Prayers for People Living in War Zones

War is a fundamental wrong. It involves the deliberate killing and injuring of people which makes it an abuse of human right.

war and unrest

What is war? Wikipedia defines war as, “an intense armed conflict between states, governments, societies, or paramilitary groups such as mercenaries, insurgents, and militias.” The term “war” and “armed conflict” have been used in recent times depending on the nature of the conflict. The International Committee of the Red Cross gives more clarity on these terms as they explain that “armed conflict” as a term is used more in place of “war” because it is more general in scope. These terms help to differentiate between international armed conflicts and non-international armed conflicts. Whenever two or more States decide to resort to armed force, it is termed as an international armed conflict. Non-international armed conflicts on the other hand could be described as an armed confrontation that has lasted for longer than usual between the armed forces of a government and one or more armed groups arising within the territory and jurisdiction of that State as documented in the Geneva Convention. War brings along with it some terrible consequences such as extreme violence, destruction of lives, property and infrastructure. It also involves aggression using conventional and unconventional means of fighting. It has been observed that sometimes in war, the military targets are not always legitimate and the rules of engagement are not always strictly adhered to. This results in a massive loss of civilian lives. Civilians who survive these attacks are displaced from their homes and may be forced to flee to a safer region where they settle down as refugees. Other non-combatant suffering and casualties may include famine, no access to medical care and shortage of basic supplies. Some people, especially children are cut off or disconnected from their parents or loved ones as a result from the confusion of fleeing to safety.

Human beings have been fighting each other since prehistoric times and for almost as long, people have been discussing and drawing up different analysis to determine the rights and wrongs of the decision to go to war. The evidence of the earliest war that may have taken place lies within a cemetery that existed in the Mesolithic era. This burial site was discovered in Jebel Sahaba, a location in the Nile Valley found on the northern border of Sudan with Egypt. About 61 individual skeletons were recovered from the site, with numerous other skeletons that had deteriorated into fragmented remains. Radiocarbon analysis of these skeletons dates their existence back to as early as 14,340 years ago. On closer study, about forty-five percent of the skeletons were discovered to have died violently. About 38 more skeletons showed signs of trauma, 16 skeletons presented with serious injury near the time of their death, with pointed stone projectiles used as weapons found to be embedded in the bodies of 21 of those skeletons. Some damaged bones showed injuries that had healed long before the time of their actual death, thereby proving that this form of conflict was persistent within that society. According to Conway W. Henderson, 14,500 wars have taken place on earth between a time span of 3500BC and the late 20th Century, leaving only 300 years of peace on earth. In total, 3.5 billion lives have been lost ever since. The decision to go to war bears its roots in the final decisions of the political and military leaders of a country. Historical analysis has attempted to shed more light on the reasons that informs the decisions to go to war. In almost all the circumstances that erupted in war, it was discovered that those decisions were often laced with deceit and dishonorable purposes. This begs the question as to whether the outcome of any war in recorded history yielded the particular results that its agitators were expecting.


Modern warfare as we know it emanated about 5000 years ago after the formation of States and countries around the world. This has led to an increase of military activity across the globe, especially as weapons of warfare transited from arrows, swords and spears to gunpowder, bullets and bombs. Technological advancement has also given rise to the invention and production of weapons of mass destruction. With inventions like nuclear warheads and biological weapons of warfare, it is now becoming easier to wipe out a vast number of people as a single target compared to how war was fought centuries ago. If we want to take a critical look at what triggered the First World War, it was sparked by the tensions that had been building across Europe, especially in the troubled Balkan regions of Southeast Europe, which happened for years before World War I. Before the war broke out, there were a number of alliances across Europe which involved powers like the Ottoman Empire and Russia who had committed themselves to existing peacefully together for years. However, there was political instability in the Balkan region, specifically in Bosnia, Serbia and Herzegovina, which threatened to destroy these diplomatic agreements. In June 28, 1914, a Serbian nationalist named, Gavrilo Princp went ahead and shot dead the Archduke Franz Ferdinand who was the heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire and his wife, Sophie, the Duchess of Hohenberg. Princp and other nationalists who believed in his cause claimed they did it because they wanted to end Austro-Hungarian rule over Bosnia and Herzegovina. Austria-Hungary, including many countries around the world blamed the Serbian government for the murder of the Archduke and found a premise to use the incident against them to put a permanent end to Serbian nationalism.


