My Dearest Ukrainian-Canadian Brothers and Sisters,
Galatians 6:9 “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”
When I address you as brothers and sisters, I do so not only as a matter of habit or as a gesture of solidarity. When I call you brothers and sisters in this trying time you are facing, it is personal to me. I have recently learned that my grandfather was Ukrainian. I stand before you today as someone that shares your (Christian) faith. So, in matter, genes, and cultural heritage, and in what matters most, my convictions about what is important to God and essential to life, I consider you close to me. Brothers and sisters.
What happened with Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is shocking and a step backwards for the world. A world that has had its quota of power-hoarding dictators that have no regard for the freedom and well-being of those affected by their greed for power. My spirit is crushed with yours to think and hear about what Ukrainians suffer through because of his greedy power grab.
But hope is also kept alive in me as I remind myself that sometimes we give one step back today to give two steps forward tomorrow. I remind myself that evil sometimes seems to fight most viciously right before it is defeated. And in between all the stories of heartache and suffering, I hear stories and see images from the Ukraine that kindles my flame of hope.
Two images come to mind that I want to share with you (my pastor told me that – Orthodox Christians place a great value on images). The first one shows Putin the leader of Russia in consultation with his ministers. He sits at the helm of a very long table. His colleagues sit what looks like miles from him huddled at the opposite side of the long table. In the other picture the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy is shown sitting close to his fellow Ukrainian soldiers. He is dressed in the same uniform as them and shares a simple meal with them.
I look at these pictures and think how descriptive it is of the two leadership styles. One is a picture of an old-school top-down regime based on fear. The Ukrainian one is a picture of a collaborative, humble and “servant” style leader. We see how people are inspired by the second leader and repulsed by the first kind of leadership all over the world. We all sense that the collaborative and humble, servant leader is what is needed in our world today.
The second image I saw was of a young Russian soldier who surrendered to a group of volunteer Ukrainian fighters. One expects to see the captured Russian to bear the brunt of the Ukrainian People’s anger. Instead, we see the Ukrainian people giving the young Russian something to eat and helping him call his mother to tell her he is ok. It reminds me that it is not tanks and guns that will conquer evil (as important as they might be to stop it temporarily), it is love, kindness and grace that will conquer cruelty and evil.
What also gives me hope is that I see world leaders uniting in their solidarity with Ukraine. In people coming together and offering a helping hand to those worse affected by this tragic and unnecessary conflict. In you taking hands and standing in solidarity and support with each other.
In summary, I stand here today on behalf of residents of Surrey with you to mourn the loss and lament the suffering with you and the people facing it in Ukraine today. But I also remain hopeful with you and am inspired by the strength, compassion and will to defend justice and freedom that has been shown.
May God bless you, the good people of Ukraine, and the world through this difficult journey. May this one step back today build in us all a resilience to give huge strides forward tomorrow in things that matter to God. Compassion, grace and peace. May how we carry this burden in solidarity continue to be a great testimony to the life-giving faith that lives in us.
For many of us here today we are the people who believe in the resurrection of Christ but for every one of us, who knows and believes in the value of good over evil May we take hands and rise from this – in joyful triumph leaving a bright future for our children.
I Thank you.