Many Quaker groups condemned Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine and called for support of all those impacted by the war. The war also has drawn attention to the small Quaker communities in Ukraine and Russia.
In Russia, there is an in-person meeting of about ten in Moscow and another Russian-language meeting online. But the largest Quaker presence in Russia comes from Friends House Moscow (FHM). The organization, founded in 1996, provides a Russian language website and social media presence and translates Quaker texts into Russian. It also provides support to several Russian programs in line with Friends’ testimonies including an Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) in Ukraine. These charitable activities in Russia and Ukraine are carried out by commissioning work from a company, OOO Friends House. The company staff are Russian Quakers who are international members of the Europe and Middle East Section of Friends World Committee for Consultation (FWCC–EMES)
Sergei, one of the staff, reports that some Russian Quakers have protested against the war despite the danger involved. Two Quakers participated in protests and one of them was arrested, but is free now, according to Sergei. Sergei says that all the Russian Quakers are against the war and have expressed pacifist positions.
The staff can continue with their work in the short term despite the ongoing sanctions.
FHM is overseen by an international board which is composed of Quakers from Russia, the United States and Europe. Board member Julie Harlow has been hosting a daily online meeting for worship to hold in the Light those affected by the war in Ukraine. As many as 538 have been a part of the online meeting at one time, with an average of about 240 at each meeting. There have been participants from 16 countries, including Russia.
FWCC–EMES has also been holding several online meetings for worship to uphold the situation in Ukraine. A March 8 meeting was attended by 120 participants from ten countries, including Russia.
And in Kyiv, Ukraine, there are also about five who meet as an “unofficial group of seekers of peace, truth, equality, and love, united in the Quaker prayer tradition.” In a statement they shared that “it is very important for us to convey that Ukrainians are peace-loving people and very kind. In the last two months, when we got together and started our meetings, we agreed that there is no one among us who would see war as the answer, or believe that violence is the way out. . . . We categorically condemn any aggression, expansion, and pressure.” On March 13 they added a second, later meeting for worship so that those in other time zones might share in their online worship.
Patricia Stewart, clerk of the FHM International Board, noted that “if there’s anything good that comes out of all of this, I think that it may have to do with strengthening and expanding Quakerism as a world wide community.”