Bishop leads prayers for people of Ukraine

The Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Rev Graham Usher. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

The Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Rev Graham Usher - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2019

The Right Revd Graham Usher, Bishop of Norwich, describes the invasion of Ukraine as  an act of sheer evil, as he prays its people may find peace.

I stood on Thursday night looking out on the floodlit City Hall, bathed in the blue and yellow of the Ukrainian flag, and all I could do was to bring all of this before God in the silence of prayer and the prayer of silence.

War is never glorious. It’s a terrible business and our human species is sadly so adept at bringing it upon ourselves. We must weep for the tragedy which is war.

A couple of weeks ago I preached at a service at St Peter Mancroft Church in Norwich to mark the 80th anniversary of the fall of Singapore.

We remembered the thousands who died in the swamps and camps, on the marches, and in the building of the Railway of Death.

We recalled the courage, the resilience, the creativity of the human spirit which enabled people to endure the worst of all possible situations.

What struck me during that service was how, 80 years later, tears filled the eyes of many there – sons and daughters, nephews and nieces, grandchildren – who still carry the pain of war. Its trauma lingers deep in our hearts and is probably why many of us feel such unease at present.

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The news of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has shaken us this week, though was not unexpected. Whilst we hoped and hoped that there would be a de-escalation, the intelligence all pointed the other way.

It is an act of sheer evil, breaking all international law.

We weep for those caught up in all of this. We can only imagine the gut-wrenching turmoil for the people of Ukraine.

It has been heart-breaking to see tearful partings as children travel to safety, the agony of those injured and traumatised, and those packing a few precious belongings to begin an uncertain journey as refugees.

“Blessed are the peacemakers” said Jesus, as are the poor, the hungry, the weeping.

Jesus did not speak these words from a distance, but as one who experienced them personally.

He is poor when he has nowhere to lay his head and he challenges those who hoard and don’t share their wealth. He is hungry in the desert of temptation, on the sabbath day as he picks ears of corn, and responds to the hunger of the crowd, and teaches us to pray for our daily bread. He weeps over the city of Jerusalem and at the tomb of his friend Lazarus; a ‘man of sorrows, acquainted with grief’.

Today our hearts go out to those in Ukraine who are experiencing all kinds of poverty, who are hungry and those who weep for love and loss.

I pray earnestly that the people of Ukraine might know God’s peace, where all tears are wiped away, where there is no hunger, and joy abounds, and those who are oppressing them and destroying their hopes will, as we begin Lent, turn away from sin.

A great many churches across Norfolk and Waveney are open for you to find space and silence. All of our church services on Sunday will include prayers for Ukraine.

I invite you to join me on Sunday in a day of prayer, with millions around the world, that those leading Russia into this war will have their hearts and minds changed and seek instead the path of peace.