TOPEKA (KSNT) – A local Orthodox Church pastor is sharing his perspective on the ongoing conflict between Ukraine and Russia.

Father Nikolai Meyers is the pastor of Saints Peter and Paul Orthodox Church located at 2516 SW Huntoon St. in Topeka. His church belongs to the the Church of Antioch which is based in Damascus, Syria and is recognized as one of 14 different branches of the worldwide Orthodox Church. Orthodoxy is a widely practiced religion in both Russia and Ukraine.

When asked what he thought of the current conflict, Meyers said that any loss of life is sorrowful.

“My thoughts on the conflict are that war brings destruction and the loss of life, and this is always sorrowful,” Meyers said. “The Church’s response is to call for an end to the conflict as well as reconciliation of those in conflict.”

The war in Ukraine has resulted in widespread destruction and has forced 2 million Ukrainians to leave their homes for safety in nearby nations such as Poland. The death toll so far has been difficult to measure, but the United Nations Human Rights Office said on Monday earlier this week that it had confirmed the deaths of 406 civilians with 801 wounded as of March 6.

Meyers went on to say that the conflict was deeply saddening for another reason: most of the people involved in the war come from the Orthodox religion.

“This is a conflict between people largely of the same faith,” Meyers said. “What the Church calls all of us to, is that we repent of our own sins and forgive those who have sinned against us. In the case of the conflict in Ukraine, the Church looks to mediate an end to the conflict and restore peace.”

The recent war between Ukraine and Russia has further raised division between the Orthodox Church of Ukraine and the Russian Orthodox Church, of which the Ukrainian Church is a part of. According to Meyers, a schism, or split, occurred before the war in Ukraine began where the Church of Constantinople granted self-governance to a parallel group in Ukraine outside of the existing Orthodox Church. This move still has yet to be recognized by all local Orthodox Churches and has highlighted a growing divide between the Church of Constantinople and the Russian Orthodox Church.

Meyers said that Orthodox churches in the U.S. and around the world are trying to gather funds to help alleviate the suffering of Ukrainian refugees and those still living in Ukraine. One donation site is through the Orthodox Church in America while the other is through the International Orthodox Christian Charities organization.

In the Orthodox faith, the season of Lent began on March 7 and it is customary for those in the church to ask forgiveness of one another as, in Meyers’ words, “We ask forgiveness of one another, since our own sins have a negative effect on all the world and everyone in it, not just ourselves.”

“Christ tells us to love even our enemy,” Meyers said. “Very hard to do, but it is what we are called to do even here in this conflict. What we do not want to do is increase tensions which leads to a greater loss of life.”