Canberra’s Russian Orthodox Church leaders have stood firm in promoting peace in Ukraine, despite the head of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow, Patriarch Kirill, declaring his support for the war.
Members of Canberra’s Russian community joined protestors outside the Russian Embassy in Griffith on Saturday morning (26 February). One of the protest’s organisers, Paul Trukhanov, said that the protests were about spreading the message that Russia’s invasion is “unprovoked” and encouraging the Australian Government to do as much as possible to help in Ukraine.
He revealed stories of his friends and family in Ukraine piling into underground railway stations for shelter and taping their windows to prevent further glass fractures.
Patriarch Kirill recently described Putin’s opponents in Ukraine as “evil forces” and urged Russians to “not allow dark and hostile external forces to laugh” at them.
Reverend Archpriest Alexander Morozow from St John the Baptist Cathedral in Narrahbundah didn’t want to comment on the Patriarch’s statement, but instead pointed to a message from another church leader.
“A very senior bishop of the Church, the Metropolitan Hilarion, made the point in an interview that war is not a method for solving accumulated political problems. That’s a pretty direct statement there,” said Father Alexander.
“The Church’s first obligation is to pray for peace and certainly. We’ve already included special prayers for that.
“As an Orthodox community, that’s the position we need to promote and encourage. War is not a method for solving accumulated political problems,” he said.
The Russian Orthodox community in Canberra remains relatively small, gathering approximately 30 people to church most Sundays. Several regular churchgoers either have family in Ukraine or originate from Ukraine and have been dealing with the current situation separately.
“I think the showing of support is occurring at a personal level, at the family level. People are talking to each other, sharing feelings of disbelief and then devastation,” said Father Alexander.
“There’s a level of mutual support, but this has all just happened last Thursday, so we’re really hoping it’ll be over quickly, but who knows.
“I think right now it’s a feeling of shared distress,” he said.
Father Alexander doesn’t have any family in Russia, having been born and raised in Melbourne and later moving to Canberra. From what he knows about the current situation in Russia, that feeling of shared distress is not reserved for Ukraine alone.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison yesterday (28 February) described Russian President Vladimir Putin, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu as “directly responsible for Russia’s unprovoked and unlawful further invasion of Ukraine”.
He announced the Australian Government’s strong support for further restrictive economic measures against Russia, which include the removal of selected Russian banks from the SWIFT global payments messaging system and the formation of a trans-Atlantic taskforce to identify and freeze the assets of sanctioned individuals and organisations.