“Kids didn’t start the war in Ukraine. They aren’t fighting it. They won’t be responsible for ending it. They have had little say in the matter, yet they have suffered deeply.”
Few would argue with the truth of those words, but as the war in Ukraine drags on, it can be easy to forget that the casualties reported do not represent the totality of lives lost in the struggle. Every soldier who dies takes the life their family previously knew to the grave with them, and that change is often felt most by their children.
To that end, Mona El-Naggar, Jonah M. Kessel, and Alexander Stockton traveled to the war-torn nation to bring back a small glimpse into how Ukraine is trying to help the more than five thousand children who have lost a parent in the war.
They call it Wonder Camp, “a two-week retreat intended to give grieving kids the space and support to confront their pain and begin to heal.” The camp is part of the larger effort by the Children of Heroes group to provide “educational, housing, legal and psychological support” to the kids until they turn eighteen.
Their testimonies—relayed in the video linked to above—provide an insight and heightened awareness into what this war has already cost.
But, lest we forget, even more families in Russia are facing the same fate with no end in sight.
A war that refuses to end
It’s been almost seventeen months since Russia first invaded Ukraine, and the nature of the headlines hasn’t changed much.
This week alone, we’ve been greeted with news of Russia bombing the ports in Odesa, threatening foreign vessels in the Black Sea, and Vladimir Putin withdrawing from an upcoming meeting with world leaders in South Africa for fear of being arrested and put on trial for war crimes. Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov will go in his place.
Meanwhile, closer to home, Congress has pledged to send another $1.3 billion in military aid for Ukraine, bringing the total to more than $40 billion since Russia invaded last year. Considering the government has approved $113 billion in total aid to the country—with the expectation that those funds will be needed in some form through 2026—it seems clear they understand this war will persist as well.
Given those circumstances, it’s interesting that the Senate also overwhelmingly decided this week to reject Rand Paul’s proposed amendment to clarify “that Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty does not supersede the constitutional requirement that Congress declare war before the United States engages in war.”
Article 5 requires that if any member of NATO is attacked, the other nations in the alliance are obligated to help. There are stipulations limiting where those attacks can take place to trigger that aid—China and Taiwan are, notably, among the areas not included—and Article 11 stipulates that nations should carry out any such actions in accordance with “their respective constitutional processes.” However, the general assumption underlying the agreement is that if one country goes to war, they will not do so alone.
Given that the last time Congress officially declared war on another nation was in 1942 when America entered the Second World War, it’s understandable that Paul and those who voted in favor of his amendment would be hesitant to trust that the constitutionally mandated process for sending soldiers into battle will be followed in the future.
Even President Biden has demonstrated some hesitancy about what Article 5 could cause and has listed it as one of the chief reasons he’s opposed to admitting Ukraine into NATO while the conflict with Russia continues.
“War is an ugly thing, but . . . .”
John Stuart Mill once noted that “war is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse.”
Nothing we’ve discussed today is intended to argue that supporting Ukraine in its fight against Russia is the wrong decision. However, one of the greatest dangers we face when fighting continues to rage for this long with no clear end in sight is that we become numb to its cost.
As Stuart Mill describes, war is not the ugliest thing, but it is still ugly. What’s going on in Ukraine is no different, and if that conflict spills into the surrounding nations or lays the groundwork for other nations to attempt something similar, the outcome would be truly tragic regardless of who is victorious in the end.
So what would God have us do about it?
While that is ultimately a personal question each one of us needs to ask the Lord, Scripture does give us some important guidelines.
A biblical example of a peacemaker
In Matthew 5:9 Jesus says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” However, that concept of what it means to be a “peacemaker” is more complicated than it may appear initially. Scripture does not call us to pursue peace at all costs or simply work to avoid a fight. After all, true peace is about more than just the absence of conflict.
One of the best examples we find in God’s word of what it means to be a peacemaker is Jonathan.
In 1 Samuel 19:1–7, we find Saul attempting to kill David and Jonathan stepping in to try and bring peace to the situation. In so doing, Jonathan teaches us four important lessons about what it means to be a peacemaker.
First, Jonathan was the calmest voice in the conversation. David was scared because Saul was trying to kill him. Saul was enraged because he felt threatened by David. But Jonathan was able to speak calmly and rationally to both men.
Second, Jonathan was willing to make personal sacrifices if it meant achieving a peaceful resolution. One of the reasons Saul felt threatened by David is that he understood how the latter’s popularity was a threat not only to his throne but also to his son’s. In making peace between Saul and David, Jonathan had to set aside what could have been the clearest path to rule.
Third, Jonathan saw the situation through to the point of reconciliation. It wasn’t enough for Jonathan to simply assuage his father’s anger or his friend’s fear. Instead, he took the added step of bringing the two of them back together to try and restore their relationship.
Fourth, even though Jonathan brought about peace in this instance, it wouldn’t last. Saul would eventually go back to trying to kill David. By that point, there was nothing Jonathan could do to reconcile them again.
In the same way, there will be times when we try to make peace and it simply doesn’t work. After all, we cannot control the choices other people make. But even when peace seems like a long shot, Scripture requires us to try.
So as we watch Ukraine and Russia continue to rend more and more families in both nations, may their conflict serve as a reminder to value and pursue peace wherever it is within our power to do so. Our world is in desperate need of more Jonathans.
Will you be one today?