This is the script of this morning’s Thought for the Day on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

President Zelenskiy’s address to Parliament yesterday was another step in maintaining solidarity with Ukraine.

I simply can’t imagine what it will be like to live in Ukraine right now – waiting for the military onslaught that threatens to accompany the first anniversary of the Russian invasion. I can’t imagine such fear of the imminent unknown, having no control over what is to come.

As Anna Reid illustrates in her excellent book Borderlands, Ukrainians live on an edge, a border between Europe and Asia.

But, living on an edge – the word for it is ‘liminality’ – changes perspective as well as behaviour. I have good friends who live in Basel which borders Germany, France and Switzerland. Wherever you go there you have to pay attention to a different language, variations of culture and history, architecture and mood. You drive down a road and find you’ve been in two or three countries. And this means navigating strangeness, respecting difference.

Now, nothing should ever trivialise the predicament in which Ukraine currently find itself. Although for many of us, borders do not represent a threat, simply dividing, but also open us up to new people and experiences, this is not the case with Ukraine: their border is characterised by extreme violence, fear and blood.

Yet, there is a parallel in the ways people think and relate in any context. Living on an edge compels us to face difference and respect narratives that are not mine. Having been a professional linguist many years ago, I understand what it is like to look, think and listen through the lens of a different culture – a people whose story is different from mine.

But, the bigger influence on me is the Judeo-Christian tradition which tracks the formative story of people for whom home is always contested, estranged or constantly moving. In fact, the earliest credal statement in the Hebrew Scriptures begins with a striking statement: “My father was a wandering Aramaean…” Exile is one of the major biblical themes – and this is a reality we are now seeing every day as millions of Ukrainians flee. In the biblical story people are exiled without their consent, often at the sharp end of an empire’s weaponry. Jesus himself constantly crossed borders to be where people actually stood – never seducing anyone with false promises, but being realistic about the brutality of the world. He, too, paid with his life. For him the injunction to “love my neighbour as myself” was never some romantic idea – it is costly, especially for those who live on a sharp edge.

I look at Ukraine from a place of security; but, I can also look through the lens of their experience to better understand my own, too.

This is the script of this morning’s Thought for the Day on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

They say that radio wins over television because the pictures are better. Indeed, words can open up the imagination in ways that a photo or video cannot. But, some images leave me speechless.

I remember going into the cathedral in Almaty, Kazakhstan, a few years after it had been restored for its original purpose after decades of Soviet iconoclasm. It was the icons that moved me. Icons are meant to be looked through and not looked at. A glimpse is not enough; you have to stay with it, look deeply and go beyond superficial significance.

So, it is appropriately shocking that one icon doing the rounds at the moment has Mary Magdalene holding a Javelin missile launcher – an image not of comfort or piety, but a juxtaposition of redemption and violence. Mary Magdalene is the friend of Jesus who – as legend has it, at least – lived a morally questionable life who found new life, new hope, new identity and a new belonging in the company of the wandering Galilaean. Having found peace, here she holds a weapon of war.

It is right that this should shock. Anodyne statements about peace evaporate when an image confronts me with the moral dilemma facing so many people today: what place violence finds in shaping peace – and how redemption can involve such terror.

Two things come to mind. One is a line by the novelist Francis Spufford who wrote: “Some people ask what kind of religion it is that chooses an instrument of torture for its symbol, as if the cross on churches must represent some kind of endorsement.The answer is: one that takes the existence of suffering seriously.” In other words, even if we have become inured by familiarity to the offence of the cross as an image, it stands amid the smoke of destroyed lives and landscapes as a recognition of violent reality; but, this cross holds a man whose arms are open to the world as it is, offering a redemption that sees beyond the violence to a future in which love wins through. No romance; just brutal reality.

The second thing it evokes for me are the words of President Zelensky when he said at his inauguration: “I don’t want my pictures in your offices, for the President is not an icon, an idol or a portrait.Hang your kids’ photos instead, and look at them each time you are making a decision.”

So, I am left haunted by two images, two icons: redemptive suffering … and the eyes of my children and grandchildren as I help shape the world they will inherit.