On July 28, 1914, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia. The Serbian government ordered their army to mobilize and get ready to retaliate while appealing to Russia to join forces with them. Within a week, Russia, Great Britain, France, Belgium, Italy, Japan and the Middle East had joined forces with Serbia against Austria-Hungary and Germany, thus bringing about World War I. The countries which fought alongside Serbia were known as the Allied Powers. In 1917, the United States of America joined the Allied Powers. The countries that fought with Austria-Hungary were known as the Central Powers; and they were Germany and Turkey. The Allied Powers claimed victory. By the time a ceasefire was declared on November 11, 1918 and the war officially brought to an end, more than 17 million people had died and another 25 million were wounded, including combat officers and civilians alike. No thanks to the new military technologies made available and the horrors of trench warfare, World War I saw an unprecedented level of carnage and destruction. Contrary to expectation, the outbreak of World War I was generally greeted with jubilation and confidence by the people in Europe. The conflict even inspired a movement of patriotism and pride in what they saw as a just cause. Most of them did not take into consideration the devastating effects of war and the setbacks it caused. The people of Europe viewed the war from different angles; as a matter of defense, as patriotism, as a national necessity, as upholding right against might, as a situation of international morality and as the sanctity of honoring treaties. Critics say that World War I was one of the great water sheds in the geopolitical history of the 20th century. This is because its after effects resulted to the fall of four great imperial dynasties, namely Germany, Russia, Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman dynasty in Turkey. The after effect also rippled to trigger the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia.


Over the years, some scholars have made attempts to identify the factors that caused the First World War. Although these reasons have remained controversial, as historians seem to disagree on the key factors, these scholars were able to put together a long term analysis of the war in order to determine the ideology behind the decisions of two rival sets of powers ending up in conflict by 1914. The scholars broke down the factors behind the war which include the growth of nationalism which posed a threat to imperialism. The power vacuum which was brought about by the decline of the Ottoman Empire, unresolved territorial disputes, political, economic and territorial competition; not to mention the race among several European countries to determine whose military capability was the most dominant. These countries were also involved in a complex web of alliances, alignments and treaties. There was a crack in the balance of power in Europe which was seemingly ignored. This made the scholars to ponder on the possibility of averting the war in totality if these factors had been given a deeper consideration before settling for war as a last resort. The European society was destabilized as they knew it and the situation laid the foundation for what was to trigger World War II.


There is this theory that World War II was caused by the determination of Adolf Hitler to build a Third Reich that would dominate the world. That wasn’t the only cause of the war. Three major causes of the war have been identified: The Treaty of Versailles, the failure of peace efforts and the rise of dictatorships. Other underlying causes of the war include The Great Depression, Anti-Semitism and also the Russian Revolution. The causes of World War II might seem simple. However, if you dig a little deeper, you will notice economic strife, a melting pot of unrest in world politics, and an increasing desire for power all around the world.

