Kyiv, May 24, 2022

By Michele Dunne, OFS

FAN Executive Director Michele Dunne joined a delegation of high-level religious leaders who traveled to Kyiv in an emergency intervention seeking to contribute to ending aggression against Ukraine and to pray for a just peace.

What follows is a brief description of day two.

Babyn Yar

The program for our interfaith delegation today included a prayer service, press conference, and visit to the memorial at Babyn Yar, meetings with Ukrainian government officials as well as the Papal Nuncio, a visit with Crimean Tatar Muslims , and a trip to Irpin (site of a fierce battle against Russian forces) including the Greek Catholic Church of the Nativity and a resettlement center run by Caritas.

Babyn Yar is a heavy place—the site of a massacre of more than 33,000 Ukrainian Jews by the Nazis in 1941, as well as struggles with Soviet and Ukrainian officials to tell that story for a half century more, and most recently a Russian missile attack—now containing a remarkable monument with several features, including a wooden replica of a synagogue that opens and closes like a book. Our delegation held a short prayer service, with a few minutes each for Jewish, Christian, and Muslim prayers, bracketed by carefully chosen pieces played by a Ukrainian violinist. Our Christian group chose to center our prayer on a short reading from John 14:27, in which Jesus said, “Peace I leave you; my peace I give to you. I do not give it as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” At a press conference, members of our delegation explained their hope that our visit would be the beginning of a stream of visitors for peace that could eventually contribute to ending the brutal Russian invasion—and that such a delegation would seek to visit and pray in Moscow as well.

Our visit to Irpin, in which Ukrainian forces fought Russian attacks from late February until the end of March, made a deep impression. In the Greek Catholic Church of the Nativity, Fr. Vitaly told us how 30 parishioners spent two weeks hiding in the tiny church basement (photo, above left) during the March siege before being evacuated. Luckily the church had made some preparations, such as installing a wood burning stove and collecting bedding and toys, which they now kept at the ready (photo, above right) in case of a recurrence of hostilities in the area. At a resettlement area run by Caritas, some 110 people whose homes were destroyed are living in a former summer camp for children.  Maya, 91 years old, said she had been displaced before, having in her youth lost her entire family in World War II. But, she said, “I have never seen such cruelty as in this war.”  She is one of a reported 3000 people in Irpin who lost their homes in the March attack. Some delegation members brought non-prescription medicines and other supplies to donate.

Irpin’s Cultural Center (photo, above left), once the elegant venue for concerts and other performances, is now a shocking ruin after a Russian missile attack—one of more than 100 cultural sites in Ukraine destroyed so far according to UNESCO. With no roof, charred walls, the sad remains of a grand piano (photo, above right) and glass as well as rubble crunching under our feet, members of our delegation paused to share short prayers. We shared the sadness we have absorbed from the great suffering Ukrainians are undergoing, our gratitude for their resilience and the warm welcome they have extended to us, our sense of helplessness in having no near-term solutions to offer, and our hope that a prayerful, peaceful presence could still somehow make a difference.

Another day of meetings tomorrow.   

Go to Day Three

Published in: on May 24, 2022 at 4:00 pm  Comments (1)  

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  1. […] Go to Day Two […]

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