As the world struggles to recover from a pandemic that has claimed nearly six million lives and the reverberations continue to be felt from the U.S. pullout from Afghanistan after 20 years of military occupation, war has broken out once again in Europe. The escalating brinksmanship between Russia and the United States — two nuclear powers — over the Ukraine raises fears about another terrible carnage for humanity, and possibly even a nuclear holocaust. UN Secretary-General António Guterres said about the crisis on February 14th. “The price in human suffering, destruction and damage to European and global security is too high to contemplate.” Today, he called the Russian invasion “the saddest moment” of his five-year tenure.
The Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR-USA) condemns Russia’s invasion of and military aggression against Ukraine, and calls for bombardments to stop immediately. What is needed is a comprehensive ceasefire, the withdrawal of all troops on both sides, and a return to diplomatic negotiations aimed at peace and common security.
FOR-USA likewise calls on the U.S. government to cease its bellicose rhetoric and belligerent actions that have been pushing Russia, Ukraine, and European countries toward war. The current cycle of threats, bombastic language, and the politics of fear are not solutions to the problem; rather, they have been adding dangerous new layers of tension and conflict to a very combustible situation.
With particular concern regarding our nation’s role in this conflict and the presence of dozens of U.S. military bases across Europe, FOR-USA calls on all parties to commit to nonviolent solutions to avert the prospect of cataclysmic death, destruction, and despair.
These efforts must involve collaborating with the UN Secretary-General to immediately stop the violence and de-escalate the situation through dialogue and diplomacy, informed by each nation’s historic commitment to the UN Charter and guided by the Minsk Protocol and Agreements of 2014 and 2015. The framework should be grounded in the necessity for neutrality in peace negotiations. NATO is a military coalition, based on a Cold War framework, and is not an impartial actor; all parties must acknowledge the imbalance of power in this conflict, with 30 NATO nations — three of which possess nuclear weapons — poised against Russia. We urge parties to follow the lead of the Ukrainian Pacifist Union and peace movements worldwide in calling for the neutrality of the Ukraine.
For decades, the United States has invested trillions of dollars into the notion that our security is directly correlated to the buildup of our weapons and defense capabilities. That is a sad fantasy. If we are to de-escalate tensions and avoid the destruction that this fantasy always and inevitably brings, the government and people of the United States must begin to engage our moral imaginations instead and seek a diplomatic solution to this conflict.
Since 1915, the U.S. Fellowship of Reconciliation has represented a community of believers from diverse faiths and spiritual traditions united in opposition to war and violence. Working on behalf of 15,000 individual members and 80 grassroots U.S. chapters, affiliates, and religious peace fellowships, FOR-USA is a branch of the International Fellowship of Reconciliation, founded at the outbreak of World War I when two peacemakers — one English and the other German — shook hands and promised that they would resist war between their countries and dedicate their lives to the pursuit of reconciliation.
Despite the resounding clarion call for nonviolence, justice and peace throughout the globe, this past century has been the most violent in human history, which begs the question: Have we learned nothing? The words of Rev. A.J. Muste, who led FOR through much of the early 20th century, ring as true today as during that era of global warfare: “There is no way to peace. Peace is the way.”