Asian Christians express closeness to Ukrainians

As Russia continues its relentless onslaught on Ukraine, the appeal of Pope Francis for prayer and fasting on Ash Wednesday for an end to the war has found a wide response from Catholics and Christians across the globe.

By Vatican News staff reporter

Many Asian Church leaders have expressed their closeness to Ukrainians and are mobilizing for peace. Among them is the Church of Japan.

Japan

“Many lives are now at risk. It is our duty as children of God to protect God’s gift of life,” said Archbishop Isao Kikuchi of Tokyo, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan (CBCJ).  “I call on Russia’s leaders to halt the invasion of Ukraine and walk the path of establishing peace through dialogue,” he said in a statement.

He expressed concern that a major world power’s decision to invade an independent country not only puts life into crisis but will also have a tremendous negative impact on the future world order.  Archbishop Kikuchi called on political leaders to seek a solution through dialogue.  

Bishop Bernard Taiji Katsuya of Sapporo, chairman of the Japan Catholic Council for Justice and Peace, recalled the words of Saint John Paul II in 1981 at the Hiroshima memorial: “Humanity is not destined for self-destruction. Differences in ideologies, aspirations and needs can and must be ironed out and resolved by means other than war and violence.”

Myanmar

In Myanmar, where an oppressive military junta continues to crush the people, a Catholic bishop has invited his faithful to pray and fast during Lent for peace in Ukraine and in his own country. 

They are brothers and sisters, for whom we must urgently open humanitarian corridors. They must be welcomed,” Bishop Alexander Pyone Cho of Pyay said in a pastoral letter on Sunday, referring to Ukrainians.  “May the weapons fall silent. God is with the peacemakers, not with those who use violence. It is the people who are the real victims, who pay for the folly of war with their own skin.”

Myanmar’s military, a major ally of Russia, has backed the invasion of Ukraine as “justified.”   Last year, Russia backed Myanmar’s takeover by the military and has conducted arms deals with the junta since the coup.

Last weekend activists in several townships in Myanmar staged protests holding placards declaring “We stand in solidarity with the people from Ukraine” and “We condemn Russia.”

Philippines

In the Philippines, Bishop Pablo Virgilio David of Kalookan, the president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) urged for prayers that the Lord “move the consciences of the Russian people” so that they themselves take the “necessary steps in order to pressure their government to stop the war it has started”.  “Nobody is happy about war except those in the arms industries who make huge profits and stand to benefit from the disputes among nations,” he wrote in a pastoral letter on Sunday.   He argued, “The Lord Himself taught us that there is no other way to combat the enticements of the devil, especially among those who are obsessed with power, wealth and fame, other than prayer, fasting and acts of charity.”

Korea

In South Korea, Archbishop Peter Chung Soon-taick of Seoul sent a message of solidarity on behalf of local Catholics to the Church of Ukraine together with emergency cash aid to help the elderly and children in shelters.  He said he was moved by a video of small children trembling with fear and cold in the icy subway.   “It hurts my heart to see the reality of war,” he said, urging prayers that “the weapons fall silent”.

Hong Kong

In Hong Kong, Bishop Stephen Chow Sau Yan expressed serious concern and deep sadness at the loss of life and property caused by the Russian invasion.  “The military manoeuvres and the manipulation of political powers are shattering the Ukrainians’ hope for peace and stability in their homeland,” he said in a press release.  “The power of earnest prayers en masse,” he stressed, “can achieve what is beyond human imagination.”

India

In India, Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Bombay also reminded the faithful about the Pope’s call.  At the start of the Ash Wednesday Mass, the cardinal who is president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) said, “The people in Ukraine are also our brothers and sisters.” “We are in a situation of peace and security.  We can imagine the difficulties they are having, not sure when they will suffer injury, the effects of bombing etc. Let’s pray therefore for peace.” 

Earlier on Sunday, he told AsiaNews said that “a conflict is always something dramatic”.  He hoped that peace prevails in the whole area and does not lead to the escalation of conflict and loss of life.  “We really pray ardently that everybody sees the senselessness of violence and the necessity of peace to making it a better world.”          

Indian Archbishop Felix Machado of Vasai also expressed his closeness to the suffering people of Ukraine.  “In today’s world, war cannot be contained to one region. Our hearts are with those who are suffering, there is so much suffering and it will have consequences for all of us. May the Lord have mercy on us all. “

He joined the Christian Churches of India and a joint statement urging their faithful to pray for the suffering people and unconditional peace in Ukraine.  The CBCI, the National Council of Churches of India (NCCI), the apex body of Protestant and Orthodox churches, and the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI) said they were joining their Church leaders in calling “for a change of hearts and minds, for de-escalation, and for dialogue instead of threats”.