Vladimir Zelinsky (Photo: Catholic Press Photo)

The true dimension of dialogue

All wars, if they do not crush the opponent, end in negotiations. Which are a form of dialogue. But this is not what Pope Francis calls for. An Orthodox priest reacts to the CL flyer on peace.
Vladimir Zelinsky*

The tragic paradox of the current war, like many other wars, consists in the fact that the belligerent parties are definitely in favor of peace. Indeed, even of dialogue. But what kind of dialogue? Are we not already in dialogue in the current situation? One side says, "This land that we have taken will be ours forever, we are willing to dialogue in regards to the rest.” The other insists, "Free our lands, then we will talk about peace, but not before." And Russia says, "Never, never, what we have conquered is already consecrated as our homeland, eternal and holy." Ukraine replies, "Every meter conquered by the enemy must remain Ukrainian, we fight to recover it without thinking about the lives of our citizens." "Until the last soldier," proclaims one side and the other. We can only hope that this will end without a global catastrophe. Is this kind of discussion really dialogue? Formally, yes. People talk and keep talking. One side accuses the other, "You did this, you killed so many innocent people, you raped little girls, you are." "No, you were the initial criminals, you who bombed Russian land, it does not matter if it is in Ukrainian territory, you who with your Russophobia wanted to suppress our language, etc." Is this dialogue? Formally, yes.

Yes and no. Because there is no way out of this kind of exchange of accusations. All wars, if they do not crush the opponent, end in negotiations. Russia has not been able to crush its enemy by declaring them a brother who went the wrong way and then annexing them to itself. This project failed and, therefore, one day the time for talks will come. That is, dialogue. That is, concessions. At least the possibility of discussion. But discussion first of all seeing the other's face. Even that is already communication. Certainly this kind of talk between the deaf is not what Pope Francis intends with his call to end the war with dialogue. But before reaching real dialogue one has to open up, not to the enemy, but to oneself. We must enter into another dimension of the conflict, that of the heart from where, in the words of Jesus, "proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries... that defile man." All wars come from the human heart, with evil thoughts, that as soon as they come out, do not present themselves as evil, but are clothed in noble myths: saving the homeland, building a bright future, etc.

If we seek dialogue, we must enter into a combative conversation with the thoughts that generate wars. Of course, there can be no equality between the aggressor and the victim; one cannot confuse these two roles without sacrificing truth. One cannot fail to resist the aggressor. But even in the most heroic resistance one must find peace with God in one’s own heart, from which peace among men is also born.

* Orthodox priest of the Byzantine-Slavonic rite