Tendring Topics…….on line
‘Treat other people as you would like them to treat you!’
A couple of weeks ago I commented in this blog that this commandment, that Jesus said summed up the whole of the moral teaching of the Old Testament, applies as much to the affairs of nations as it does to those of individual men and women. I have often regretted that he didn’t add its corollary (perhaps he thought it was so obvious that there was no need to spell it out) ‘Do not do to others what you would hate them to do to you’. My comment came in connection with the current crisis in the
and the Crimea. It seems to me important that both sides
involved in this matter should ask themselves how they would feel and what they
would do if they were in the situation in which their opponents find
themselves. If both did that, I think
there might be a chance of their coming to a compromise acceptable by both
A lot has happened in the past fortnight. Crimea has been ‘annexed’ by
Russia. I have heard no reports of protests from the
inhabitants at their change of nationality; no reports of Crimean citizens
seeking political asylum in ‘freedom loving’ Ukraine, or begging NATO to free
them from the Russians. Surely most people in ‘the west’ now accept that
annexation as a fact even if they continue to claim it was ‘illegal’. It was, no doubt, this that has encouraged
the mostly Russian-oriented residents of East Ukraine
to assert themselves, raising Russian flags and seizing police stations and
government buildings. Probably some of them would like to become Russian
citizens. It seems though that many,
perhaps a majority, would prefer to remain an autonomous region of Ukraine but
retain the right to have Russian as the region’s ‘first’ language and to conduct
their own economic relationship with their Russian neighbour. Surely this offers ground for a compromise
that would involve no bloodshed and could be accepted by both sides without 'losing face’.
The Foreign Ministers of NATO and of
and of the Ukraine
are to meet shortly, but the meeting will be fruitless unless both sides are
genuinely seeking peace. Our Foreign
Minister William Hague has told the world that he is quite certain that the
present unrest in eastern Ukraine
has been created and orchestrated by Russia. It is surely much more
probable that Russia
has simply exploited a situation that already existed. Their efforts would have been in vain had
they not known that a substantial majority of Eastern Ukrainians regarded
themselves as being treated as second
class citizens, and would welcome any support that Russia could offer
them. I am equally sure that NATO would
have been helpless to support (as I am certain they did) the demonstrators and
rioters in the cities of Western Ukraine had they not known that a substantial
majority of Western Ukrainians wanted to get
rid of their pro-Russian President.
Has anyone else noted the sinister similarities between the situation in
Europe today and the one that existed just a century ago
in the summer of 1914?
Bosnia-Herzegovina was then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The ethnic Serb Bosnians deeply resented
this, and one of their number – Gabriel Prinzip – assassinated the Austrian
Grand-Duke Ferdinand and his wife while they were on an official visit to Sarajevo
The Austrian Government was quite sure that the Serbian Government was responsible for this outrage (just as certain, I am sure, as William Hague is, of Russian responsibility for Eastern Ukrainian unrest today). They presented the Serbs with a humiliating ultimatum that would have effectively robbed them of their independence. Surprisingly perhaps, the Serbs agreed to comply with every point but one of the ultimatum – but that one was sufficient for
to declare war on Serbia.
World War I could have been avoided had the governments concerned had the sense to meet together in a spirit of compromise, genuinely seeking a just peace rather than national advantage, before all those alliances were activated.
It may be thought that the current situation is quite different. There’s no thought of war – yet, and in any case, both
Russia and NATO possess nuclear
weapons ‘the ultimate deterrent’. Surely
no-one would be stupid and arrogant enough to start a world war with the
nuclear threat hanging over all our heads.
In June 1914 there was no thought of war either, except perhaps in the minds of a few power-hungry rulers. There was no ‘ultimate deterrent’ in those days, but had anyone had the least inkling that that the assassination in
would trigger a world-war resulting in over
Sixteen Million (armed forces and
civilians) dead, I am quite sure that a compromise would have been
found. God forbid that there should be
any thought of war today – but if there were to be an armed conflict, we
shouldn’t imagine that those ‘ultimate deterrents’ would actually deter either
side. They haven’t deterred any act of
aggression yet! Both sides might well
decide to be the first with a pre-emptive nuclear strike that – they would
probably delude themselves – would make ‘the other side’ see reason!
The meeting of Foreign Ministers appears to have been much more useful than I (or the Foreign Ministers themselves!) expected. The pro-Russian protesters are to lay down their arms and vacate the Ukrainian government buildings and other property and an amnesty is offered them. The Ukrainian provisional Government has promised to grant autonomy to the eastern region retaining only defence and foreign policy over the whole country.
The US and UK foreign ministers have voiced cautious optimism about the final outcome while threatening further ‘consequences’ for Russia if the pro-Russian protesters do not fulfil their side of the agreement. The only people who weren't represented at the Geneva talks were the pro-Russian protesters! How extraordinary that the people most concerned weren't represented while the USA, on the other side of the world and with no possible national interest in the Ukraine, dominated the proceedings!
The agreement was reasonable enough – if the Russian Government does control those protesters or can exert sufficient pressure on them to persuade them to comply with it. I am by no means sure of either. I recall that a similar ‘reasonable’ compromise was agreed to end the mirror-image demonstrations and protests in
and other cities in western Ukraine
that began this whole crisis. The
protesters ignored the agreement and carried on with their by-then violent
protests until they had obtained all their objectives and had formed a new
government with a new ‘interim’ President. I am still cautiously
optimistic as I write these words (on Good Friday). I may need to alter them before I post this
blog on Easter Monday!
Well, Easter Monday is here. Some of the militant pro-Russian activists are refusing to disarm and leave the buildings they have occupied. True to form, William Hague tells us that Russia will face dire consequences. Penalising the Russian government for the stubbornness of the pro-Russian activists is directly comparable with, and would be just as daft as, penalising the Irish Government for the activities of dissident republican groups in Ulster!
‘Blessed are the Peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God.’
Meanwhile, in the
………. United Kingdom
……the Trussell Trust, to which most food banks are affiliated, has declared that during the past financial year 913,000 people required emergency food parcels for at least three days. This is an increase of 163 percent over its figure of 347,000 during the previous twelve months. It was also reported that 83 percent of its food banks had reported that government benefits sanctions were driving people to seek food aid.
The Church Times reports that the publication of these figures coincides with the sending of an open letter signed by 42 Anglican bishops and 600 other clergy and ministers of other Christian traditions, to David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband asking them to work with the parliamentary inquiry into food poverty launched two weeks ago, and to implement its recommendations.
The letter says, As we approach Easter the mind turns to the hope of spring, the promise of resurrection and renewal. Hope drives us to act. It drives us to tackle the growing hunger in our midst. It calls on each of us, and the government too, to act to make sure that work pays, that food markets support sustainable and healthy diets, and that the welfare system provides a last line of defence against hunger.
Among the signatories were the Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, nineteen other diocesan bishops and representatives of other denominations, including the Roman Catholic, Methodist, Baptist and United Reformed Churches.
I very much hope that a representative of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) was also among the signatories.