For one of the first times in history, the world is watching, in real-time, an invasion of a free and peaceful country by a cruel, war-mongering despot. Thanks to the internet and cell phones, we are vicariously experiencing the suffering of Ukrainians with up-to-the-moment detail. Of course, Ukraine is not the only nation to suffer such a brutal assault in recent times, but it is by far the most observed by people across the world. The war of aggression waged by Russia’s Vladimir Putin against the people of Ukraine has a particular nexus with Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s story – Ukraine is in Europe, Putin is a petty tyrant militantly advancing what he sees as a superior culture, threatening the whole of Europe, if not the world. The comparisons to Adolf Hitler’s machinations are obvious.
Another important dimension of the war in Ukraine is what it demands of us. Turning a blind eye, closing our ears, minimizing the scale of human suffering, and remaining silent in the face of crimes against humanity are not options for people of conscience. Bonhoeffer modeled courage in speaking – and speaking early – when it is still possible to do so. It is not too late for every person of conscience to denounce Putin’s barbarity and demand he be held accountable for it. Now is the time to speak out for the oppressed and to those empowered to help them.
For all of us who are focusing our attention on Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, God is calling to pray, speak, and act on behalf of those who are suffering. Americans must use our freedom and safety to speak for those who must hide in terror.