As we enter Holy Week, a time when Christians consider great suffering followed by the triumph of Easter Day, many must wonder how two ostensibly Christian nations can be at war in Ukraine.
Jesus' second commandment is, "Love your neighbour as yourself", (Matthew 22:39).
In Ukraine, 70.4 per cent consider themselves to be Christians, plus another 10.1 per cent who "hesitate between belief and disbelief".
But as US military chaplain William Thomas Cummings is reported to have said in a field sermon in 1942, "There are no atheists in foxholes".
It's a fair bet that most Ukrainians are willing to pray to a higher being right now.
How can Vladimir Putin claim that he is a Christian?
He promised his mother on her deathbed that he would return to the faith of his youth, but he is clearly an example of someone saying that he is a Christian but not abiding by the teachings of Jesus.
A MercaterNet article by editor Michael Cook said, "Putin does appear to believe that Russia has a deep spiritual mission to rescue humanity".
Speaking to "young cultural professionals", Putin said, "Russian culture is human-centric. The best classical works are focused on the inner life, personal quests and emotional experiences of human beings".
As Cook says, "One theory is that Putin is a KGB man through and through".
Is the real dilemma the Russian Church itself?
Since Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, has defended Russia's actions and blamed the conflict on the west, according to The Conversation.
During the Russian Revolution, "Persecution of religion only intensified, however, with repression reaching a peak during the Great Terror of 1937-1938, when tens of thousands of clergy and ordinary believers were simply executed or sent to the Gulag".
However, when the Soviet Union broke up, the church was able to function freely again. When "Kirill became patriarch in 2009 ... he quickly succeeded in securing the return of church property from the state, religious instruction in public schools and military chaplains in the armed forces".
… the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, has defended Russia’s actions and blamed the conflict on the west …
In "2011-2012, starting with massive protests against electoral fraud and Putin's decision to run for a third term ... Kirill initially called for the government to dialogue with protesters, but later offered unqualified support for Putin ...", Scott Kenworthy's story in The Conversation continues.
This sounds like a re-run of some of the King v Church events in British history. With many Ukrainians loyal to the Moscow Patriarchate, a church rift has occurred that will probably ensure church reform in Moscow when the war is over.
Leaders doing the wrong thing to please those in power are as old as Pontius Pilate himself, but that doesn't make their actions acceptable.
Russian soldiers themselves must surely have a Christian conscience?
A 1997 law on religion recognises the right to freedom of conscience and creed, and 72.6 per cent of Russians believe in some form of Christianity. Only 13 per cent are atheists.
So how can they deliberately destroy churches?
To crush the spirit of Ukrainians?
"In the first month of the war, the Ukrainian ministry of culture listed 59 religious sites badly damaged, most of them Orthodox churches, but some evangelical churches, and synagogues too," a Spectator report said.
In the tiny neighbouring country of Moldova, Russian troops are almost on their border just inside Ukraine. Moldovans are, naturally enough, feeling nervous, according to an ABC report.
Moldovans are 91.8 per cent Christian.
Moldova broke away from the former USSR in 1991, and only gained independence in 1992.
It is interesting to note that countries in Eastern Europe that have experienced communist rule have no desire to return to communist domination.
Australia is still nominally a Christian country.
As Australians pray this week, we need to pray not only for the people of Ukraine and other places under threat like Moldova, but pray for divine guidance for their church leadership, too.
Ukraine will rise from the ashes, its people more determined and faithful than ever.
But will Russian Christians face up to the corruption of their church leadership?
Or will the communist regime continue to dictate morality and support for wars?
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