This is a speech that Rhun Dafydd, chair of Cymdeithas y Cymod (Fellowship of Reconciliation) delivered to the Undod’s Senedd giving his input as a pacifist about the war in Ukraine. First published on Cymdeithas y Cymod’s website on 9th March 2022. Thanks for permission to publish on Undod’s blog.
Good evening, I think first I must point out that I would not be quite sure how I would react if I were a pacifist in Ukraine and Russia at the moment. Their stance is extremely brave; something we can only imagine coping with. It is clear that the situation in Ukraine is extremely worrying and at times vague so my point of view does not come as a political expert but rather an individual who stands for pacifism and the non-violent path.
The process of peace and reconciliation is in itself much more difficult to implement than violence, and is likely to be the reason why so many wars have taken place in the past. The act of violence is easier, whether internally as a person, or politically. But no dispute can be overcome with violence – we need to get people to listen to each other if we want to see any lasting results.
From the point of view of the Society of Reconciliation in general, we believe that reconciliation is the only solution to any dispute. We condemn all forms of war, and what is happening in Ukraine worries us. Perhaps a question for another occasion is how does our western narrative mean that we are paying more attention to this war compared to the wars in Yemen and Somalia, where UK weapons are used . It must be remembered that all wars are bad and there is never a good side to violence.
Looking back on history, I believe that a war always ends with discussion, whether around a table of politicians or a tribunal, whatever the outcome of the war itself. So war is basically a waste of time and of people’s lives.
Here in Wales itself I am concerned about the violent narrative and vocabulary used by the media and politicians of all parties. I do not believe that it is improving the situation but rather creating tensions and hatred and proving that imperialism exists and both sides of the “struggle”. We as a nation with a long history of pacifism should condemn the violence not support it.
However, the Welsh Government is to be commended for its willingness to welcome Ukrainian refugees, which is guided by the Government’s intention and policy of creating a Nation of Sanctuary. Hopefully, there will be a change in Westminster Government policy to enable us to settle the refugees.
Nevertheless it can be argued that it is ironic that the Government wants to create a sanctuary nation but still supports and invests in the arms industry which is essentially creates refugees by pushing them out of their homes. The arms industry plays a big role in the economic plans of Wales and the United Kingdom and this should give you an uneasy conscience. It would be more relevant if the Welsh Government created a Nation of Peace.
This war is driven by the greed for political power. Putin’s fantasy aspirations will lead to even more violence and we should take his threats of the use of nuclear weapons seriously. This does not mean that NATO and western leaders are blameless. If NATO did not exist, the situation would probably not be as catastrophic as it is.
Neither does NATO have much power to respond to such a threat from Putin. NATO power is now insignificant because the deterrents and weapons we have helped develop are so dangerous, that even the most insane people are not willing to use them. Think, with all the weapons under NATO control we can do nothing to stop Putin. The deterrent is no longer working. And so how exactly does NATO protect us? Yes the west has taunted Putin but it doesn’t mean the dictator is a good man by far.
I think the UN needs to be given more capacity to achieve a greater voice for peace and to return to the original roots of the organisation.
With regard to the current situation in Ukraine, pictures show that things are changing daily and it is ordinary people who suffer most, as in all wars. I have admiration for many of the country’s inhabitants who have stood up on many occasions unarmed against Russia’s violent power. There have been several instances of Russian troops being welcomed by communities with drink and food. It shows that love can always overcome hatred.
And what about ordinary Russian people? 13,000 people have been arrested so far while protesting against the war and their stance for peace is incredible. Here is a message I received from Friends House Moscow, an organization that took part in our ‘Peace in Ukraine’ online event last week:
“No to War,” write great and small. Since the massive demonstrations on Thursday, Russians have continued to protest the invasion of Ukraine. Demonstrations have been held daily; arrests have been made daily. On Saturday, almost 1000 were arrested, on Sunday, 2000. Demonstrators have developed new tactics. In St. Petersburg, they gathered on Nevsky Prospect without signs, in a silent, slow-moving crowd. There is also the art of the “тихий пикет” or “soft-spoken picket,” now trending on Twitter. Demonstrators wear blue and yellow clothing or make-up, carry a sunflower, accessorize purses, backpacks and face masks.
Here’s how to effectively protest against a state that is prepared to punish itself.
The sanctions that European countries impose are important in order to exert pressure on Putin, but there is a need to consider whether they are working and more specifically on who is impacted by them. Everyday commodity prices in Russia have risen dramatically with an individual from our event last Thursday noting that sanctions have created a new Berlin Wall for the common people of the country.
Given what is happening now it is likely that the Ukrainian conflict will develop into something more like a guerrilla war but the whole issue must still be viewed in a positive light and hopefully a ceasefire and peace will come.
We can help support these people affected by war by pressing the government to start accepting more refugees. Moldova has already received a population equivalent to 10% of its population. But also sharing the message of reconciliation needs to continue. Whether it’s with your neighbors, politicians or the media. We have to focus on what we have in common and keep faith in humanity.