More Than 1,000 Faith Leaders in the US Call for a Christmas Truce in Ukraine

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has wrapped up a one-day go to to Washington, D.C., the place he referred to as on the Biden administration and lawmakers to offer extra army and monetary assist to Ukraine in its combat towards Russia. This was Zelensky’s first abroad journey in almost a 12 months, for the reason that conflict started. Forward of the journey, over 1,000 religion leaders in america referred to as for a Christmas truce in Ukraine. For extra on the conflict and hopes for peace, we converse with CodePink co-founder Medea Benjamin, theologian Cornel West and Reverend Graylan Scott Hagler, senior adviser to the Fellowship of Reconciliation.


It is a rush transcript. Copy might not be in its closing kind.

AMY GOODMAN: That is Democracy Now!,, The Conflict and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed a uncommon joint session of Congress Wednesday night time the place he referred to as on the Biden administration and lawmakers to offer extra army and monetary assist to Ukraine in its combat towards Russia. Zelensky’s go to to Washington got here 300 days after Russia’s invasion on February twenty fourth. It was Zelensky’s first abroad journey for the reason that conflict started. On Wednesday afternoon, President Biden met with Zelensky on the White Home, asserting extra army assist for Ukraine, together with a Patriot missile protection system.

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: At present, I’m asserting the subsequent tranche of our safety help to Ukraine: $1.85 billion bundle of safety help that features each direct transfers of apparatus to — that Ukraine wants, in addition to contracts to produce ammunition Ukraine will want within the months forward for its artillery, its tanks and its rocket launchers. Critically, along with these new capabilities, like precision aerial munitions, the bundle will embrace a Patriot missile battery, which is able to — and on which we’ll prepare Ukrainian forces to function as a part of the continued effort to assist bolster Ukraine’s air protection.

AMY GOODMAN: Throughout his speech to a joint session of Congress later within the day, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky stated assist to Ukraine must be seen as funding, not charity.

VOLODYMYR ZELENSKY: It’s an important honor for me to be on the U.S. Congress and converse to you and all People. Towards all odds and doom-and-gloom situations, Ukraine didn’t fall. Ukraine is alive and kicking. … Ukraine — Ukraine holds its strains and can by no means give up.

So, right here is the frontline, the tyranny which has no lack of cruelty towards the lives of free folks. And your help is essential not simply to face in such combat, however to get to the turning level to win on the battlefield. We now have artillery, sure. Thanks. We now have it. Is it sufficient? Actually, probably not. …

Monetary help can also be critically vital, and I wish to thanks. Thanks very a lot. Thanks for each monetary packages you might have already supplied us with and those you could be keen to determine on. Your cash will not be charity. It’s an funding within the world safety and democracy that we deal with in essentially the most accountable means.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addressing a joint session of Congress. He got here to america yesterday and left after quite a lot of hours after that handle.

In Moscow, Russian Vladimir Putin made a uncommon admission of main issues going through the Russian army however vowed to proceed combating in Ukraine and promised to provide the Russian army the whole lot it’s asking for. In the meantime, the Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov criticized Zelensky’s go to to Washington and the Biden administration’s choice to ship extra arms to Ukraine.

DMITRY PESKOV: [translated] The availability of weapons continues, and the vary of equipped weapons is increasing. All of this, after all, results in an aggravation of the battle. This doesn’t bode effectively for Ukraine.

AMY GOODMAN: Forward of President Zelensky’s journey to Washington, over a thousand religion leaders in america referred to as for a Christmas truce in Ukraine. The signatories included the Reverend Jesse Jackson, Bishop William Barber and members of the Russian Orthodox Church. The letter was initiated by the Fellowship of Reconciliation, CodePink and the Nationwide Council of Elders. The teams additionally launched this brief video that includes among the signatories.

