Two Russian Orthodox priests openly advocate peace with Ukraine through their sermons, even as one of them had been arrested and continuously threatened by the efforts of the government to use the pulpit to defend the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Father Georgy Edelshtein and Father Ioann Burdin were among the courageous priests from the Russian Orthodox Church to speak up in defense of Ukraine which differs from Russia's ideology of the ongoing war with Ukraine.
The support of Patriarch Kirill for President Vladimir Putin has been shown in his sermons, which caused rifts among other members of the Orthodox Church including Edelshtein and Burdin.
In a video release, Edelshtein pointed out his strong opposition to the ongoing war. He openly said that Russia was the "aggressor" and regarded Ukraine as the "victim" of the attack. He said he was afraid to become a bad priest as he wasn't against all wars. Yet, he noted that he's been against any "land-grabbing, aggressive war."
Meanwhile, in an interview obtained by Religion News, Burdin said that he doesn't "consider it possible to remain silent on this situation." His main reason for speaking up wasn't about politics but his mandate as a priest as stated in the Bible. He said, "If I remain silent, I'm not a priest."
Burdin and Edelshtein Revealed Russian Invasion In An Open Letter to Locals
On Feb 25, Burdin published an open letter on his website which was signed also by Edelshtein to advocate peace with Ukraine and described the attack as a "real war" and a "Russian invasion." He explained in his letter that by choosing to remain silent, the blood of Ukrainians will not only remain in the hands of the rulers and soldiers but in the hands of those who approved of the war.
The priest noted that the commandment "Thou shalt not kill" is "unconditional" to him, just like the rest of God's Ten Commandments. According to him, the command of God has no other meaning, "no matter what one tries to put into it, no matter how one distorts or limits it."
In his letter, he also stated that people couldn't "ashamedly shut their eyes" and call evil good. He reiterated that Christians should not side when a brother kills another brother, citing the story of Cain and Abel.
Russia Imposed Military Censorship to Silence People
BBC reported that Burdin has been detained shortly after speaking out in support of peace at his small congregation in the village of Karabanovo last March. His preaching centered on the ongoing destruction of Ukrainian cities. He also shared with the local congregants, images showing defiance of war and his published petition on the parish's website.
Police charged him with "discrediting the use of the Armed Forces," a criminal offense created by Russia's state duma recently to defend the interests of the Russian Federation and its citizens. On March 10, Krasnoselsky District Court found Burdin "guilty" and imposed a 35-thousand rouble fine.
Despite being arrested and continuously facing rap against the Russian government, the two priests maintained their stand regarding Russia's "military operations" in Ukraine.