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The past is never dead. It’s not even past.
That enigmatic comment of William Faulkner has been much on my mind this week. Today, 24 February, marks the first anniversary of the latest invasion of Ukraine by Russia (it is nearly ten years since Russia invaded and occupied the Crimea). The significance of this anniversary was made abundantly clear by the visit of President Biden to Kyiv and then Warsaw earlier this week. One of the details of that visit intrigued me: the US government had given the Russian government advance warning of the visit. It struck me that this was an indication of a very small glimmer of hope amidst the darkness and despair of the conflict. There was still a channel of communication open and therefore a measure of trust, however small, between the USA and Russia – enough trust, at least, for President Biden to have confidence that the Russian government would not act with hostile intent on the information about the visit.
We are used to labelling decades or centuries of history as though they were separable from one another: late antiquity; the high middle ages; the Cold War and so on. The reality is far more complex. Past conflicts all too often flow into present consciousness, creating the conditions for renewed hostility even after decades of peace. The past is not even past. Thus, for example, the conflict in Ukraine cannot be separated from the events of World War 2 over seventy years ago. To understand this is not in any way to excuse Russian aggression, or to minimise the acute suffering of the Ukrainian people. Such historical perspective may, however, aid those who are seeking an end to the conflict; and the channel of communication evidenced during the presidential visit to the war zone suggests there is something to aid that search. May it be so; and may we commit to our prayers our brothers and sisters in Ukraine who wearily await peace and justice in the face of brutal hostility.
With love and prayers,
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