Roffey Park Institute – Statement on the war in Ukraine

Statement on the war in Ukraine

Dr Robert Coles 7th March 2022

It is with great sadness and distress that I make this statement on behalf of our community at Roffey Park. We hold dear to the fundamental right of all human beings to live in peace and without fear. As I am sure all educators around the world do, we believe education, when conducted to open our minds to diversity and wonder, to be the most fantastic enabler of human flourishing and the best antidote by far to hatred.

It is with these things in mind that we deplore and condemn the invasion of Ukraine by the regime of Vladimir Putin.

It is the regime and its apologists that are at the centre of this act of invasion. In recognising this, we recognise the resistance and the voice of so many Russian people against this war, against this violence, against this killing. In a country where dissent is dangerous, we applaud the courage of those who speak out. Equally, we implore those who have not to do so if you can.

It is easy to criticise things and to stand back and say, ‘I cannot change anything’ To paraphrase Edmund Burke, no one made a greater mistake than doing nothing because they could only do a little. Every voice, every dissent, every act of support and humanity counts, as a contradiction to this invasion, and as a statement of humanity.  

Governments around the world are acting against this aggression. Again, it is easy to criticise their actions. We simply say to those in power, trust your own people to understand that we will be impacted by the actions you take. We will all have to share in this suffering if we truly wish to help the people of Ukraine. We must accept that suffering as part of our contribution. It is as nothing to the suffering in Ukraine. And, having trusted your people by explaining things well and clearly, get on and make your responses as deep, as effective, as impactful as they can be. If you are transparent and consistent, your people will support you.

This is the leadership and these are the values that Ukrainians want and need to see and feel from our countries.  

Speaking of values, we recognise the wonderful response of the citizens of neighbouring countries, particularly in Poland. This is humanity in action. We recognise the courage of citizens ready to take up arms to defend their children and the less abled. This is humanity in action. We recognise that we can all contribute somehow, somewhere, to offer support and shelter. This is humanity in action. This is a humanity that overcomes a Putin and any other dictator; it is a humanity that enables us all to flourish. For the sake of Ukraine and for us all, we must stand for this humanity for everyone regardless of who they are or where they come from.

The world seems to constantly change. As we emerge from a pandemic that has caused so much emotional distress and loss of loved ones, we are now confronted by a war that no intelligent person wants. What do we tell our children? How do we explain ourselves? Perhaps we should tell them two things. First, we are not helpless victims of power; collectively we are undeniable. Secondly, it is our choices that count, each and every one of us. So, let’s value the choices we make, and make them not just for our own short term sense of satisfaction, but for the wellbeing and flourishing and love of us all.

Let us raise seven billion voices for the forty four million people of Ukraine and say NO! to this invasion.

Slava Ukraini!

Dr Robert F Coles
CEO Roffey Park Institute