by Hannele Ottschofski  |  4 March 2022  |

Our part of the world went into lockdown exactly two years ago. Ever since, we have been monitoring the effects of the Covid-19 virus on our lives. Lockdowns, regulations, and variant surges have changed the way we live our daily lives. Masks, vaccines and new medication have helped us to not lose hope that the scourge can be conquered. 

We have been waiting for our lives to go back to normal.

Then the scientists told us that we will probably have to learn to live with this virus and that it will not just go away. Our world may not go back to what it was before the pandemic. 

We have accepted so many things in the past two years. We would, they said, have to accept this, too.

Aggression and war

The last few years have not only been a challenge to our physical health. People are battling depression and hopelessness as well. 

Aggression has emerged as a scary side-effect. Parts of our society are becoming increasingly hostile towards rules and respect of others. Twisting facts, denying truths, and boldly proclaiming lies has become the new normal. 

Some have undertaken to analyze the reasons for this development, but we have even seen it happen in the media. Alternative facts and fake news, important and well-funded media being used to propagate falsehoods—these have destroyed the trust of large segments of the population in not only news sources, but the democratic process itself. 

Just when we thought that there was light at the end of the tunnel—that we would somehow emerge to a new day without so many disruptions to our lives—the world entered another dark tunnel on February 24, 2022. 

In recent times we have celebrated the end of two world wars. We thought the world’s nations had learned their lesson. As Europeans, we have enjoyed the freedom of the past few years, forgetting how fragile relations between nations used to be. My generation has been able to grow up in peace and prosperity. The Cold War was declared defunct, and a new era of cooperation was to come. 

But as Finland’s President Sauli Niinistö said, the world is “almost in a colder situation” than during the Cold War. His remarks were made while western politicians were scrambling to prevent escalation. On the morning of the attack, Niinistö said, “Putin’s mask comes off, showing a cold face of war.” 

We once again see aggression and the possibility of war in Europe. 

Speaking at the Munich security conference on February 19, Sauli Niinistö drew parallels between events unfolding in Ukraine, and Soviet efforts to destabilize Finnish society in the lead-up to the Winter War. 

Stalin thought he would split the nation, and it’s easy to go and invade Finland. The total opposite happened. People united—and we saw the same in Ukraine…I feel that we have in the western world the same feeling—we are being challenged but we are together.

Indeed, the Russian attack on Ukraine has united the world. The world is shocked that Russia would invade its neighboring country to oust its democratically elected government and occupy parts of, if not the whole country. Vladimir Putin’s intentions appear crazy and distorted by any objective standards. There is no excuse for attacking a country that only wants to live in peace. 

Yet strategists say that the Russian attack was long in the planning, plans based on Putin’s distorted ideology and understanding of history. But can he just redraw the map of Europe? Repeating false charges and accusations does not make them true. Inventing reasons does not make attacking a country a peace-keeping mission. 

Misinformation and lies

Wars have always used propaganda and misinformation. Putin, as a former KGB director, knows better than anyone else how to manipulate public opinion. No wonder Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin had a “special relationship.” As the saying goes, “Birds of a feather flock together.” 

We Europeans are especially shocked that a President of the United States would rather believe the assurances of a Russian dictator than his own secret service, as happened in the meeting between Putin and Trump in Helsinki. Another shock came recently when Trump praised Putin as very “savvy” when Putin recognized the separatist territories in eastern Ukraine that he had been destabilizing for the last eight years. 

The attack on the Capitol on January 6, 2021, showed that we cannot even take the rule of democracy for granted in the greatest western democracy, as long as such dangerous people are allowed to run rampant. 

The world is getting scarier all the time.

Ukraine and me

I have come to know and love the people of Ukraine. We have wonderful memories of evangelistic efforts we undertook with a team of friends each summer for more than 12 years in western Ukraine. We worked together to lead people to give their lives to Jesus, and made many wonderful friends. In my mind I can see their faces and hear their wonderful music. I remember their hospitality and kindness. 

When I see Kyiv, Lviv, or Chernivtsi in the newsreels I recognize places where we were taken by friends. I long to hear how they are doing. My heart goes out to all the Adventist friends in Ukraine who have made such efforts to tell their friends about Jesus. Their love for their communities has made an impact and brought many people to Christ.

