War has been raging in Ukraine for days. Russia has invaded the country, supposedly only to assist the breakaway areas of Ukraine, the so-called People’s Republics of Lugansk and Donetsk. In truth, the entire country is already in a state of war. What was and is being sold to the world as a peacekeeping mission has become a brutal war of aggression. And besides missiles and bombs, false information, fake news, and lies are flying at the population. As Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy correctly formulates, “Bombs and fakes are flying at us.”
On the other hand, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accuses the Ukrainian president of lying when he talks about Ukraine’s neutrality. Obviously, the targeted disinformation is intended to help the respective political side to place its very own narrative in such a way that its own public and the world public are favorably disposed.
Half-truths, one-sided portrayals that distort the meaning of what happened beyond recognition, or sometimes outright lies, dominate not only the portrayals of the two Slavic peoples. Western governments are eager to assign absolute blame and claim developments that are difficult to verify. For example, Western governments accuse Russia of violating the February 2015 Minsk Agreement, but remain ironically silent about the fact that Ukraine never implemented the essential demand of that agreement—the establishment of autonomous status for the Lugansk and Donetsk regions, as well as the change of the country’s constitution to federal structures by the end of 2015. Is this not a violation? The population of these territories has indeed gone through a lot of suffering in the last seven years. Or the media underlines the closure of churches and parishes in these republics and conceal the forcible expulsion of Orthodox parishes of the Moscow Patriarchate from their churches by the angry nationalist mob on the Ukrainian side.
Truth always includes all sides. By concealing certain facts, one should neither justify Russia’s aggression nor minimize the suffering of Ukraine under attack. One cannot justify Mr. Putin’s brutal war of aggression against Ukraine with anything at all. Just as one cannot now forget the behavior of the Ukrainian government since 2015. Peace and reconciliation will only be possible if the truth and the truth only is accepted. Lies and fakes, on the other hand, make them impossible in the long run.
As Christians we are ambassadors of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:18). God Himself has entrusted us with the word of reconciliation. And this word abhors every lie. Christians must therefore not participate in the spreading of half-truths and untruths. As unpleasant as the truth may seem to us, only it will truly free us to become ambassadors of reconciliation among the quarreling parties.
Johannes Reimer is Global Director of the Peace and Reconciliation Network, a commission of the World Evangelical Alliance.