The Catholic Commission for Social Justice (CCSJ) is calling for an end to the war in Ukraine and for peaceful solutions to be found to address the conflict.
Leela Ramdeen, Chair of CCSJ, in a release Monday, February 28 says: “We stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Ukraine who are victims of this invasion, as well as citizens in Russia and in various parts of the world who are protesting against the invasion. At the same time, justice demands that we also stand in solidarity with our African and Asian brothers and sisters who, according to media reports, are bearing the brunt of racism in Ukraine and at the Polish border.”
The release mentioned news that Nigerian’s Federal Government has stated that there is evidence Nigerian nationals, especially students in Ukraine, have been treated unfairly by the Polish and Ukrainian authorities as they try to flee from the situation in Ukraine.
“I have been listening to the BBC news reports of the challenges faced by Africans and Asians who are fleeing the war. It was Pope Benedict XVI who reminded us that ‘true solidarity—begins with an acknowledgment of the equal worth of the other’,” the release said.
The ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine is deeply rooted in geopolitical and post-Cold War divisions. CCSJ agrees with Pope St Paul VI who, years ago, described war as “a crime against God and against humanity itself.”
As the armed conflict by Russia against Ukraine continues, CCSJ has joined with Pope Francis and pleads for peace. On Sunday, February 27, the Holy Father rightly said: “those who make war forget humanity.”
In his 2020 encyclical, Fratelli Tutti, on fraternity and social friendship, he said: “War is a failure of politics and of humanity, a shameful capitulation, a stinging defeat before the forces of evil.”
“And while it may appear that we in T&T are far from Ukraine, we must stand in solidarity with those who feel the barbs of war,” the release said.
The CCSJ noted that at the regional level, the CARICOM “strongly condemns the military attacks and invasion of Ukraine by the Russian Federation.”
We are called to be “peacemakers”, the release asserted, and reminded that Pope Francis has said that: “Each of us is called to follow in Jesus’ footsteps by becoming a peacemaker. Peace is both a gift and a task, one we must pray for and work for, striving daily to build a culture in which peace is respected as a fundamental right.”
Commenting on the television footage showing Russian President Vladimir Putin meeting with his defence minister and the chief of the general staff and instructing them to put the nuclear deterrent on a ‘special regime of combat duty’, “we see how rapidly the situation is escalating. Russia has about 4,000 nuclear warheads—short and long range,” the release said.
The CCSJ prays for those who have died —on both sides — and for the humanitarian tragedy in which more than 380,000 Ukrainian refugees, mainly women and children, have left their homes, entering neighbouring European countries e.g., Poland, Hungary, Romania, Moldova, and Italy. Seven million Ukrainians are expected to be displaced as a consequence of the Russian invasion.
They note that the European Commission will ask member nations next week to grant temporary asylum to all Ukrainians coming to the EU block for up to three years.
“However, we ask that the Asian and African students who have been blocked from leaving because of racist discrimination in Ukraine be allowed to leave also,” the release said.
The CCSJ agrees with the sentiments expressed by Mahatma Gandhi who said: “Non-violence is not a garment to be put on and off at will. Its seat is in the heart, and it must be an inseparable part of our very being.”
You and I, the CCSJ stated, can be part of the solution. “But first, we have to do as Pope Francis says and “say ‘no’ to hatred and violence—with action—and ‘yes’ to fraternity and reconciliation.”
The CCSJ gave its support of Pope Francis’ call for a day of fasting and prayer for peace in Ukraine on Ash Wednesday.
“Let us continue to pray and to practise the virtue of solidarity. Loving our neighbour has global dimensions in an interdependent world. We are all interconnected and interdependent. We believe that Peace is possible. We lose hope at our peril!” the release said.