International News

‘Be the Voice of Those Who Suffer,’ Ukraine’s First Lady Urges WCC

By Catholic News Service

LVIV, Ukraine (CNS) — Ukraine’s first lady appealed to the World Council of Churches to “be the voice of those who suffer from war today.”

Ukraine’s first lady Olena Zelenska, pictured in an undated photo, has appealed to the World Council of Churches to “be the voice of those who suffer from war today.” (Photo: CNS/courtesy Ukrainian president’s press service)

In a letter to the Rev. Ioan Sauca, acting general secretary of the World Council of Churches, first lady Olena Zelenska detailed the pain she has seen in the weeks of the war.

“I’m writing to you not as the first lady, but as a Ukrainian woman, a mother and a wife,” she said in the March 19 letter. “This is not even a letter, but the voice of my pain accumulated during these days of the war.”

“It is horrifying to read the messages of Ukrainians on social media, searching in vain for their loved ones who have disappeared,” she wrote. “‘The last time my sister (brother, mother) called from the basement 10 days ago’ is how the messages begin. Enemy forces cut off these cities from any help and opportunity to get out. So thousands of Ukrainians are comforting themselves that their loved one is just in the basement without a connection. Everyone prays for them to be alive and finally pick up the phone!

“Today, our primary goal is for these people to finally pick up the phone, eat hot food, and receive the necessary treatment. But the enemy regularly thwarts our tries to create ‘roads of life.’ People who walk miles from the occupied cities on foot, carrying children, the elderly and animals are shot in the backs. That’s how six adults and a child died the other day while trying to enter the village of Peremoha in the Kyiv region.”

“These actions directly contradict the concept of social justice — the proclamation and implementation — which is one of the main tasks for your organization. Instead of flourishing cities and villages, the Russian aggressor leaves the wasteland. Every destroyed building, every city run over by a tank is someone’s house. But it’s also someone’s memories, hopes, plans, someone’s place of strength.”

Zelenska asked the council to use its voice to condemn the war and call for the protection of the civilian population, especially humanitarian corridors.

“I appeal to you as to an organization called to preach peace and fraternity,” she wrote. “Communicate to the members of the World Council of Churches the importance of professing justice and peace on our land based on faith in God. I ask you and the members of the World Council of Churches to convey your voice condemning the war and calling for the protection of the civilian population.”

She also asked WCC members to “continue telling the world the truth about this war, which is taking place just at the doorstep of Europe and can break into another European home at any moment. This calamity now affects everyone wherever he lives, and your colossal authority helps bring this truth to the world.”

Since the beginning of the war, Zelenska has been working on humanitarian support for Ukrainians. In particular, she actively cooperates with international organizations and the first ladies of other countries to resolve humanitarian crises in Ukraine.