By Bishop Rosemarie Wenner, Bishop of the Germany Area of The United Methodist Church
"Never again a war!”
Countless times my parents expressed this hope when they tried to share some of their traumatizing experiences during World War II. The end of the Cold War increased my expectations for a peaceful future for Europe and the entire world. But war continued to be a reality in the Balkans, in Iraq, in Afghanistan, the Middle East and Sudan, just to name some regions. Today, while we are reminded of the end of World War II on May 8 in 1945, people die in Syria, violence seems to take over in the eastern part of the Ukraine. People live in fear of even worse fights and the rhetoric of the Cold War coming back. And what are we doing?
At the learning retreat of the active bishops of The United Methodist Church in Georgia, USA, Bishop Eduard Khegay reported out of the annual conference meeting that took place in Western Ukraine two weeks ago. “The Methodists in the Ukraine have different political perspectives and opinions with regard to the future of the country,” he said. “But we are one church together with the United Methodists in Russia and throughout the world.” And he urged us: “Please pray for the church in the Ukraine and in Russia and for all the people living in those countries.”
His plea reminded me of a call for prayer and fasting that I had received that morning. The chair of the German branch of the International Fellowship for Reconciliation, the Rev. Dr. Matthias Enelke, invites all of us to three days of fasting starting on May 8 in order to pray for peace in the Ukraine. “To resist violence and endure in prayer” is the headline of his call. The International Fellowship for Reconciliation started with an Ecumenical Peace Conference that took place in Konstanz, Germany, 100 years ago in 1914, exactly at the time when World War I started. Only a few people were able to attend the conference. But they stated that war is not compatible with Christ’s teaching and they committed themselves to see a human created by God in every person on both sides of the frontline. Such a work for peace is as necessary today as it was 100 years ago.
Since I will be travelling the next few days I will not commit myself to fasting. But together with many people in East and West, North and South, I will pray for the people in the Ukraine and in Russia as well as for Syria and the Middle East and for all the places in the world where people think violence can solve conflicts. Let us pray without ceasing, so that we together with all people of good will may be strengthened to put an end to any kind of armament, be it with weapons or with words. Instead of that it is necessary to see the fear and the needs of those who are between the front lines and to build bridges so that peace might grow: “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus,” -Philippians 4:7.