Fr. Ernesto Obregon, an Orthodox priest, found this article in Haaretz, and also the Russian Orthodox Church response to the Ukraine situation. His original article can be found on
From Haaretz, a Jewish newspaper in Israel, the edition published on 25 February, just 10 days ago:
Ukrainian Rabbi Moshe Reuven Azman, called on Kiev’s Jews to leave the city and even the country if possible, fearing that the city’s Jews will be victimized in the chaos, Israeli daily Maariv reported Friday.
“I told my congregation to leave the city center or the city all together and if possible the country too,” Rabbi Azman told Maariv. “I don’t want to tempt fate,” he added, “but there are constant warnings concerning intentions to attack Jewish institutions.”
There are two sets of news stories going out. The news stories that we hear here are often more interested in trying to lay blame than in trying to understand what is going on over there. Meanwhile, we have Jewish rabbis being very concerned and worried about the new government that has taken over the Ukraine. Why? Because the protesters who forced the President of the Ukraine out include a large percentage of nationalists. Sadly, they define nationalism as meaning getting rid of any who do not fit the appropriate ethnic definition of an Ukrainian, like Jews and Russians. Lest you think that this is an isolated incident, three days later the Times of Israel reported that some Jews want Israeli troops sent to the Ukraine:
The head of a prominent European Jewish group requested Tuesday that the Israeli government urgently send security personnel to Ukraine in order to protect the Jewish communities there, which have been targeted during the political unrest gripping the country.
In a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, the head of the European Jewish Association, Rabbi Menahem Margolin, urgently requested that Israel “send trained security guards to protect Jewish communities in Ukrainian cities and towns.”
We need to be careful whom we support. There is a mess going on in Syria. Our Antiochian Patriarch begged the USA to not become involved in the Syria mess. Instead, we had Congressmen flying over for photo ops, and denouncing the USA because we did not take unilateral action, just like Russia has done in the Ukraine in response to another popular revolution. So, what has happened in Syria so far? All the Christians in one town have been told that they must convert to Islam, or pay a tax, or leave. The Monastery of St. Thekla in Maaula, Syria, has been despoiled with many nuns taken hostage. Two bishops, one Eastern Orthodox, the other Oriental Orthodox, have disappeared, having been taken while on a drive.
I am not supporting Russia in what they have done in the Crimea. But, I will point out that Russia has used the identical reasoning that was used by President Reagan when Grenada was invaded. The difference is that we took over an entire country and overthrew a government and then established a government we liked, in order to protect American students attending school in Grenada because they might become hostages. Russia has only taken over a province using the same reasoning, and has not overthrown another government. In passing, a large part of the takeover was to ensure that the new government would not try to close the Russian Black Sea naval base.
At the same time, I am for diplomatic pressure being put on Russia. I do not think sanctions will work, as they are the world’s 8th largest economy. I also do not think that such sanctions would be approved. Both the Germans and the English have already said that they are not for sanctions in this situation at this time. Currently, the Europeans are working on a slightly different approach. In fact, German chancellor Angela Merkel spoke with Putin and then with Obama about a fact-finding mission and some tension-lowering talks.
The German government said Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday accepted a proposal by Chancellor Angela Merkel to set up a “contact group” aimed at facilitating dialogue in the Ukraine crisis.
Merkel raised the idea in a phone conversation in which she accused Putin of breaking international law with the “unacceptable Russian intervention in Crimea.” German government spokesman Georg Streiter said in a statement that Putin also accepted the idea of setting up a fact-finding mission.
A Kremlin statement said Putin defended Russia’s action against “ultranationalist forces” in Ukraine and insisted measures taken so far were “fully adequate.” It said Putin directed Merkel’s attention to the “unrelenting threat of violence” to Russian citizens and the Russian-speaking population.
Notice that the issue brought up by Putin is the same issue brought up by the Jewish rabbis. They fear that the current regime in the Ukraine will not protect human rights, especially Jewish rights, anymore than the Syrian rebels we so gleefully supported have protected human rights, especially Christian rights. I think that the diplomatic approach is a better one. We need to be careful that what replaces an existing government is not worse than the existing government. At a minimum, we need to stop jumping to the support of revolutionaries without some careful thought.
More than that, our Congressmen need to stop using revolutions as photo-ops to score political points. They endanger lives when they do that. And, you need to not fully take sides just yet. Russia was wrong to do what it did. But, we could very well end up again in the wrong side of history if Jews and ethnic Russians begin to be cleansed, just like Christians in Syria have been cleansed in certain areas. So, what should we do? Well, let’s look at what the Ukrainian Orthodox metropolitan (locum tenens) and the Russian Orthodox Patriarch have written to each other in the last week. First the Ukrainian metropolitan:
Today Ukraine is without exaggeration undergoing the gravest moment in her modern history. After three months of socio-political crisis, bloody clashes in the centre of Kiev and the deaths of dozens of people, we find ourselves facing yet another trial which is no less grave. On March 1 statements were heard from office-holders in the Russian Federation about the possible dispatch to Ukraine of a limited contingent of Russian troops. If that happens, the Ukrainian and Russian peoples will find themselves drawn into a confrontation which will have catastrophic consequences for our countries. As the locum tenens of the Metropolitan See of Kiev I appeal to you, Your Holiness, to do everything possible so as not to allow bloodshed on the territory of Ukraine. I ask you to raise your voice for the preservation of the territorial integrity of the Ukrainian state. At this grave hour we raise our fervent prayers to Our Lord Jesus Christ that He, through the intercessions of his most pure Mother, should protect from confrontation the fraternal peoples of Russia and Ukraine.
Now let’s look at part of the response from the Russian patriarch:
These events are rooted in the internal political crisis [of Ukraine], and in political forces’ inability to tackle problems in a non-violent way. Our flock is made of people of various political views and convictions, including those who stand at opposite sides of the barricades. The Church does not side with any party in the political struggle…The blood shed in Kiev and other Ukrainian cities is the fruit borne by the seeds of hatred which the conflicting parties allowed Satan to plant in their hearts…”
I would suggest we pray and suspend judgment for the moment. We may very well be looking at a pot and kettle situation here. Let’s follow what the Russian metropolitan said, “The Church does not side with any party in the political struggle …”. Why? Because, what we see, “is the fruit borne by the seeds of hatred which the conflicting parties allowed Satan to plant in their hearts …”. Satan is at work. Let us be very careful about what we say and whom we support.