As Ukraine's crisis continues to escalate, the nation's apostolic nuncio stressed that its people deserve more than after-the-fact aid and should be allowed to live in peace, without the threat of outside aggressors. Archbishop Thomas Gullickson, a native of Sioux Falls, has served as apostolic nuncio to Ukraine since 2011. In a recent interview with Vatican Radio, he voiced concern for the life of the Church in Ukraine, saying in effect that Russian aggression places the Church’s institutional survival at risk. Addressing potential criticism that his alarm may sound exaggerated when compared to the images coming from Syria and Iraq, Archbishop Gullickson told CNA Sept. 1 that he believes it important “that we do not become insensitive to the plight of others and especially to that of our Catholic brothers and sisters around the world.” “We cannot turn away from injustice perpetrated against others. In a sense, we all stand condemned over the tragic situations around the world which have transformed countries on several continents into lawless regions and failed states,” he said. “How can we wash our hands or entirely ignore the affliction destroying the Middle East? The same goes for Ukraine.” “We owe people more than an after-the-fact aid intervention to bind up wounds and restore essential services destroyed by an aggressor; we owe them more than a belated salvage operation, if you will.” According to the BBC, nearly 2,600 people have been killed since April, when Russia's annexation of Crimea prompted rebels to take over large parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. Heavy fighting continues near Ukraine's strategic Mariupol port, which lays off the Azov Sea. Rebel forces are currently attempting to capture the city, but Ukrainian government troops are holding ground. Russian president Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko met Aug. 26 to discuss the ongoing crisis, shaking hands and leaving with Poroshenko’s assurance that a new “roadmap” to peace would be laid out. However tensions skyrocketed when at least 1,000 Russian troops entered Ukraine two days later, prompting an Aug. 29 emergency U.N. Security Council meeting to address the situation. With his words, Archbishop Gullickson said he is calling to task “anyone listening and capable of taking steps to save a neighbor, to give shelter and assistance to family groups, or to keep whole peoples from being swallowed up in the vortex.” The nuncio underscored that “to ask what should have been done, as if it were too late, would be to write off Ukraine entirely and that would be wrong. I suppose anyone could counter by saying ‘who is kidding whom’? Can the world’s movers and shakers effectively intervene for the sake of justice and to promote lasting peace? They should at least try. Why not hope for a better world?” Archbishop Gullickson stressed that he “had seen so much positive growth and will for good in Ukraine over the last half year, that I would recommend more decisive involvement by the West in opposition to Russian aggression.” “For the first time in a millennium, perhaps, the Ukrainian people should be given a free hand to seek out their own future without outside interference.” Archbishop Gullickson said he is aware he is not providing a roadmap for peace, but that “even if I had a plan, an answer or a solution, the question is who indeed would listen and respond.” “When it comes to doing the right thing, we ought to be able to expect our chosen political leaders to rise to the challenge and must per force be at a loss when we find them no longer at the service of the common good and objective truth, but rather at the beck and call of vested interests.” He then added: “Let me just say I rejoice in all of the men and women here in Ukraine who give of themselves unselfishly and untiringly in the cause of peace and for the sake of building up a new Ukraine where justice prevails.” “I would rejoice all the more if the rest of the world would support this people’s efforts to forge a united and prosperous Ukraine, where all can live in peace.”
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