It’s one of the most riveting photos I’ve seen. And one that should hold a mirror up to any one of us who call ourself a Christian.
You may be wondering how I can say that: the protesters aren’t asking for religious freedom. This isn’t some “do or die” essential to the Christian faith. Or any faith for that matter.
No. In fact the protests began when Ukrainian President, Viktor Yanukovych refused to join the European Union. Joining would have led to some wide-sweeping reforms and a new level of freedom. Under pressure from Russia, Yanukovych pulled out of the EU negotiations and put some draconian measures of crowd control in place. This is what the protest is all about.
What’s powerful to me is the willingness of the clergy not to proclaim a side, but to stand alongside all sides as peacemakers. And to make that real by putting their bodies where their prayers are.
“Yesterday morning, monks from the Kiev-Caves Lavra Fr. Gabriel, Fr. Melchisedek, and Fr. Ephraim stood on Grushevsky Street in Kiev with a cross and icons, between the demonstrators and the Ukrainian special police force “Berkut”, and stopped the conflict. They entered the arena as peace-makers, and not in support of one side or the other.
Although they were invited to join the “people”, the fathers only prayed and sang the Paschal troparion: “Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life,” wrote the Ramensky deanery of Moscow on its facebook page. The conflict ceased.”
What a witness to the American church. What a witness to me.