Also Read:  Prayers for the Peace of Jerusalem

We cannot talk about World War II without talking about the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Japan. It was in retaliation to the attack that Japan started with the United States of America by the bombing of Pearl Harbor in December 7, 1941. Pearl Harbor is a U.S. naval base near Honolulu, Hawaii. It would later become the gory scene of a devastating surprise attack by the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service. Just before 8:00am that Sunday morning, hundreds of Japanese fighter planes were seen descending on the base. They destroyed about 20 American naval vessels, eight battleships, sinking four of them and destroying over 300 airplanes. More than 2,400 Americans including civilians, died in that attack. A thousand more people were also wounded. Over the course of seven hours, the Japanese carried out coordinated attacks on U.S-held bases in the Philippines, Guam and Wake Island. At the time of this attack, the United States was a neutral country that was not fighting in World War II. This assault led to its formal entry into the war as American President Franklin D. Roosevelt asked Congress to declare war on Japan the very next day. Japan intended their attack as a preventive action. They thought it would prevent the United States from meddling with its planned military actions in Southeast Asia against overseas territories belonging to the United States, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. The objective of the surprise attack was to prompt the United States to negotiate peace talks with them. Their move was a huge gamble that backfired on them. Japan saw the peace talks as necessary because a cold war had already existed between them and the United States for decades prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor. The United States was not particularly pleased with Japan’s antagonistic attitude toward China. The Japanese government was seeking ways to solve its economic and demographic problems. They decided to expand by invading their neighbor’s territory and taking over its import market in a hostile and aggressive manner. Japan declared war with China in 1937 which led to the Nanking massacre amongst other atrocities. The United States reacted by imposing economic sanctions and trade embargoes on Japan, in the hopes that it would put a rein on their thirst for expansion. Instead, Japan stood their ground and would not relent in their actions.


August 6, 1945 was like any other day in Hiroshima. The sky was clear blue and the sun was revealing its glory. There was a young boy named Sadao Hirano who lived with his family in the suburbs of Hiroshima. He was twelve years old. Four months before the US dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, his parents had enrolled him in a junior high school in the city, but he did not have many chances to study in school. The government of his country was facing a labour shortage at the time, due to the deteriorating conditions of the war. So, the Japanese government mandated Hirano and his classmates to work on farms, create firebreaks in preparation for US air attacks and take part in demolition activities. On this particular day, Hirano and his classmates were instructed to take part in the demolition of some houses in the heart of the city at about 9:00am. It was a stroke of luck to schedule that activity for that time because if they had arrived at the demolition site an hour earlier, they might have all died. They were attending morning assembly in their schoolyard. As he stood there, he noticed a strong orange colored flash suddenly move across the sky. It looked lighter than the summer sunshine. The “Enola Gay,” a Boeing B-29 Superfortress bomber dropped the atomic bomb at 8:15am, some 1,900 feet above the city, about 1.2 miles away from the hypocenter. It hit the ground with a burst. The children were not able to avoid it because there were on open ground with no shade in the schoolyard. When the blast came, it blew them over. The exposure resulted in them being directly burned, but the children did not feel the burn at first because everything was muddled and chaotic. Darkness surrounded them for a moment. Hirano felt very thirsty. He was struggling hard to breathe because there was so much dust around him. He could hear one of his classmates crying and calling for his mother. Another one was screaming, “It hurts!” One classmate was looking for his hat. It was blown out of his head and the little boy shouted, “My hat is missing!” Everyone ran around in confusion.


Hirano looked at his classmates. They had all been badly burned. Their school uniforms were in pieces and they looked horrible. They feared that the U.S was going to drop another bomb, so Hirano and two of his classmates escaped to a nearby hill. They found a small cave which served very well as a bomb shelter. It was packed full with victims who were groaning in pain. There was a man in there whose belly had been pierced by a wooden pole. He was in terrible pain. Some soldiers made effort to pull it out of him but it was not possible. After staying inside the shelter for a long while, Hirano and his friends left the cave and headed home. They were in great pain. They walked slowly with their heads down and hands held forward, just like television ghosts. On the way, they found three buckets of water which they all gulped down. They immediately felt alive as they continued walking back home. A group of people who had arrived from the suburbs to help the blast victims found the boys on the road and gave them a ride home. They finally got home around 6:00pm. His mother saw him clasping something in his right hand. She wondered what it was and opened his fingers to find out. Hirano was holding his burnt skin. It had peeled off his right arm. His mother cut off the skin with a scissors, wiped his body clean with sake and made him drink a little of the concoction. This made him immediately intoxicated and knocked him out of consciousness.


