As the humanitarian crisis following the Russian invasion of Ukraine worsens, and evidence mounts of the widespread abuse of human rights and multiple breaches of international law, a charity dedicated to promoting the contemporary relevance of Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945) is calling for the churches to learn the lessons of the 1930s. Project Bonhoeffer supports all efforts by Christians to stand up against this war of aggression, and to speak out against those who attempt to justify it in the name of Christianity.
In the 1930s Bonhoeffer, together with other members of the German churches, put forward a strong critique of those church leaders who supported the Nazis’ aggressive nationalist ideology. Anti-Nazi Protestant leaders put together the ‘Barmen Declaration’, which has become a touchstone for Christian resistance to state co-options of church authority. Bonhoeffer drew attention to the error of ‘an alien ideology concealed in a Church seal.’ Today, in response to the call from Patriarch Kirill for God to bless ‘Holy Rus’ and so put a stamp of approval on the actions of the Russian military, Orthodox theologians have revisited the Barmen Declaration to produce a powerful critique of Kirill and the Russian hierarchy.
A spokesperson for Project Bonhoeffer said: “The Barmen declaration clearly rebuffed the notion put forward by ‘German Christians’ that the Church and its message should be become the cultural property of the nation. In contrast to the notion that the war is blessed by God, the declaration emphasised that the word of God is and must be separate from the word of a civil power. We stand in solidarity with Orthodox theologians and clergy, particularly those within Russia, who are speaking out against this inexcusable war and the complicity of Kirill. We call on Orthodox and other Faith Communities to bear witness to the message of Bonhoeffer for our times – that wars of aggression and the Christian message are incompatible”.
(Project Bonhoeffer seeks to raise awareness of the prophetic witness of Dietrich Bonhoeffer in dark times. For further information and interviews contact firstname.lastname@example.org.)