School's Position on War in Ukraine (published on 10 March 2022)

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Ever since the St. John's School was established ten years ago, we have been trying to be unifiers and peace-makers, by serving our meek and humble Heavenly King.  Our school is a place where people of different denominations and nationalities meet. At the same time we have consciously chosen the teaching of the Orthodox Church as the Way of Saints and of great holiness, and at its core we perceive it as such even now. However, we deplore the perversion of Christ's doctrine for destructive purposes, and we cannot agree with Patriarch Kirill's statements concerning the war in Ukraine. We consider the bloodshed the Russian authorities have initiated in Ukraine to be a catastrophic error. The life-giving message of the Gospel must not be a cover for destruction. In these days we are in pain and heartfelt prayer, but also trying to safeguard the peaceful atmosphere in our school, to raise funds for Ukraine and to prepare for the reception of children of war refugees into our school family.

The school's attitude is best reflected in the appeal to the Patriarch by parishioners from Estonia and abroad, launched last week. Please find the text of the appeal below.

Your Holiness Patriarch Kirill,

We, laity of the Russian Orthodox Church from different countries, and under her canonical responsibility, appeal to you to bring before the leadership of the Russian Federation our urgent supplication for an immediate end to bloodshed, and that Russian troops should be withdrawn from the territory of Ukraine. 

The Local Council of the Russian Orthodox Church, which is endowed with the fulness of ecclesial authority, elected you as its primate so that you should represent its flock of many millions. To you, as primate, has been delegated the duty to appeal to the authorities and bring before them the opinion of the people of the church. We expect you to make your voice heard and appeal in person to President Vladimir Putin, the Government and Parliament of the Russian Federation, with a demand to stop this fratricidal war. We expect you, likewise, to speak words of consolation to the Ukrainian people, assuring them that you are doing everything possible to ensure peace. 

The Church is the Body of Christ, and believers are its members. But now the Body is bleeding as Russian soldiers, among whom there are Orthodox Christians, are killing our brothers and sisters in Ukraine, depriving them of a roof over their heads, undermining their health and welfare, forcing them to leave their homes, stealing the future of an entire country. The most vulnerable – children, women and the elderly- are among the victims of the war. We hear their cries for help and cannot remain indifferent, nor be reconciled with the violence which is being meted out to Ukrainians, Russians and representatives of other nationalities who are unified by a common citizenship and love for their homeland, Ukraine. We appeal to you to fulfil your calling as an intercessor before the authorities of Russia, for your flock which is the victim of military action, for the people who are deprived of their homes and livelihoods. 

We also call upon you to send out an epistle to the entire body of the Russian Orthodox Church, and publicly condemn those who support bloodshed. Unfortunately, there are among your flock both clergy and laity who rejoice over war. In the history of the Church, war in the cause of defence has been blessed, whereas war as aggression has always been condemned. Today Russia is the aggressor and the people of Ukraine are having to defend themselves. To pray for the victory of Russian arms, as some clergy are advocating, is immoral. 

Great Lent is drawing near, a time of fervent prayer and repentance which should culminate in the Paschal eucharistic meal. But can both aggressor and victim share in the one Cup? Our Lord Jesus Christ says ‘if you are offering your gift at the altar…first go and be reconciled to you brother; then come and offer your gift’ (Matt. 5:23-24). Reconciliation does not mean forgetting, and it is not possible without active repentance by the one who has sinned against his brother. Prayer for peace is also impossible without repentance. 

As Lent approaches, we appeal to you, Your Holiness, to call upon all believers of the Russian Orthodox Church not only to pray for peace, but to take active steps to restore peace by all possible means: to speak the truth, to expose evil, to seek justice. We hope and believe that our Lord Jesus Christ who said ‘Blessed are the peacemakers’ will strengthen you, and that the Spirit of God who works through the prophets, will speak through you to the powerful of this world. 

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