CHRISTMAS TRUCE SIGNATORIES: As folks of religion and conscience believing within the sanctity of all life on this planet, we name for a Christmas truce — for a Christmas truce — for a Christmas truce in Ukraine. Within the spirit of the truce that occurred in 1914 throughout the First World Conflict, we urge our authorities to take a management function in ending the conflict in Ukraine by calling for a ceasefire and negotiated settlement. We pray they do that earlier than extra persons are killed and wounded and hundreds of thousands extra are displaced from their properties, earlier than the rising disaster in world starvation and poverty worsens, and earlier than the battle leads to a nuclear conflict that would devastate the world’s ecosystems and annihilate — and annihilate — and annihilate all of God’s — all of God’s — all of God’s creation — creation — creation — creation — creation.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re joined now by three visitors concerned on this name by over a thousand religion leaders for a Christmas truce in Ukraine. The Reverend Graylan Scott Hagler is an adviser to the Fellowship of Reconciliation. Cornel West is an writer, activist and professor at Union Theological Seminary. He’s writer of quite a few books, together with Race Issues and Black Prophetic Fireplace. And Medea Benjamin is co-founder of CodePink, which helped provoke the Christmas truce in Ukraine letter. She’s co-author of the brand new guide, Conflict in Ukraine: Making Sense of a Mindless Battle.

Medea, let’s start with you in Miami, Florida. Speak in regards to the reasoning behind this name, and the way each President Biden and President Zelensky, on this uncommon second, Zelensky’s first abroad journey since Russia invaded — how they handled the difficulty of negotiation. You’re, although, calling for a truce. And discuss in regards to the distinction.

MEDEA BENJAMIN: We really feel that this conflict will not be going to be received on the battlefield. That is one thing that the Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Workers Mark Milley stated. We see that the top of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, who has been so hawkish on this, was requested his biggest concern; he stated, “Spinning uncontrolled. If it goes unsuitable, it may go horribly unsuitable.” We see us now not marching in direction of a nuclear Armageddon with their eyes closed; it’s with our eyes opened. There won’t be a army victory. There have to be negotiations.

And we don’t need the ethical heart questioning this conflict to be coming from folks like Marjorie Taylor Greene, Lauren Boebert, Donald Trump or Tucker Carlson, who’re the folks now questioning this conflict. We would like it to come back from the ethical heart of this nation. Which means the faith-based neighborhood, who understands that we have now to guard all of God’s creations and that our ethical obligation is to cease the killing, cease the combating, cease the conflict. And that’s why we have now referred to as for this Christmas truce.

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Cornel West, you’re a physician of, a professor of philosophy and Christian observe at Union Theological Seminary. We’re chatting with you in Irvine, California. Speak about why you signed on to this letter and what you assume the U.S. must be doing that it’s not doing proper now, clearly far and above the most important supporter of Ukraine financially, militarily, in relation to coping with Russia’s invasion.

CORNEL WEST: Ooh, yeah, I’m sorry I didn’t hear your full query, although, Sister Amy, however that’s all proper, although. I believe it had one thing to do with the methods during which I’d hope we accent how each the American empire, that set the context for this example with the enlargement of NATO and pushing the gangster Putin together with his wounded Russian empire towards the wall, after which the unsuitable, unlawful and immoral invasion and occupation of our valuable Ukrainian brothers and sisters.

However we have now to be keen to have an ethical witness that retains observe of the organized greed, of the routinized hatred, of the manipulated concern and the persistent hypocrisy of the wounded Russian empire and the American empire, that’s, after all, 800 — has 800 army troops models world wide and doesn’t wish to be trustworthy about its personal function. We all know that if there have been missiles in Canada or Mexico or Venezuela or Cuba, the U.S. army would blow them to smithereens. So we have now no ethical authority in relation to coping with the gangster exercise of Putin. We now have American gangster exercise in our military-industrial advanced tied to the White Home.

AMY GOODMAN: And, Reverend Graylan Hagler, when you can discuss what this truce would imply, as a minister in Washington, D.C., and senior adviser to the Fellowship of Conciliation? Evidently in america — that is not like even the media in France, for instance, and Germany — that negotiation is seen as capitulation. Elsewhere, it’s seen as the right way to save the planet. However discuss what it might appear to be right here and what your response was to yesterday’s joint session of Congress, to the plea that President Zelensky made, together with his folks beneath hearth throughout Ukraine, what it means for President Biden to comply with ship this Patriot missile system. Clearly, Zelensky, to laughter, has stated he’ll be asking for extra.

