might gather outside their houses of worship to sing hymns of peace, wave signs printed with words from their holy books and, if the group is within walking distance, march to a place where lawmakers, foreign emissaries or other policymakers will see and hear their message.
What would a constant call for peace accomplish that 24/7 news coverage has not?
In a way that the media cannot, it would shine an unblinking, holy light on those on both sides who are dying for no good reason — and on those who are not trying hard enough to stop it.
Talks aimed at negotiating an end to the war have made no progress. But wars have ended, and causes have been won, when committed believers – sign-wavers, protesters, marchers – refused to leave their posts, get off the bus or even move to another seat. They would not quit.
And if the prospect of endlessly praying, or standing or walking for peace, seems wearying, we know where we can renew our strength (see Isaiah 40:31).