Hundreds of Russian church leaders have taken a stand against their country's invasion of Ukraine.
Dozens of prominent Russian Evangelical church leaders have signed a letter, which condemns the "senseless bloodshed" taking place.
It states: "No political interests or goals can justify the death of innocent people. Old men, women, children are dying. Soldiers on both sides are dying, cities and infrastructure are being destroyed. In addition to military targets, shells and bombs destroy hospitals, civilian buildings and residential buildings. Many people have become refugees, the war zones are on the verge of a humanitarian catastrophe.
"In addition to bloodshed, the invasion of sovereign Ukraine encroaches on the freedom of self-determination of its citizens. Hatred is being sown between our peoples, which will create an abyss of alienation and enmity for generations to come. The war is destroying not only Ukraine, but also Russia - its people, its economy, its morality, its future."
Sergey Rakhuba, president of Mission Eurasia, which has been providing emergency support to people in Ukraine told Premier he's impressed that Russian church leaders are expressing their opposition to the war.
"That's what we like to see more of, this is an unprecedented step of courage," he said. "They will be prosecuted, but they are stepping forward against this war."
He added: "In Russia, there is a huge division in the secular community, as well as in church, unfortunately. Some just took the position just to be quiet because it's dangerous today to talk. Russia is oppressing those who are showing opposition towards the current regime."
Meanwhile, more than 270 Russian Orthodox priests and deacons have signed a joint letter appealing for reconciliation and an immediate ceasefire in the war.
The letter takes a pastoral tone, highlighting the importance of repentance and salvation.
It states:" We mourn the trial that our brothers and sisters in Ukraine were undeservedly subjected to.
We remind you that the life of every person is a priceless and unique gift of God, and therefore we wish the return of all soldiers - both Russian and Ukrainian - to their homes and families safe and sound.
"We bitterly think about the abyss that our children and grandchildren in Russia and Ukraine will have to overcome in order to once again begin to be friends with each other, respect and love each other. We respect the God-given freedom of man, and we believe that the people of Ukraine should make their choice on their own, not at gunpoint, without pressure from the West or the East.
"In anticipation of Forgiveness Sunday, we remind you that the gates of paradise are opened to anyone, even a seriously sinned person, if he asks for forgiveness from those whom he humiliated, insulted, despised, or from those who were killed by his hands or by his order. There is no other way but forgiveness and mutual reconciliation."
Very Rev Andrey Kordochkin, Dean of St Mary Magdalene Cathedral of the Russian Orthodox Church in Madrid, authored the letter and told Premier Christian News it was important for the gospel message to be at the forefront during these turbulent times.
"We remind the state authorities of the fact that even if they avoid human judgment, they will not avoid the divine judgment.
"Our message was not to condemn, our message is not to judge," he said. "The message is to show the way to repentance and to salvation."
These letters come as the World Council of Churches called on the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow to demand an end to the fighting in Ukraine.
On day nine of Russia's invasion. Shelling has continued across the country including in the port city of Mariupol in the south-east.
The bishops of Asia have joined Pope Francis in appealing to Russia to end its invasion of Ukraine and seek a peaceful resolution to all issues at the United Nations, warning that the possible use of weapons of mass destruction would lead to a nuclear holocaust.
Pope Francis has been closely following the developments in Ukraine since before Russia’s large-scale military invasion of its neighbor on February 24. He has made several appeals for peace through dialogue and negotiation.
Following in the steps of the Pope, Cardinal Bo, who is president of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC), said, “We appeal directly to President Putin. Russia is one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, tasked with promoting world peace and ensuring the rights of every nation... We appeal to Russia to cease attacks on Ukraine, and return to the UN for peaceful resolution of all issues,” he wrote in a statement.
On Friday, a fire at a training building at Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant seized by Russian forces on Friday sent a chilling alarm across the globe. However, the huge blaze at Europe’s largest power plant has been extinguished and officials said the facility was now safe.
Stressing that “history is a cruel teacher”, the Cardinal, who is also president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Myanmar, said “megalomaniac men unleashed the demons of two sadistic world wars” in the last century. “The memory of the holocaust remains a festering wound in the human conscience.”
“There were no victors in those wars,” he pointed out, adding, “History mummified those evil men in unmarked graves as fossils of human cruelty.” This should not repeat itself in the 21 century, he urged, arguing “the world has suffered a lot, encountering the multidimensional crisis of a pandemic that killed millions dealing a blow to the economy, impoverishing millions”. “This is the time for global healing not hurting,” Cardinal Bo added