Ukraine paying for our security ‘with money and blood’, Archbishop Justin tells Synod


General Synod issues call to reaffirm support for Ukraine as Archbishop of Canterbury says he could not be “neutral”
Archbishop Justin in Kyiv, Feb 2024 Lambeth Palace

General Synod has issued a call to reaffirm support for Ukraine as the Archbishop of Canterbury said he could not be “neutral” in the face of the aggression of Vladimir Putin.

Archbishop Justin Welby, who visited Ukraine earlier this month ahead of the second anniversary of the Russian full-scale invasion, said the country is “paying for our security with money but also with blood”.

He also said the current international situation is possibly more dangerous than at any time, other than the Cuban Missile Crisis, since the run-up to the Second World War.

He was speaking as Synod overwhelmingly supported a motion calling on all UK political parties to affirm their continued support for Ukraine and supporting the work of churches and others working for “peace, justice and reconciliation” in Ukraine.

Archbishop Justin highlighted recent warnings about the global situation.

“We are on the edge of something that none of us have seen in our lifetimes and it involves powers with nuclear weapons,” he said.

“I am not neutral - I will listen to both sides and I hope we all will - but Ukraine is paying for our security with money but also with blood.

“We are paying with money. It is so utterly different.

“They are defending the international rules-based order and settling that question, to use a phrase of Bismarck’s, with iron and blood.

“As someone said to me three weeks ago in Ukraine - a soldier who had just come back from the front, battle-shattered needing trauma treatment … ‘we have the 21st Century drones and the First World War bayonet and we are using both equally'.”

He spoke about developments in military technology including the development of AI-assisted drone attacks.

“This is an immensely dangerous time, immensely dangerous, and we have probably not seen a time as dangerous, apart from Cuba, since 1938,” he said.

“And what we do looking forward will put into a shadow all the other things we discuss, what we do as a nation.”

Mark Sheard

Opening the debate, Mark Sheard, chair of the Church of England’s Mission and Public Affairs Council, highlighted the “staggering numbers” of people killed and injured and said support for Ukraine must be for the “long term”.

Mr Sheard, who recently retired as Chief Executive of World Vision, the Christian relief and development agency, spoke of his personal experiences of meeting refugees fleeing Ukraine and the mounting challenges of mental health, psychosocial support and rehabilitation for those affected by the war.

“We should not forget that behind each statistic there is an individual, made in the image of God, whose life has been shattered or destroyed,” he said.

“The reality of war is suffering and loss and its effects will last long after the guns fall silent.

“Our response therefore cannot be fleeting - we need to be there for the long term.

“Our response must evolve as we better understand the war’s costs – whether that be helping individuals, families and communities deal with PTSD or supporting efforts at community reintegration.”

He added: “Synod, I recognise that as we mark the war’s second anniversary there is a risk of fatigue with the war’s slow attritional grind.

“We can feel overwhelmed by a series of crises around the world – Gaza and Sudan, Myanmar and Nagorno-Karabakh to name but a few.

“We can feel disheartened by electoral politics in the US and what it means for the war effort in Ukraine, the future of Nato and our own wider security.

“But Synod, I take comfort and encouragement from Galatians 6:9 – ‘Let us not become weary in doing good; for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up’.”

Notes to editors

The motion agreed was as follows:

‘That this Synod, recognising the ongoing suffering and terror caused by the war in Ukraine and the repercussions and anxiety felt globally for our common future:

  1. affirm with gratitude the churches work with others to support conflict parties and mediators and call for continued efforts to develop pathways to peace, justice and reconciliation in Ukraine;
  2. call on all parties to the conflict to ensure that everyone in Ukraine has full freedom to manifest and practise their religion or belief, in line with international human rights law;
  3. call on all UK political parties to set out ahead of the General Election their vision for a desirable international order and their strategies for ensuring that existing international rules and principles are attractive both domestically and to a broader global constituency.’
  4. Call on all UK political parties to affirm their continued support for Ukraine until such time as a just and lasting peace is secured.

It was passed by 254 votes to three, with two abstentions.