For the next twenty days, Hirano experienced extreme physical weakness. He was bedridden and kept moaning in pain. He suffered burns on his face, neck, back, arms and thighs. His right arm was the most severely affected. His injuries quickly filled up with pus that gave off a vile smell and dripped off, soaking the Japanese style bedding where he lay. He had no access to professional medical care. He had only his mother who did the best she could to tend his wounds, while his brothers and sisters helped. His mother started applying iodine on the injuries and when that ran out, she used cooking oil and the juice from vegetables like cucumber to coat his burn injuries. Later on, she had to use the ashes of human bones on his injuries which caused him extreme pain. It took a while before Hirano could walk again. By that time, Japan had surrendered and the war was over. If not for his mother’s devoted care, Hirano would have died. Masaya Naeto, who interviewed Hirano and published this true life story, says this Hiroshima survivor’s burns have caused him tremendous physical disability and pain. They never completely healed. That burn on his right arm later formed a keloid scar where the skin was elevated and hardened with the skin there developing a permanent reddish colour. To this day, Hirano cannot fully extend his right arm due to the deformed skin. The keloid scar causes him pain. Moreso, for many years after the incident, Hirano and other Hiroshima burn victims like him were stigmatized in Japanese society. At the time, the people did not know any better. They held a belief that these victims still carried active radiation in their bodies and it was contagious. They were discriminated against when they applied for jobs and they could not use public pools or communal facilities. People also stared at them in horror wherever they went because their face and body had been terribly deformed from the burns.


The Union of Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR) popularly known as The Soviet Union was a communist state that existed from 1922 to 1991. It spread across Eurasia and was the largest country in the world at the time, covering over 22,402,200 square kilometers, with over 130 ethnic groups and spanning eleven time zones. The Soviet Union basically consisted of about fifteen republics which included Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Kazakhstan, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia. The Union operated as a federal union of multiple national republics and was governed by the Communist Party of the Soviet. Moscow was its capital within its largest and most populous republic being the Russian SFSR. However, in terms of administration, it functioned as a highly centralized unit. Prior to 1990, the country was a one-party state. When George H.W. Bush became the President of the United States, he ordered a re-evaluation of strategic policy for dealing with the Soviet Union and arms control. This singular move made the conditions in Eastern Europe and the Soviet to change rapidly. Bush also met with Mikhail Gorbachev who was the Russian President at the time at Malta in early December 1989 and encouraged him to reform his country’s policies in the hope that the Soviet leader would gradually transit his country toward a more democratic system and market oriented economy. Gorbachev’s decision to allow elections with a multi-party system and to create a presidency for the Soviet Union began a slow process of democratization. Eventually, communist control was destabilized and this contributed to the collapse of the Soviet Union. Following the turn of events, Ukraine officially declared itself an independent country on August 24, 1991. The communist Supreme Soviet Parliament of Ukraine proclaimed that it would no longer follow the laws of USSR but only the laws of the Ukranian SSR, thereby declaring independence from the Soviet Union.


Ukraine as an independent country is the size of the state of Texas. It is wedged between Russia and Europe. It has a less than perfect democracy with a very weak economic and foreign policy that wavers between pro-Russian and pro-European. The Ukrainian crisis actually began as an internal crisis in November 2013 when President Viktor Yanukovych rejected a deal for greater integration with the European Union. This led to mass protests from Ukrainian citizens. Russia backed Yanukovych in the crisis, while Europe and the United States supported the protesters. After that, anti-government protests toppled the government. Yanukovych ran out of the country giving Russia an opportunity to invade Ukraine and annex Crimea as part of their territory. Ever since then, Crimea has been a region in Ukraine under hostile Russian occupation. Fighting between the rebels and the Ukrainian military intensified. The rebels started losing and in August 2014, Russia invaded eastern Ukraine to support the rebels. It seems the audacity of the Russian invasion comes down to Ukraine’s centuries-long history of Russian domination. Ukraine as a country has been divided over an internal political crisis stemming from the disagreement on whether Ukraine is to be perceived as part of Europe or if it is intrinsically linked to Russia. Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin started pushing for an imperial revival with a nationalist world view that aims at placing Ukraine as a part of greater Russia.