REV. GRAYLAN SCOTT HAGLER: Sure. Nicely, thanks, Amy.

And what I wish to begin out with is by saying the Fellowship of Reconciliation is the oldest peace and justice group and continues to attempt to raise up an alternate imaginative and prescient of what we have to — how we have to reply as a folks. One factor that we all know is that wars create carnage, and wars create an environment the place mainly the producers of weaponry and those that wrestle to attempt to enlarge empire develop wealthy, whereas people who find themselves caught up within the battle develop poor, carnage visits them, there’s primary destruction.

We consider that there’s an alternate means. And that various means comes out of debate, as a result of, actually, once you discuss dialogue or a truce, you’re speaking a few battle for the soul, whether or not the soul can really commune with one other soul and produce a extra simply world, a world that’s not constructed upon battle and ache and aggression.

What we’re taking a look at is, in 1914, on Christmas Eve, in World Conflict I, folks got here out of the trenches, combatants, and celebrated for a second an environment of peace. And we’re saying that that historical past is chatting with us proper now and calling upon us proper now to create an environment the place we are able to start the highway in direction of peace and reconciliation, as a result of the difficulty is, is weapons should not going to take us there, and combatants should not going to take us there. It’s solely once we sit down and say, “Sufficient is sufficient, and we have to cause from the guts and the spirit of justice.”

AMY GOODMAN: I needed to show to the feedback that Angela Merkel made earlier this month — sure, the previous German chancellor — making headlines in regards to the Minsk settlement in 2014 to finish combating in japanese Ukraine. Merkel stated, quote, “The 2014 Minsk settlement was an try to provide Ukraine time. It additionally used this time to turn into stronger, as you’ll be able to see at present.” Russian President Vladimir Putin later cited Merkel’s feedback.

PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN: [translated] Every thing that’s being stated now solely exhibits that we did the whole lot proper in regards to the starting of the particular army operations. Why? As a result of it seems that nobody needs to meet all these Minsk agreements. The that means was solely to pump Ukraine with weapons and put together them for battle actions. We see, apparently, we centered too late, actually. So, it begs the query: How can we make offers? And might we make offers? And the place are the ensures? That’s the query. Anyway, in the long run, we have now to make agreements. I’ve stated many occasions that we’re prepared for these agreements. We’re open.

AMY GOODMAN: Medea Benjamin, when you can touch upon this? After which discuss in regards to the course of this conflict, and significantly, I imply, entrance web page, The New York Instances, “Putin Admits Battle Failures However Fights On” — it was a uncommon admission yesterday, however saying he’s dedicated to the lengthy haul — and President Zelensky saying the identical factor.

MEDEA BENJAMIN: Nicely, I believe it’s vital to grasp that Angela Merkel, in her interview, additionally stated, “Why would Putin ever belief the West in peace negotiations?” Mainly, utilizing these peace negotiations to not cease the influx of weapons into Ukraine, however to begin pouring them in much more. And so, there isn’t a belief on any facet at this level.

However there’s a want for negotiations. Each side have staked out their positions, maximalist positions on all sides, Zelensky now saying they need each inch of Donbas and all of Crimea again, and the Russians saying they now management and owned these 4 areas of Ukraine that they’ll’t even management on the battlefield. However these are positions for negotiations. However the name for negotiations has to come back from Biden. And it’s not occurring. We see that after he met with Macron, the top of France, Macron stated there are legit safety pursuits of Russia that must be taken into consideration. So that every one must be handled on the peace desk.

And so, what we’re saying with this Christmas truce name is that allow’s be practical with the American folks. We maintain pouring extra money. Now will probably be one other $45 billion that can be authorised by the top of this week. That’s over $100 billion, and not using a 12 months going by, that would have been used for therefore many important wants right here on this nation, and as an alternative poured right into a conflict that isn’t winnable on the battlefield. So, we must be trustworthy about this. And that’s why we have now this name for a Christmas truce. That’s why Reverend Barber can be giving a Christmas Eve sermon on the ethical crucial of a truce. That’s why we’re having per week of protests, beginning January thirteenth; February nineteenth, the Libertarian Social gathering and the Folks’s Social gathering calling for a protest in Washington, D.C.; March eighth, Worldwide Ladies’s Day, a world name of ladies to say, “Cease this conflict, and finish all wars.” That’s what we have to do.

