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Jesse Jackson, Bishop Barber, & Over 1,000 More: Faith Leaders Call for a Christmas Truce in Ukraine
The effort has drawn the dedicated support of Orthodox Christian, Roman Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Sikh, Unitarian Universalist, and other religious leaders and has gathered such momentum that even President Zelensky recently referenced the concept.
December 20, 2022 — A diverse and quickly growing coalition of over 1,000 faith leaders in the United States, including Rev. Jesse Jackson, Bishop William Barber, Rev. Jim Wallis, and Dr. Cornel West, – representing believers from every major tradition – have signed onto a statement calling for a Christmas Truce in Ukraine. They are hoping that such a temporary ceasefire can provide an opportunity for moral clarity and be a first step toward peace.
The effort has rapidly been gathering momentum. Veterans for Peace, a global organization of Military Veterans, and the Rainbow PUSH Coalition (RPC), an international human and civil rights organization founded by Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr. have joined the call. In St Peter’s Square for Pope Francis’ Angelus, a group held a banner reading ‘Christmas Truce in Ukraine’ in Italian and delivered signatures asking the Italian government to pursue a Christmas ceasefire.
President Zelensky himself last week referenced the concept, asking Moscow to withdraw its troops on the eve of the holidays as a “meaningful step towards the diplomatic settlement that Moscow so regularly mentions.” This [Christmas] time when normal people think about peace, not about aggression,” he said. Although Putin unsurprisingly rejected Zelensky’s request that he remove all his troops, the fact that such discussion is taking place reflects how palpable the world’s desire for a ceasefire is.
Signers of the statement include Bishop William J. Barber II, president of Repairers of the Breach; Rev. Jesse Jackson, Rainbow Push Coalition; Dr. Cornel West, Union Theological Seminary; Rev. Liz Theoharis, Director of the Kairos Center for Religion; Rabbi Arthur Waskow, Jewish Renewal movement; Mary Novak, Executive Director of NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice; Thay Phap An, the Plum Village Buddhist community; Rev. Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, General Secretary Emeritus, Reformed Church in America; Rev. Jim Wallis, Georgetown Center on Faith and Justice; a full list is available here.
Christmas Truce Video (Statement & Background 4 min)
Initiated by the Fellowship of Reconciliation, USA, the National Council of Elders, CODEPINK, and the Peace in Ukraine Coalition, the Christmas truce for Ukraine, is inspired by the miraculous Christmas truce of 1914, in which 100,000 German and British soldiers put down their weapons and participated in a brief and spontaneous peace along the Western Front. Emerging from their trenches, soldiers ventured into the “no man’s land” where they shared food and drink; they sang Christmas carols and even played soccer together. It was a potent example of how the human spirit can be a powerful force that transcends hate and division in the promotion of peace.
The signers sent their statement to the White House directing it to President Joseph Biden.
The statement reads:
“As people of faith and conscience, believing in the sanctity of all life on this planet, we call for a Christmas Truce in Ukraine. In the spirit of the truce that occurred in 1914 during the First World War, we urge our government to take a leadership role in bringing the war in Ukraine to an end through supporting calls for a ceasefire and negotiated settlement, before the conflict results in a nuclear war that could devastate the world’s ecosystems and annihilate all of God’s creation.”
“As my family and I, whose ancestors are from the region, are kindling our Hanukkah lights this week, we are recalling a miracle of past days and praying that the land which in 1941 experienced the Baba Yar massacre of more than 33,000 Jews, may experience a reprieve from the violence over this holiday season,” said Ariel Gold, executive director of the Fellowship of Reconciliation USA, the oldest interfaith peace organization in the United States. “As the war in Ukraine drags into its 10th month, with 14 million displaced, hundreds of thousands killed, humanitarian impacts being felt across the globe, and the risk of nuclear annihilation, there no time more urgent than the present,”
“Negotiation is not a euphemism for capitulation, nor is it a rationalization of Putin’s aggression,” said Medea Benjamin, cofounder of the peace group CODEPINK. “It is simply a recognition that the end of this war cannot be achieved by more war. Any prospect for a pause in hostilities should be acted on.”
“Whether it’s Christians around the world preparing for Christmas or Jews getting ready to celebrate the commemoration of the miracle of Hanukkah, all of the Abrahamic faiths embrace the prophetic voice of Isaiah who exhorted us to transform swords into plowshares,” said Zoharah Simmons from the National Council of Elders. “As we enter this winter holiday filled with prayers for peace and liberation, we are praying and acting for the same kind of miracle that over a century ago compelled the soldiers of WWI to put down their weapons and celebrate peace.”
[Resources are available at forusa.org/ukrainemedia for houses of worship and community groups to use to promote this prayer for peace and encourage grassroots promotion of the need to cease the violence and pursue a negotiated settlement.]
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