The Russo-Ukranian War is currently an ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine. Russia launched an invasion on Ukraine again on February 24, 2022.  Putin says his initial aim of attacking Ukraine was to overthrow its government and end for good Ukraine’s desire to join the Western defensive alliance, NATO. He told the people of Russia that he wanted to protect people who had been subjected to eight years of bullying and genocide by the Ukrainian government. He also said that he wanted to “demilitarize” and “de-Nazify” Ukraine. In his speech, Putin said, “It is not our plan to occupy the Ukrainian territory. We do not intend to impose anything on anyone by force.” He further insisted that it was not a war or invasion but a special military operation. There has been no proof of Nazi presence or genocide in Ukraine. Critics say that Vladimir Putin shattered the peace of Europe by unleashing war on Ukraine; a democratic country with a population of 44 million people. In his defense, Putin justifies his action by stating that Ukraine which is perceived as a “Western-leaning” country was a constant threat to Russia and he could not feel safe or develop his country or exist with such a threat looming in the corner.


One month into the invasion, Russia said its main goal was to liberate Donbas, broadly referring to the eastern regions of Luhansk and Donetsk in Ukraine. These were already Russian puppet statelets seized by Russian-backed separatists since 2014. It was clear that President Putin wanted the entire east. The head of the Luhansk statelet had already suggested holding a referendum on joining Russia. Ukraine was invaded from the north, through Belarus, as well as from the south and east, but Ukraine resisted them fiercely and dealt Russia with heavy losses. This forced the Kremlin to drop its plan to oust the Ukrainian government. The aftermath of these attacks saw towns and cities being ruined with thousands of people dead. Ten million people inside Ukraine and beyond have displaced since then. Russia’s failure to capture Kyiv and the heavy losses it suffered from the Ukrainian defense and its withdrawal from areas around Kyiv are evidence that it has scaled back on its ambitions. It is not yet clear if Russia’s leader also hopes to control the entire southern region of Kherson and seize more territory along Ukraine’s Black Sea coast. President Putin’s broader demand is to ensure Ukraine’s future neutrality. In return, the Ukrainians have offered security guarantees from allies as part of a wide-ranging peace process presented during talks in Turkey. As part of immediate peace proposals, Ukraine wants all Russian troops to leave Ukrainian territory. They also propose to join the European Union. The Kremlin on the other hand, insists that Crimea is now Russian territory and its position on Crimea and Donbas remain unchanged.


In tackling the prevention of war, one must study the pattern involved. Wars have always broken out because of a thirst for power by our world leaders. Just like the saying goes, “War is old men talking and young men dying.” Wars are not necessary. It kills, injures and disables the very people who must carry it out. War causes high levels of post traumatic stress disorder, (PTSD) and can weigh heavily on the conscience causing moral injury such as guilt, deep shame, anxiety and anger. These feelings are commonly experienced by soldiers as a result of killing or harming others. Experts claim that the world cannot exist without war just as death is a meaningless concept without life. They maintain the theory that war and the threat of violence are the essential building blocks for peace and stability. Wars can be avoided. Political scientists and international relations experts have suggested some usual strategies to prevent war which are diplomacy and arms control. It is however important to note that diplomacy and arms control vary in their actual and potential effectiveness.


