"This war must unite humanity, or we all will lose...": Religious figures from different countries show their solidarity with Ukrainians
The delegation comprises five religious figures from the United Kingdom, the United States, and Poland: imams, rabbis, and priests. On February 7, they visited Babi Yar, where an interfaith prayer was held. On Tuesday, February 8, a joint prayer is scheduled in front of St. Sophia Cathedral. On Wednesday, the delegation will visit Irpen, Borodyanka and Nemishayeve. During their stay in Ukraine, the envoys of religious communities will also meet with statesmen, politicians, Ukrainian MPs, and religious leaders and discuss the experience of resisting Russian aggression and the consequences of the war. The delegation also has humanitarian aid for Ukrainian institutions and institutions.
The delegation members told about their intentions and goals yesterday, February 7, during a press conference at the Ukrinform news agency. Dr. Mateusz Piotrowski, the organizer of the trip and head of the "Europe, a Patient" Society, emphasized that it is essential for them to be physically present at the scene, which gives them the opportunity to pray together with Ukrainians, express support for them directly and see firsthand the consequences of military actions against peaceful cities, and then convey this evidence to communities and media in their countries.
When asked by a RISU reporter whether the delegation members see signs of a religious war in Russia's aggression against Ukraine, Dr. Mateusz Piotrowski said that they undoubtedly exist. They are expressed in the ideology of "defending true Christianity". He noted that, unfortunately, the ideology of religious war is supported by a significant part of the highest religious authorities of the aggressor country.
"This war must unite all of humanity, or we will all lose," said the senior rabbi of Masoretic Judaism in Great Britain (traditionalists)," says Jonathan Wittenberg. He is confident that when people of different faiths, from different peoples, stand side by side, their posture becomes important for all of humanity. The rabbi said that in the area where his synagogue is located, there are now many refugees from Ukraine, and some of them live in the apartments of members of his community. Some of them, in turn, were also once refugees. The synagogue has become one of the centers of assistance to Ukrainians. Rabbi Jonathan invited a priest from the Ukrainian Church to the synagogue and invited him to give a speech. The priest was in tears. "We felt that these tears are not only about Ukraine but also all humanity."
Rabbi Charles Feinberg, a participant in the Interfaith Action for Human Rights (Washington, USA), dedicated his speech at a press conference to the moral foundations of humanity and the possibility of forgiveness and reconciliation. He recalled that when a person kills a person, it discredits God and undermines faith in the moral foundations of civilization, according to which every person should be perceived with respect.
"God has the ability to change and redeem, and we, created in his likeness, have such potential," the American rabbi noted. "And we are here to pray to God for this and that people who have been tortured will find the strength and courage to forgive."
Imam Sayid Mekic from the Central Mosque of Cambridge (UK) noted the incredible resilience of Ukrainians in resisting the aggressor. He shared that he performs a special prayer for the victims of this war and their families. The imam stressed the need to appeal to those in power to stop all this, and to protect civilian infrastructure, especially places where civilians study and pray. "Humanity is divided into different nations. They do not know each other. The noblest people who see the eye of God understand the need to unite in these conditions," Sayid Mekic concluded.
"The situation in Ukraine shows us a wider context: the peace we have is not given to us forever," said Fr. Marek Miliavicki of the Dominican Order of the Archdiocese of Wroclaw (Poland), who is also a chaplain and historian. "Father Józef Tischner once said that freedom is not given forever. We have to take care of it constantly. We can say the same about peace."
According to Fr. Marek, it is worth praying not only for peace but also for freedom. And not only political but also personal, which gives us the opportunity to learn and work according to our own choice and pray to our God, in whom we believe. The priest-historian called for uniting around the one God, regardless of religious affiliation.
"We would very much like to see constant prayer in Ukrainian cities," he said. "So that religious figures come here, stay the longest, support Ukrainian society and testify in this way."
This is the second delegation of religious figures to Kyiv organized by the patient Europe Society, which is looking for solidarity–based solutions to Europe's biggest challenges-pandemics, climate emergencies and war. Members of this association have extensive contacts in different countries of the world.
The first visit took place in May 2022, after Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko called on the spiritual leaders of the world to come to the Ukrainian capital to demonstrate their solidarity with the Ukrainian people and "take on the moral function of the responsibility of their religions for peace." Then 17 religious leaders and believers took part with religious and political leaders of Ukraine in common prayer. However, at that time, the participants still planned to "appeal to the Russian authorities to hold a prayer service for a just peace in Moscow." Following the trip, a press conference was held in Warsaw.