AMY GOODMAN: I needed to show to 2 clips of President Biden. This was the joint information convention that he held with the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky yesterday afternoon on the White Home.

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: And, President Velensky [sic] — Zelensky, you might have made it clear that he’s open to pursuing a — effectively, let me put it this manner: He’s not open, however you’re open to pursuing peace. You’re open to pursuing a simply peace. We additionally know that Putin has no intention — no intention — of stopping this merciless conflict. And america is dedicated to making sure that the courageous Ukrainian folks can proceed, proceed to defend their nation towards Russian aggressions so long as it takes.

AMY GOODMAN: And Biden went on to point he would let Zelensky set the timetable for any negotiated settlement with Russia.

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: It could possibly succeed within the battlefield with our assist, and the assistance of our European allies and others, in order that if and when President Zelensky is able to discuss with the Russians, he’ll be capable of succeed, as effectively, as a result of he may have received on the battlefield.

AMY GOODMAN: Cornel West, when you can reply to that awkward second in the beginning, which gave the impression of he was saying that the Russian president was keen to barter, after which happening to say that is utterly as much as Zelensky? Cornel, are you having bother listening to us? I believe Cornel is having bother, so let’s go on to Reverend Hagler in answering that query.

REV. GRAYLAN SCOTT HAGLER: Nicely, I believe that the difficulty is, you’ll hope that Joe Biden would lead in peace efforts and never in conflict efforts. And I believe that’s the difficulty, and that’s what we’ve referred to as out by way of this letter. It’s calling on the management to steer in direction of peace, in direction of negotiations, in direction of a dialogue, in direction of discovering a means out of this. And clearly, what takes place on the battlefield won’t convey answer; it is going to simply convey additional complication and lack of life. And so, we’re asking that Biden lead by way of peace and that the ears of the world demand peace proper now.

AMY GOODMAN: And, I imply, Reverend Hagler, you’re proper there in Washington, D.C. You had this uncommon second weeks in the past when Pramila Jayapal, the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus — the caucus put out a letter from quite a lot of progressive politicians calling for a negotiated settlement, then awkwardly retracted it. What do you perceive is happening in Washington proper now? Why isn’t the dialogue within the media, in Congress, that vary of debate? And as an alternative, it’s the far-right Republicans who’re elevating questions on giving a lot help to Ukraine, however antiwar progressives should not talking out as a lot in Congress.

REV. GRAYLAN SCOTT HAGLER: Nicely, there’s this ideological wall that appears to have developed. And that ideological wall is those that proceed to cheer on Zelensky and Ukraine, and, alternatively, you might have the Republicans, significantly the right-wing, ultra-right-wing Republicans, which are mainly working as brokers for Putin. So, folks have chosen sides, sadly. And the perimeters that they’ve chosen should not the — will not be the facet of peace, however it’s the facet of continued warfare, continued aggression.

And once we sit and have a look at this, the cash that’s wasted, the cash that’s wasted on armaments, that, sure, might be spent at house and might be spent in different kinds of endeavors that construct up the world and construct up the type of human dignity and price that we actually count on — you recognize, once we have a look at this truce, this letter that went out calling for a truce, it was very fascinating how rapidly spiritual leaders signed on to it, as a result of spiritual leaders understood that there’s one other means that we have to go. There’s one other factor that we must be cheering about. And that’s that we must be cheering about coming to a spot the place we are able to sit down and resolve points, not on the battlefield, however throughout the desk from each other. And that’s what we’re calling for. And that 1914 second of truce is a historical past lesson that’s chatting with us within the present second.

