Monks from the Kiev Monastery of the Caves stood as peacemakers between two opposing political sides during a protest held at the parliamentary house in Kiev, Ukraine, last Tuesday.
The monks of the historic Orthodox Christian monastery, Fr. Gabriel, Fr. Melchisedek, and Fr. Ephraim, set themselves up on Grushevsky Street between the Ukrainian police and anti-government protestors, risking their lives to serve as icons of peace amid the violent and deadly demonstrations raging around them.
Despite the chaos and violent discord intensifying on either side of them in what is called Independence Square, the fathers chose to take no sides, but rather take liturgical action, simply singing the Paschal troparion: “Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life.”
As they stood carrying a photograph of the Crucifix, an embellished cross, and the traditional metal censer called a thurible amid defaced cobblestone grounds and abandoned mallets, war went on around them.
Anti-government protestors hurled petrol bombs and flares at the police, each of whom held a metal shield, and the Berkut retaliated by beating people with rods and throwing Molotov cocktails from their side toward the opposition. Protestors burned automobile tires, which created thick black smoke in the air, and as the tension grew thicker, they collected the stones from the cobblestone floor in order to use as manual ammunition against the police.
These demonstrations began with the people’s discontent with their current president, Viktor Yanukovich. On January 19, the protestors attempted to break through the police cordon and enter the Supreme Rada building, driven by bloodthirsty disgruntlement and demanding the president’s resignation, but their attempts failed. Still, they did not back down, nor have they yet.
Amid all this strife, the clergymen of the Moscow Patriarchate stand strong, manning the area in shifts so as to allow for rest. Though the fathers were invited by the protestors to join the riot, they remained standing neutral, instead praying for the warring sides and calling both to cease fighting and repent. They are determined not to leave their station until the situation stabilizes.
One monk, Fr. Alipy, stopped at his home for a moment during his shift and posted on his Facebook page, “I just came home to change my clothes and warm myself. I am writing quickly. That is because at midnight I must return to the Maidan, which has turned all of its aggression to Grushevsky Street. From 14:00 I stood with the brothers of Desyatina Monastery at their prayer post. After 18:00 Fr. Victor, secretary of the diocese, and Fr. Giorgy, press secretary, arrived. They took my place. I am grateful to them for that, because my neck muscles stiffened. You can’t even imagine how important it is for the clergy to stand there! So many people came up to us (even people in masks!—secretly) and thanked us for standing there. They were surprised that we were from the Moscow Patriarchate. I will write quickly: my teeth are still chattering, but I have to go back.”