February 24, 2022, will be remembered as the day that undermined the geo-political order in Europe. It was the day that Mr. Putin ordered the massive attack on its neighbor, Ukraine, over land, sea, and air. The world was caught with a surprise. It begs everyone to ask the existential question: who is my neighbor?
As the world views the unfolding drama of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, it is quite evident that this war is a battle between Democracy and Authoritarianism. In reality, however, it brings to the stage the fundamental question of human rights – can a government of one country unilaterally barge into another country using military force in order to subjugate the citizens of the latter? Therefore, it becomes imperative to know who my neighbor is.
Rhetoric on the Invasion
In his speech prior to the attack, President Putin explained to his citizenry that he issued directives for the Russian Armed Forces to launch a “special military operation” against Ukraine for the following reasons:
- To rescue the Russian-speaking Ukrainians in the Donbas region from the clutches of the government of Ukraine, which he described as “Neo-Nazis”; and,
- To de-militarize the whole country for the purpose of bolstering the border security of Russia.
On the contrary, however, the so-called “special military operation” as announced by President Putin was mere propaganda to justify his war against Ukraine. In reality, it was a barbaric act of war launched by Russia against its neighbor, Ukraine. Undoubtedly, the Russian aggression was unjustified since it was unprovoked and pre-meditated.
At the core of it, such unilateral action by Russia only manifested the total disrespect of Putin for international laws on the sovereignty of nations.
Consequences of the Russian Invasion of Ukraine
Clearly, judging from the intensity and frequency of the aerial bombings, missile attacks, artillery fires, and ground attacks being unleashed by Russia on the civilians and other non-military targets, the people of Ukraine are suffering terribly. In a letter to the Pope, the Ukrainian bishops said that they were writing ”in these hours of immeasurable pain and terrible ordeal for our people”. The following are the consequences of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, namely:
- Mass exodus of refugees. As of day 12 of the invasion, approximately 2 million Ukrainians have fled to the neighboring countries on the western border. Notably, the majority of the refugees are comprised of mothers and children without the fathers, who have decided to remain in Ukraine to fight the Russian invaders.
- Humanitarian Crisis. The Russian aggression deliberately targeted the civilians as well as non-military establishments – hospitals, schools, residential buildings, etc.. Moreover, missiles were used to destroy and control nuclear power plants and water distribution facilities. As a consequence, people are left without food, water and electricity.
- Chilling Effect of Nuclear Threat. Surprisingly, the attack on Ukraine comes with the veiled threat of Mr. Putin to use nuclear arms, if the EU or NATO interferes. Indeed, the situation calls for extreme caution as any misstep could trigger WW3.
Who is thy Neighbor?
To my mind, the Ukraine tragedy may be likened to the Parable of the Good Samaritan. It is a story about a man who fell victim to robbers and brigands. As he lay on the road helpless, several persons came along the same road but did not help the injured man. This is how the story unfolds, as follows:
The Parable of the Good Samaritan.
“But because he wished to justify himself, he said to Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’ Jesus replied, ‘A man fell victim to robbers as he went down from Jerusalem to Jericho. They stripped and beat him and went off leaving him half-dead. A priest happened to be going down that road, but when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side. Likewise a Levite came to the place, and when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side. But a Samaritan traveler who came upon him was moved with compassion at the sight. He approached the victim, poured oil and wine over his wounds and bandaged them. Then he lifted him up on his own animal, took him to an inn and cared for him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper with the instruction, ‘Take care of him. If you spend more than what I have given you, I shall repay you on my way back.’ Which of these three, in your opinion, was neighbor to the robbers’ victim?He answered, ‘The one who treated him with mercy.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise’.”Luke 10:29-37, NABRE, Parable of the Good Samaritan
In the case of Ukraine, however, the big difference is that the passersby are all looking at the opposite side of the road. We still have yet to see the good samaritan’s arrival. Thus far, the Russians have continuously bombarded several major cities in Ukraine, mercilessly targeting the civilians and civilian infrastructure i.e. hospitals, schools, residential buildings, and even nuclear power plants. Despite President Zelensky’s repeated request for a “no fly zone” over Ukraine’s air space, which is desperately needed, neither the US nor the EU have acceded to it.
The Sad Plight of Ukraine
In his encyclical, Fratelli Tutti, Pope Francis presented the sad plight of the injured man, as follows:
“76. Let us turn at last to the injured man. There are times when we feel like him, badly hurt and left on side of the road. We can also feel helpless because our institutions are neglected and lack resources, or simply serve the interests of a few, without and within. Indeed, “globalized society often has an elegant way of shifting its gaze. Under the guise of being politically correct or ideologically fashionable, we look at those who suffer without touching them. We televise live pictures of them, even speaking about them with euphemisms and with apparent tolerance.”Pope Francis, Fratelli Tutti, #76
Indeed, the same situation is happening to Ukraine. Whilst it is currently being bombarded by the massive forces of the Russian military, the World powers simply turn their gaze away from it on the guise that it may escalate into WW3.
Failure of Diplomacy
Sadly, President Putin’s invasion of Ukraine implies the failure of diplomacy. Somehow, there seems to have been a lack of honest to goodness dialogue between Putin and the Western leaders. Could this war have been avoided if genuine inter-personal relationships had been developed amongst the world leaders?
As the whole word watches the on-going saga of the Russia-Ukraine war, we need to remind ourselves of the importance of honest to goodness dialogue. As St. Josemaria Escriva aptly put in point 47 (shown below) of The Way, we need to get rid of the tendencies towards posturing and pretentiousness. Otherwise, there will always be barriers that would hinder peace and harmony, particularly in politics.
“That pose and those important airs don’t fit you well. It’s obvious that they’re false. At least, try not to use them either with God, or with your director, or with your brothers: and then there will be between them and you one barrier less.”St. Josemaria Escriva, The way, 47