AMY GOODMAN: Medea Benjamin, in your latest guide on Ukraine, you wrote, “In Could, after the U.Ok.’s Johnson and U.S.’s Austin delivered their message to Zelensky in April to maintain combating for the long term, the U.S. Congress handed an unlimited $40 billion assist bundle to assist Ukraine militarily and economically to combat an extended conflict. Not a single Democrat opposed the invoice, together with Senator Bernie Sanders and essentially the most progressive Home Democrats, though 11 Republican senators and 57 Home Republicans voted towards it,” you stated. There’s additionally dialogue that this second that President Biden and President Zelensky have seized for Zelensky’s joint session of Congress handle is correct earlier than the Home adjustments arms to Republicans, as a result of quite a lot of Republicans — not clear if the Home speaker can be McCarthy — are demanding that this cash and weapons circulate cease. How do you’re feeling as a progressive antiwar activist — two issues — being allied with far-right Republicans and, secondly, being referred to as by some a Russian apologist?

MEDEA BENJAMIN: I really feel that if I have been in Russia, I’d be in jail for protesting this conflict. I additionally really feel horrible that my congresspeople within the Progressive Caucus have been cowed and silenced. I believe the 30 who signed on that letter, of their coronary heart of hearts, in all probability consider that negotiations is the one means. And we have now to strain them extra to come back out and say that their authentic stance was proper, simply as Congressman Ro Khanna stood by that stance on nationwide tv and CNN and received great help for it. We within the Peace in Ukraine Coalition have been placing strain on these 30 congresspeople to come back again out and say, “Sure, negotiations is the best factor. Sure, a Christmas truce can be an exquisite factor.” So, it’s our job to place the strain on our members of Congress, whether or not they’re Republican or Democrat, to come back out with the one rational place proper now.

The U.S., sadly, and the Biden administration, has been towards negotiations, nixed the negotiations that have been happening in late March, early April, and instructed the Ukrainians, mainly, “You don’t have to barter, as a result of we’re going to maintain pouring extra weapons in.” That is solely serving to the weapons corporations, who really have been the sponsors of a reception on the Ukrainian Embassy in Washington, D.C., on December eighth, dropped at you by Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Raytheon. They’re those who’re getting wealthy on this. The Ukrainians are struggling. The entire world is affected by this. And we have now to get Congress — all of Congress — to acknowledge this isn’t in the perfect curiosity of the American folks or of the whole world.

AMY GOODMAN: I wish to put that very same query to Cornel West: the place you end up on the spectrum, and people who say a negotiated settlement now solely serves Vladimir Putin, and Zelensky’s push proper now’s to not solely maintain floor, however to, with a Patriot missile system, go on the offensive. He says it’s the one option to win this conflict.

CORNEL WEST: Nicely, I imply, I believe Sister Medea’s level that you simply’ve received 14,000 brave Russian brothers and sisters who have been keen to go to jail for seven years with a purpose to have some accountability of the gangster who runs their empire, Russia, we have to have an equal antiwar motion within the American empire that’s keen to place strain on our political elites. Most of our political elites and in Congress endure from an ethical and religious chapter, as a result of they’ll’t say a mumbling phrase in relation to what’s actually occurring on the bottom with the heroic struggles in Iran proper now. They’ll’t say a mumbling phrase in regards to the Palestinian struggles, what’s been happening for the final 50 years. However rapidly they’re keen to breakdance and act as in the event that they’re involved about domination in relation to Ukraine.

So we wish to be constant. We wish to help any people who find themselves dominated, whether or not they’re Dalits in neofascist India, whether or not they’re landless peasants in Brazil, whether or not they’re Black folks and dealing folks in America, whether or not they’re employees within the UC, College of California, system. And never a mumbling phrase from Democrats just like the governor, caving. We would like ethical consistency. That’s what Martin King was calling for. That’s what Dorothy Day was calling for. That’s what Rabbi Heschel was calling for within the ’60s. That’s our legacy. And what meaning is, we’re going to chop towards all of the grains within the identify of fact, within the identify additionally, we hope, of justice and even some magnificence.

AMY GOODMAN: I wish to ask you in regards to the cut up on the left, Professor West. Some on the left have emphasised the historical past of U.S. hostility to Russia within the area, together with pushing NATO enlargement. You could have folks just like the CIA Director William Burns, who prior to now was fiercely important of the U.S. pushing to increase NATO. And lots of say the U.S. now has no proper to criticize Russia, which, in accordance with this logic, is defending its sphere of affect. Nonetheless, others on the left have insisted that imperialism have to be opposed in all its ugly kinds, whether or not it’s U.S. imperialism or Russian imperialism towards the deeply struggling Ukrainian folks. The place do you stand on this?

