So much for light blogging.  The conflict between Russia and Georgia is a very important topic, and I want to say a few more things about it.  I have some thoughts on what Orthodox Christians here, in Europe and around the world ought to try to do to alleviate the suffering of our brethren in Ossetia, Georgia and Russia, as all of them have lost people in this conflict so far and will continue to suffer the costs of war even after an end to hostilities.  For the moment, I will say now what I should have said initially: we should pray especially for the Georgian and Ossetian peoples, who are suffering the brunt of this conflict, and ask that God spare their suffering lands from war and the invasion of enemies, and also for the God-preserved Russian land and her people.  It is tragic and deeply troubling that these three historically Orthodox peoples are shedding each other’s blood, and it is even more unfortunate that over the course of the last several centuries they have come to regard one another as enemies.  The reports of ethnic cleansing of Ossetians are disturbing, and I would like to think that they are exaggerated or false, but given the animus between Ossetians and Georgians they may prove to be true and a cause of perpetuating the conflict.  I hope that the hierarchs of all local Orthodox Churches will make unanimous appeals for peace and offer themselves as mediators as needed to aid in bringing these hostilities to a close.  Besides being dangerous for the entire region, this war is unnecessary and to the extent that it was never likely that Tbilisi could attain its objectives it is also unjust.

Concerning more immediate, practical assistance, International Orthodox Christian Charities has already posted their emergency appeal for aid regarding the conflict.  If you would like to help the relief efforts in the Caucasus, IOCC is a reliable and effective organization that will make good use of anything you are able to give.  As I find other alerts from charitable organizations and Church jurisdictions, I will include them in the updates. 

Update: Thanks to commenter ezekiel comes this item that includes Patriarch Alexy’s call for a cease-fire:

“I learned about armed clashes in Tskhinvali and its localities and I urge the opposing parties to cease fire and renew the dialogue,” Alexy II’s statement is quoted by the Moscow Patriarchate’s official website.

“Today blood is shed and people are killed in South Ossetia and my heart deeply laments over it. Orthodox Christians are among those who have raised their hands against each other. Orthodox peoples called by the Lord to live in fraternity and love confront each other,” the Church primate stresses.

Referring to the appeal of Catholicos-Patriarch Ilia II of Georgia who urged to peace, Patriarch Alexy also turned his “ardent call” to those “who are blind with enmity”: “Stop! Don’t let more blood shed! Don’t let today’s conflict boil over! Show wisdom and courage: come to negotiating table to respect traditions, outlook and hopes of Georgian and Ossetian people.”

The Patriarch has stated the Russian Orthodox Church is ready to unite its efforts with the Georgian Church to help peace come. “May Our God, Who is “not a God of disorder but of peace,” be our Assistant in it,” Alexy II statement says.

I am very grateful for His Holiness’ appeal, and I hope that charity and Christian fraternity may prevail and bring a speedy end to this conflict.

Second Update: In Russian, here are reports on the Patriarchate’s website concerning the situation in Georgia. 

Third Update: The ICRC has made an appeal to the belligerents to facilitate humanitarian relief.

Fourth Update: I neglected to include this yesterday, but here is the statement from Catholicos Ilia II of Georgia:

Georgian authorities stand for peaceful settlement of the conflict and are ready to carry out the policy of peace. I hope the Ossetian party will not exacerbate the situation. Centuries-old friendship and family relations bond Georgian and Ossetian people and what is most important we are united with Christian faith and must live peacefully without blood.