1,000+ US Faith Leaders Call for ‘Christmas Truce’ and Ceasefire in Ukraine

“In the spirit of the truce that occurred in 1914 during the First World War, we urge our government to take a leadership role in bringing the war in Ukraine to an end.”

By Jake Johnson.  Published 12-23-2022 by Common Dreams.

Taking inspiration from the storied holiday fighting pause in the early months of the First World War, more than 1,000 faith leaders in the United States have signed onto a statement calling for a Christmas truce and ceasefire in Ukraine in the hopes that such a gesture would open the door to substantive diplomatic negotiations.

“As people of faith and conscience, believing in the sanctity of all life on this planet, we call for a Christmas Truce in Ukraine,” reads the statement, which was signed by Bishop William J. Barber II, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Dr. Cornel West, Rev. Liz Theoharis, Rabbi Arthur Waskow, Sikh leader Valarie Kaur, and hundreds of other religious leaders representing believers from every major tradition.

The growing list of signatories also includes Bishop John Berzins of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, Caracas, and South America as well as Archbishop Gabriel Chemodakoff of the Canadian Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.

“In the spirit of the truce that occurred in 1914 during the First World War, we urge our government to take a leadership role in bringing the war in Ukraine to an end through supporting calls for a ceasefire and negotiated settlement, before the conflict results in a nuclear war that could devastate the world’s ecosystems and annihilate all of God’s creation,” the statement continues, echoing a recent call from a coalition of U.S. veterans.

The faith leaders’ demand came as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy prepared to arrive in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday for his first trip outside of his country since Russia invaded in February. Speaking to reporters Tuesday, a senior Biden administration official said the U.S. president would not use Zelenskyy’s visit to push for a diplomatic settlement to the fighting in Ukraine, where thousands of civilians have been killed.

“He is not going to pressure or push Zelenskyy to the negotiating table, but rather, he is going to work with Congress and with our allies to put Ukraine in the best possible position on the battlefield so that when the time is ripe, they are in the best possible position at the negotiating table,” the unnamed official said.

The Biden administration is expected to announce a $2 billion military aid package for Ukraine on Wednesday as Congress gears up to pass an additional $45 billion in assistance as part of a year-end omnibus bill.

Earlier this month, Zelenskyy called on Russia to withdraw its forces from Ukraine by Christmas–a demand that Moscow promptly rejected as “out of the question.”

But the Fellowship of Reconciliation USA, the oldest interfaith peace group in the country and one of the organizers of the new statement, argued in a press release Wednesday that “the fact that such discussion is taking place reflects how palpable the world’s desire for a ceasefire is.”

“As the war in Ukraine drags into its 10th month, with 14 million displaced, hundreds of thousands killed, humanitarian impacts being felt across the globe, and the risk of nuclear annihilation, there no time more urgent than the present,” Ariel Gold, executive director of the Fellowship of Reconciliation USA, said in a statement Wednesday.

“As my family and I, whose ancestors are from the region, are kindling our Hanukkah lights this week, we are recalling a miracle of past days and praying that the land which in 1941 experienced the Baba Yar massacre of more than 33,000 Jews, may experience a reprieve from the violence over this holiday season,” said Gold, one of the statement’s signatories.

Zoharah Simmons of the National Council of Elders, another statement signatory, added that “whether it’s Christians around the world preparing for Christmas or Jews getting ready to celebrate the commemoration of the miracle of Hanukkah, all of the Abrahamic faiths embrace the prophetic voice of Isaiah who exhorted us to transform swords into plowshares.”

“As we enter this winter holiday filled with prayers for peace and liberation,” said Simmons, “we are praying and acting for the same kind of miracle that over a century ago compelled the soldiers of WWI to put down their weapons and celebrate peace.”

This work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0).

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