CORNEL WEST: I stand on the best ethical floor I can achieve entry to, which is in opposition to imperialism, be it China, be it India, be it America, be it Britain, be it France, be it Russia. Throughout the board, our anti-imperialism have to be constant. I used to be considering of my pricey sister Charlene Mitchell, who I had such nice respect for. We didn’t all the time agree, however she was a long-distance runner, and she or he tried to be constant in her critiques of predatory types of capitalism. And I resonate with that. However we’d like extra Medea Benjamins, we’d like extra Brother Haglers, and we’d like extra Amy Goodmans on this planet, let me let you know that.

AMY GOODMAN: However when you can discuss extra about what ought to occur in Ukraine proper now? I imply, you even have been extraordinarily important of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

CORNEL WEST: Completely.

AMY GOODMAN: You could have hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians fleeing proper now. Some say that President Putin needs this to occur as a result of it is going to flip Europe towards Ukraine as a result of they’ll’t take care of the circulate of refugees.

CORNEL WEST: Nicely, we have to have a truce. That’s step one. It is a course of. That is stage by stage, second by second, to have a truce after which to place strain on each ruling courses, throughout the board, put strain on the ability elites in each empires, throughout the board, after which have an ethical and religious and political galvanizing of the folks from beneath, as a result of if it’s dependent solely on the voices of the ability elites, it’s not going to occur.

AMY GOODMAN: How does a truce result in a ceasefire, Cornel West?

CORNEL WEST: Nicely, one, it permits us to view the world by the lens of peace relatively than conflict. It permits us to imagine that there will be not simply main interruptions within the means of conflict, however possibly these interruptions can turn into extra persistent. And as they turn into extra persistent, we have now peaceable methods of coping with the varied types of loss of life and dogma and domination which are shot by the historical past of the species. And all we have now is definitely these utopian tasks of attempting to create some areas during which persons are not at one another’s throats.

So, that’s what truces do. They supply not simply moments, however totally different lens by which we view the world. I believe that’s what Brother Hagler was saying with such eloquence, and that’s what Medea Benjamin has been speaking about all her life, or no less than her political life. I don’t assume she got here out of the womb speaking that means, however, I imply …

AMY GOODMAN: And when you can handle that cut up, Medea Benjamin, one thing you might have additionally been coping with, progressives speaking about supporting Ukraine in any respect prices due to the imperialistic invasion by Russia of Ukraine, after which seeing this conflict not solely as it’s however presumably escalating to a worldwide conflagration, or even when it doesn’t result in nuclear conflict?

MEDEA BENJAMIN: I’ve been going across the nation with my colleague Nicolas Davies on a 50-city tour, and we discover that audiences are available with very totally different views. I requested them, “What number of of you’re confused about this?” And nearly all people raised their hand. We now have good discussions, and folks depart with a a lot deeper understanding that this conflict didn’t simply fall from the sky, that there are contexts to grasp and that there’s not a army victory. After which they exit excited to do one thing about it. We now have whole states which are mobilizing statewide coalitions to place the strain on their elected officers.

I believe that is what occurs to us when wars begin. To start with of the Iraq Conflict, we have been additionally instructed that we have been Saddam Hussein supporters. Folks will come round to our facet as this conflict drags on and an increasing number of folks get killed and we turn into nearer and nearer to this nuclear Armageddon that President Biden talked about. So, I really feel assured that we’re are on the best facet of historical past. I hope extra folks will come over to our facet extra rapidly, be a part of us within the coalition.

AMY GOODMAN: I wish to depart it there, however, after all, we’ll proceed to cowl what’s happening in Ukraine. Medea Benjamin of CodePink, co-author of the brand new guide, Conflict in Ukraine: Making Sense of a Mindless Battle; Reverend Graylan Hagler, adviser to the Fellowship of Reconciliation, chatting with us from Washington; and professor Cornel West of the Union Theological Seminary, chatting with us from Irvine, California.

Developing, we have a look at the most recent paperwork launched by the Home January sixth committee, now anticipated to launch its full report on the Capitol rebellion at present. Stick with us.