According to my route planner, it takes about 20 hours to drive to Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine. A war in Europe, so close by. Like everyone else, it´s on my mind all the time. Seeing the images of destruction and human suffering makes you feel powerless.
As a university, we try to do what we can. We have existing emergency funds to offer financial assistance to students and staff members who are facing difficulties as a result of the war. The University Chaplaincy is open and offers space to meet up. We have helped students to return to the Netherlands. We’re consulting with the municipality, among others, about what we can do for refugees in the coming period. Meetings have been organised at various locations on our campus.
We have also issued statements. Together with the Universities of the Netherlands, together with our European partners within The Guild, and an additional Radboud statement intended for our staff members and students. In the additional statement, we express our concern about our students and staff members from Ukraine and Russia. The latter led to strong reactions on social media. How can we as Radboud University mention the concerns about Ukrainians and Russians in the same sentence?
It´s clear that Russia is attacking Ukraine and not the other way around. Concerns about Ukrainians and Russians are in that sense incomparable and should perhaps not be mentioned in the same breath. Having said that, I would like to appeal to all not to equate Russia and the Russian state with its citizens. The Russian state is trying hard to suppress any opposition. Russian journalists are not allowed to use the word “war.” Despite this, there are many courageous Russians speaking out against the war, including on our campus. Russian scientists have protested in large numbers in an open letter against the war that Putin has started.
At Radboud University, we support everyone who is committed to preventing further escalation and further violence. We also want to provide assistance where we can to all students and staff members associated with our university who are affected in any way by these terrible events.
On the day I write this column, Pope Francis announced that Titus Brandsma will be canonised this spring. Brandsma was killed for his resistance to the Nazis before and during the Second World War. From captivity, he wrote a defence letter by order of the SS which he concluded with: “God bless Germany and God bless the Netherlands.” He made an important distinction between people and ideologies, according to Theo Giesbers in a recent article in the Gelderlander.
I sincerely hope that we will continue to make this important distinction on our campus.
- Daniël Wigboldus