Estonia’s religious leaders: We condemn Russia’s military action in Ukraine

The Estonian Council of Churches and the leaders of member churches, including Eugene, the head of the Estonian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, issued a statement regarding the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the reception of war refugees in Estonia; Estonian World publishes the statement in full.

Since 24 February 2022, the world is no longer the same. We are witnessing terrible developments on the battlefield in Ukraine. Thousands of people have been killed, including innocent children, adolescents and the elderly. Tens of thousands have been wounded. Hundreds of thousands have been left homeless or are suffering in an impossible situation of fear, cold, hunger, thirst and ill health. Millions have been forced to flee their homes and even their countries.

Men defending their own country are losing their lives in the fighting, but so too are those who have become pawns of evil. Beautiful cities are destroyed in the fighting, and the fields waiting for the spring harvest have been turned upside down.

The UN General Assembly has condemned Russia’s military action in Ukraine. As representatives of the member churches of the Estonian Council of Churches, we agree with this assessment.

The High Commissioner of the UN Human Rights Council has warned that the shelling of hospitals, kindergartens, schools and other public buildings, as well as the homes of ordinary people, violates international law and may qualify as war crimes. Several investigations have been launched.

As leaders of the major churches in Estonia, we condemn the bombing of humanitarian targets, including churches, and the endangering of civilians.

The Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow houses Alexander Ivanov’s large-scale work “The Appearance of Christ to the People”. This painting depicts the Saviour of the whole world, the Lord Jesus Christ, appearing to the people, to whom John the Baptist points and exclaims, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”

As leaders of the various churches in Estonia, we call for an end to hostilities and a return to Christ’s command to love one another, asking forgiveness for the terrible wrongs that have been committed and to make reparations for what can be done. 

To John the Baptist, depicted in that painting, the repentant people asked, “What are we to do then?” To them, he replies: “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.”

Here are instructions for us, as thousands of people who have fled war are arriving in Estonia. It is our Christian duty to be by their side and share what they need.

Reflecting on our nation’s painful past experiences, we have seen the love with which many have set out to help. As a pan-Estonian network of churches and congregations, we want to do our best to provide practical help, food and shelter to all who need it, regardless of denomination – as well as spiritual care and fellowship. Many of the Ukrainian people who come here belong to our sister and member churches.

Dear Estonian people! We have rejoiced in the bloodless restoration of our country’s independence. We acknowledge that this is by the great grace of God. We too need to repent and turn our hearts to God in light of all that is happening in Ukraine. Even if we do not understand how God works, let us entrust our lives and our land to Him in prayer. Just as our grandparents did at the most critical times.

We remember the victims of war and continue to pray that peace will come to Ukraine.

Andres Põder, President of the Estonian Council of Churches, Archbishop Emeritus of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Estonia

Urmas Viilma, Archbishop of the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church

Metropolitan Stephen of the Estonian Apostolic-Orthodox Church

Metropolitan Eugene of the Estonian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate Estonia

Bishop Philippe Jourdan, Apostolic Administrator of the Roman Catholic Church in Estonia

Vardan Navasardyan, Bishop of the Armenian Apostolic Church in the Baltic states

Bishop Alur Õunpuu, Bishop of the Pentecostal Christian Church of Estonia

Pastor Erki Tamm, President of the Union of Evangelical Christians and Baptists in Estonia

Pastor Andres Ploompuu, President of the Estonian Union of Seventh-day Adventist Churches

Pastor Robert Cherenkov, Superintendent of the Estonian Methodist Church

Priest Thomas Eriste of the Charismatic Episcopal Church of Estonia

The opinions in this article are those of the authors.

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