It is interesting to note that the word “war” is derived from an 11th-century old English word, “wyrre,” which was coined from an old French word, “werre.” The etymology of the word, “werre,” has its roots in the Proto-Germanic word, “werzo” which means, “a mixture of confusion.” Werzo is also related to the Old Saxon and Old High German word, “werran,” which means to “confuse’ or to “perplex” and “to bring into confusion”. Do these meanings sound like a familiar form of spiritual attack? Yes, it does! As children of God, we have an arch enemy who loves to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10). He is that old adversary known as Satan the Devil who prowls around like a hungry lion, seeking whom to devour, (1Peter 5:8).  He is the one who loves to perplex the thoughts of humans and throw them into confusion. Compare the intentions of Satan to the qualities that the Prophet Isaiah attributed to our Lord Jesus Christ when he prophesied about his birth. In the book of Isaiah 9:6, the prophet declared:


“For a child is born to us,

A son is given to us.

The government will rest on his shoulders.

And he will be called:

Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Of the several accorded to Jesus Christ in this verse, one stands out clearly especially in relation to this topic. That title is, “Prince of Peace.” This proves Jesus desires to give us peace in every aspect of our lives. As Christians, our first response to any crisis must always be rooted in prayer. In 1Timothy 2:1-2, we are advised to make prayers for all people including kings and all those in authority, so that we may all live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.

Prayers for war-torn countries  and civil unrest

  1. Heavenly Father, we open our hearts to You. We ask for forgiveness of our sins. We ask that You cleanse us by thy precious blood that we may be worthy to approach Your throne of grace boldly in this time of crisis. We pray o Lord with an earnest heart for an outpouring of the Spirit of God so that the world may once again choose peace. We pray o Lord that You strengthen the international authorities that enable us to live and work together as one humanity inhabiting the world. Give them wisdom on how to permanently resolve this conflict without any more bloodshed in Jesus mighty name, amen (Hebrews 4:16).
  2. Lord, we pray for those in Ukraine who are suffering grievously for all the bad decisions those world leaders are taking on their behalf without considering their collective opinions. We pray o Lord, that You touch the hearts of the Russian leaders. Your word says that the heart of the king is in Your hand and You turn it in any direction that You please. Father, let their hearts be filled with compassion for humanity rather than the obsession with superiority. Let them be moved by the destruction caused so far and be convicted in their conscience to order an immediate ceasefire in Jesus mighty name, amen. (Proverbs 21:1).
  3. Father Lord, we ask that you change the heart of the Russian President, Vladimir Putin because only you can. You are just in Your ways o Lord and You alone are the only one who can establish true peace. Let Your justice prevail over evil that the perfect peace of Christ may be known among the people of Ukraine and Russia.
  4. Heavenly Father, please bring an end to the invasion in Ukraine. I commit the vulnerable citizens of Ukraine into thy mighty hands. I decree in the name of Jesus that they dwell in the secret place of the most High and abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I pray for the refugees and all the people who have been displaced from their homes and their sources of livelihood. I pray that You Father, become their strength and fortress; their hope and their restoration in Jesus mighty name, amen! (Psalm 91:1-2).
  5. Lord, I pray for the children of Ukraine who have never seen or experienced war. I know that this must be a new fear for them; a time of uncertainty and vulnerability. Lord Jesus, You have a special love for little children. You always want them to come into Your presence without anything hindering them. Lord, I ask that You send comfort and protection for them. Cause them not to fear or panic. Provide for them and nourish them in Jesus name, amen. (Matthew 19:14)
  6. Lord God, intervene in the decisions that bring about world policies, diplomacy and arms control. Do something for the sake of your children that will make Putin and other world leaders fear you, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
  7. Father, use the prayers of the faithful to stay Putin’s hands against using any weapon of mass destruction. Press upon his conscience never to engage in biological or chemical warfare in Jesus name.
  8. Father Lord, we pray for international organizations to rise for the sake of Ukraine. The displaced Ukrainians need food, water, shelter, clothing, medical care and other basic supplies. May they never be denied help. Let help and relief locate them wherever they are in Jesus name, amen.

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