We do not know what will happen now. Ukraine has been left at the mercy of Russian aggression. The sympathies of most of the world are with the brave people of Ukraine. However, words of support are not enough. 

Are we seeing the beginning of a third world war? We hope not, but who knows what could happen? Whatever happens to Ukraine, the world will never be the same again. 

The official German policy has been not to deliver arms to areas involved in fighting. The government has felt obligated to uphold this stance for obvious historic reasons. The pressure of the last few days has shown that this policy was no longer workable. In an extraordinary session of the Bundestag on February 27, Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock explained

Just a few weeks ago, I said in this Chamber on the subject of arms deliveries that a decision to make a 180-degree turn in foreign policy must be taken at the right moment and with full awareness. Now—as sad as it is—is the moment to do so. We tried diplomacy until the last minute. The Kremlin has stalled us, lied to us, and refused to do everything that we as Europeans have stood for so far. Putin wanted this war “whatever it takes.”

Chancellor Scholz expounded on the change in policy in a 29-minute presentation.  

We must support Ukraine in this desperate situation. We have done so in large measure over the past weeks, months, and years. But with the invasion of Ukraine, we are in a new time. In Kyiv, in Kharkiv, Odessa, or Mariupol, people are not only defending their homeland. They are fighting for freedom and their democracy, for values that we share with them. As democrats, as Europeans, we stand by their side—on the right side of history!

Appeals for peace

For us in Europe, Ukraine is not so far away—only about two hours by plane. Today in Berlin, on the fourth day of hostilities, about 100,000 people of many nationalities took to the streets in protest against the war. Even in Russia, people are risking detention by going out on the streets and showing their opposition to the war. 

There are large Ukrainian communities in many countries around the world where people are worried about what is happening. Distance does not diminish their anguish.

I was particularly impressed by an appeal for the preservation of peace by 60 schoolgirls from the Democratic Republic of Congo. “We know war,” they said. “Don’t let the guns talk!” They appealed to Europe to do everything to prevent a war in Ukraine. “Love, listening, and dialogue: this is the real way to resolve conflicts!” the girls from the war-torn central African country said.

In their appeal, they told from their own experience the effects of war. 

In war, we lose our parents, brothers and sisters, our property and our lives. In war, many of us have lost our grandparents, who today might otherwise teach us how to get through life. Women become widows, men become widowers, children become orphans, and parents lose their children. Many children have never met their families; they do not have a home, they live on the streets and they’ve never seen a school from the inside.

They closed their appeal with these words:  

We ask you out of love for God our Creator: try to be reconciled, forget what divides you, lay down your arms. There are many ways to make concessions without having to go to war. We’re all siblings: why do we hurt each other because of this world which will pass away anyway? The earth does not belong to us: sooner or later we will leave it. Let us cherish the precious gift that God has given us: life!

These Congolese schoolgirls are so right. It is a fact that the people of Russia and Ukraine have close connections. They are like brothers and sisters. There is no reason why they could not live in peace with each other. We are seeing a delusional dictator unmasking his real character. All the diplomatic efforts of world leaders during the past few weeks were not able to change Putin’s mind.

Prayers

We prayed for God’s intervention to prevent a war. Now we are pleading for God to stop this war and protect the nation of Ukraine and its brave people. We are praying for the fleeing population. We are asking for God to console those who have lost loved ones or have been wounded. We thank God for the way people are reaching out to help others, taking care of the thousands who are crossing borders to find security. 

We are struggling with many questions beginning with “Why?” and failing to find satisfactory answers. We are worried. We are wondering how the Prince of Peace will take charge of the situation in this derailed world. He is the only one who can change things. Maybe we are really at a point in the world’s history where we will have to leave this earth. We will just have to trust that God will be with us, whatever happens. One day He will end our chaos and create new heavens and a new earth. 

In his opening remarks, Chancellor Scholz pointed out how the invasion of Ukraine has changed the world. We do not know what it will be like, but “it means the world after is no longer the same as the world before.” However much we may want it, we will not get our world back as it was. 

Let us join together as God’s children around the world in supporting our sisters and brothers in Ukraine.


Hannele Ottschofski writes from Hechingen, Germany.

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