They are for war…

“Too long my soul has made its home with those who lift the sword. I am for peace, but when I speak, they make for war.”

Lift up your Hearts Hymnal, 283

Psalm 120, the text on which the refrain above is based, is rather different from most church’s standard repertoire of songs. The words, at first, feel disconcerting. Normal life, irrelevant of all the information we hear on the news, feels very far from war.

And yet, the words seemed appropriate when I thought of the tensions in Ukraine and the escalating violence in the Middle East. I am part of a world that accepts war and conflict and corruption more easily than the hard work of peace.

As I read the news about the flight – from Schiphol – shot down in Ukrainian airspace, I felt anxious. There is a sadness for those who have died, while I also feel sad that I have not cared more about the many Ukrainian (or Russian) victims of the conflict. I lived in Ukraine once, and although it was the Western Hungarian-speaking part, I know first-hand some of the poverty and corruption and messiness of that land. The salaries at the high school I taught at were impossible to live on, a challenge compounded further by months without pay. My high school students had little hope of a good future in that land, recognizing how difficult it was to go against the power of the mafia or the corruption of most political and government forces.

In the midst of these difficulties – difficulties that have not improved significantly in the fifteen years since I first went there – it is not surprising that the complicated relationship to Russia has only gotten messier. The corruption also present in Russia, along with the desire to control and dominate the lands that used to belong to it, is causing much suffering. Yet, the plane being shot down still feels unexpected: it feels so distant from normal life. Furthermore, my experience of life in Ukraine was that, despite all the corruption and potential dangers, normal life meant that one, amidst some complaining, simply learned to adjust. How else could one survive?

Unfortunately, normal life includes living in a corrupted world, a world that is far too often for war. The shooting down of a passenger plane has made the conflict more obvious, and conversations will be happening about how to respond. Pray for those making those decisions and those hurt by all the conflict thus far. Pray also for those willing to do the hard work of reconciliation and peace, both in Ukraine and the Middle East.


note: a variation of this blog appeared first on my personal blog,

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