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Boise priest says Russian invasion of Ukraine unites world’s nations against aggression

The following story appeared in the March 11 Idaho Catholic Register.

Editor’s note: Father Adrian Leszko, parochial vicar at St. Mark’s Catholic Church in Boise, is a native of Poland. His parents live just 33 miles from Belarus, a nation friendly to Russia and a launching area for Russia’s military and equipment in Russia’s military campaign against Ukraine. A week after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Idaho Catholic Register asked Father Leszko for his reaction to the situation. He submitted the following commentary in response to our questions.

By Father Adrian Leszko

In recent days, Ukraine has been invaded by the troops of the Russian Federation. It is an unimaginable tragedy, which is caused by unsatisfied ambitions of the Russian President and the lies with which are fed to the Russian army and the whole

Russian nation.

In the face of this war, which is not only an obvious act of aggression against an independent state of Europe, but also a return to the dark times of the Nazi and Stalinist regimes, we Christians are called to support our brothers and sisters in Ukraine through prayer, fasting and almsgiving.

At the same time, we can be examining our own heart and the feelings that accompany these experiences of war and violence. It is a good thing to analyze our hearts. Do I feel anger and hatred in my heart, or do I feel mercy, forgiveness and compassion for both sides in this conflict? Because the first option is not the way of the Gospel, this is a time when we can see how our hearts are rooted in the Gospel or how much still we have to learn from Jesus.

As a Pole, I am aware of the wars and the terror that my nation experienced at the hands of Communist Russia. As they did at that time, Russian leaders are still using the same lie that they are fighting to defend the freedom and oppose the brutality of the oppressed Russians in Ukraine.

Perhaps you have heard what what the ambassador to Ukraine reported during a recent session of the United Nations when he read aloud a conversation that a Russian soldier – who later was killed – had with his parents. He told his parents that the Russian army was not aware it was going to war. Instead, the soldiers were told they were going to military exercises and training. At the same time, the people of the Russian Federation are told made-up stories that the Ukrainian authorities were carrying out assassinations on Russian government ministers inside Ukraine, and that Ukrainians are murdering Russian civilians in the Donbas region of southeast Ukraine. These are manipulations and lies. The Ukrainian people are innocent and want to defend their independence, freedom and their right to a future.

In recent years, observing the actions of the Russian Federation, various countries of Europe, especially central Europe, are concerned about security in their own countries due to an increase of Russian aggression, first in Georgia and then against Ukraine in 2014.

Believing in the power of prayer, churches in Europe and in Ukraine called for peace. It is surprising, however, that the Belarusian Orthodox Archbishop of Grodno (in communion with the Russian Orthodox Church) forbade praying for peace in Ukraine during liturgical celebrations in his diocese. Even in time of war, it is clearly seen how the tyranny of power can intimidate and enslave even religious communities with weak leaders. However, Christians and those of other faith traditions are united as never before in bringing material and prayerful help to our brothers and sisters in Ukraine.

What is most beautiful to me is the unity and solidarity of people all over the world who support Ukraine in its fight for independence. Perhaps for the first time in the history of mankind, so many countries of the world are speaking with one voice condemning the war and calling on the Russian Federation to withdraw its troops and work for peace.

I personally did not think that another war would happen so quickly (after the 2014 war) and so close to the Polish border. I talked to my friends from Ukraine who are thanking us for the prayers and support of many good people. I also talked with my family who live so very close, just 33 miles, to the Belarusian border where Russian soldiers are stationed.

Hope is not lost. The Ukranian nation will triumph. At the same time, I know that Poland is pre-pared and is not afraid of aggression from the East. Poland is also a member of NATO and the European Union, so it has international support, contrary to Ukraine, which is not a NATO member.

We should always remember that in the face of such aggression, the Gospel gives us the words of consolation and hope. Christ will always triumph! He has conquered death and sin and pours into people’s hearts His love, compassion and hope for a better tomorrow.

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