2015: As war in east continues, Ukraine moves Westward

Rocket attacks in the east marked the beginning of 2015 for Ukraine. Twelve civilians were killed and 11 were wounded by a missile fired by Russian-backed militants that hit a bus in the town of Volnovakha, 35 kilometers southwest of Donetsk, on January 13. President Petro Poroshenko stated: “This is a disaster and a tragedy for Ukraine. This is more evidence after the MH17 plane, after the many civilian casualties – it is a crime that terrorists from the so-called DNR and LNR [Donetsk and Luhansk peoples’ republics] have severely violated my peace plan, which was approved and supported by the European Council and the European Union.”

It was yet more evidence also that the ceasefire agreed to in Minsk in September of 2014 was being violated almost daily. As of the beginning of 2015, it was noted that over 4,700 people had been killed and more than 10,000 injured in the fighting in Ukraine’s east that began in April 2014.

2015: Our Churches: praying for peace in Ukraine

Religious events in 2015 were varied, including a visit by Pope Francis to the United States and the 150th anniversary of the birth of Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky. Most often, though, religious leaders from Ukraine appealed to the West for increased humanitarian assistance for Ukraine as it defends against Russian aggression and reminded the world of historical examples of Russia’s aggression against Ukrainians, such as the Holodomor. Patriarch Filaret of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kyiv Patriarchate was in Washington on February 3-7 to attend the annual National Prayer Breakfast. The patriarch explained that he had come “to pray together for world peace” and to interact with and remind American leaders that Ukraine is asking the U.S. to fulfill its duty as a signatory of the Budapest Memorandum to help Ukraine defend its territory. During a press conference at the Embassy of Ukraine in Washington, the patriarch called on the United Sates to help Ukraine protect itself against Russian aggression, not only with humanitarian assistance, but with military aid as well.