There is no hashtag on the front of this: mainly because this isn’t a piece about a one day wonder of prayer following something tragic. This is a piece about the alarming trajectory of Russian foreign policy and how I might respond.
A caveat. I don’t know enough about Russia to write this entirely from intellect. I do know a bit about twentieth century world history though.
Anyway: A UK minister has warned about Russia’s expansionist ambition: suggesting that the Baltic states are next after a comprehensive subjugation of Ukraine. The same day, RAF jets are scrambled to get a look at Russian aircraft off the Cornish coast. This is the second time in a couple of months that UK airspace has been titillated by Russian jets. The last time they caused considerable disruption to UK air traffic. So far so Top Gun.
As I’ve said, I don’t know much about Russia: please recommend some books.. But, I know that in some Russian thinking, the greater Russia (the old USSR) has never been a dead dream. I know that the inclusion of Baltic states into the EU makes this a geopolitical minefield. I know that oil and gas and other things we can burn to ignore the failing health of our planet, skew our view of the world. I know that Russia has a lot of that stuff.
I know that we are still coming to terms, militarily, with the post Cold War world where it hasn’t been nation fighting nation: but just as we adjust and perhaps try to seek ways to combat IS and their ilk, a nation state is baring its teeth again. I know that despite our fears the statistics still bear out that secular wars over land and goods and trade routes have caused more death and destruction that wars of religion (unless you are a woman, because then, religious or not, you are more likely to be killed for your gender than a man is in a war).
And I know that as an eighteen year old sixth form student I sat in history classes where every week we were handed new maps as the USSR disintegrated before our eyes. In a fairly bloodless revolution we came to understand that a pastor in Leipzig who prayed and encouraged others to do the same might have had something to do with the change across the Eastern bloc. In that same two years I saw South Africa slip quietly and with dignity into democracy; with the praying church at the heart of another transformation.
And I know that at the heart of Christian faith is the God who immerses Himself into a world which gets caught into the same old cycles of greed and hate, of ignorance and violence. Far from distancing himself he takes the whole burden of all our brokenness, and shattering death he turns our fears to hope. For in him is the promise of new life, the promise that it doesn’t have to end this way. The hope that cycles can be broken and that there is a power more solid than oil.
So as Russian fighter pilots buzz the coasts of the UK, as politicians and states people seek diplomatic solutions or merely wring their hands: I will pray. I will pray that like in times past, women and men of integrity, compassion and justice will rise to positions of authority and lead their nations back from the brink. I will pray that the church will be militant in its its commitment to peace. I will pray that we will listen to the prophets who warn us of our addiction that which will choke us.
Pray for Russia. Thats my Lent commitment.