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People of all faiths flock to Ukrainian churches in the US in a show of support and solidarity

'We all want to do something to help during this crisis, and it's important to show support for the Ukrainians in our own communities.'

People of all faiths flock to Ukrainian churches in the US in a show of support and solidarity
Cover Image Source: Facebook/Lee C. Shapiro

Ever since Russia began its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine two weeks ago, diverse groups of Americans of all faiths—and those with no religious affiliation—have been flooding Ukrainian churches in the United States. St. Vladimir Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral in Parma, Ohio, is one of the institutions that bore witness to the heartwarming show of support for and solidarity with the war-ravaged nation, when people filled the pews and spilled into the aisles at a prayer service and rally on February 27. "It was a standing-room crowd that came to pray and show unwavering solidarity," Lee C. Shapiro, regional director of the American Jewish Committee's Cleveland chapter, told The Washington Post.


"While what's happening in Ukraine is an international story, it also hits close to home and hearts throughout the country," added the 64-year-old, who spoke at the prayer service. "We're all witnessing the horrific images coming out of Ukraine, and our hearts are heavy. As Jews, we know only too well what can happen when democracy and the rule of law are threatened. We want to reach out and embrace the Ukrainian community in warmth and love." This inspiring phenomenon of solidarity has been seen across the United States—in cities including Los Angeles, Milwaukee and Syracuse, N.Y.—since Russia began attacking Ukraine last month.


Secretary of State Antony Blinken joined Ukraine's ambassador to the U.S., Oksana Markarova, in a visit to The Ukrainian Catholic National Shrine of the Holy Family in Washington last week. According to ABC News, during his visit, Blinken lit a candle and spoke with a group of Ukrainian faith leaders and activists, including Archbishop Borys Gudziak and Ukrainian American activist Ulana Mazurkevich. "It's in the most difficult moments that our faith is tested," he said at the service, adding that this is a moment for faith in democracy, peace, and "in the conviction that good will prevail over evil."


Meanwhile in western Massachusetts, Kerry Weber—the executive editor of America, the Jesuit Review—was pleasantly surprised to see that she wasn't the only one who felt an overwhelming concern for Ukraine. Upon learning that a Ukrainian Catholic church near her town of East Longmeadow was holding a rosary prayer service for peace on February 28, she drove 15 minutes to the chapel and found that about 100 people had gathered there. When at the end of the service, a church member asked the congregation whether anyone had something to share, one woman stood up.


"This woman who was with a group of 12 adults and children stood up and said, 'As you can see, we are Muslim,'" Weber recalled. "She said that her family wanted to show their solidarity for the people of Ukraine. It’s a nice reminder that a lot of grace can happen if you allow an opportunity for solidarity. It was so beautiful and moving that as soon as I got home, I knew I had to write about it."


Similarly, several hundred people showed up for a parking lot prayer vigil at the Ukrainian Pentecostal Church in Nicholasville, Kentucky, the day after the Russian invasion began. Beverly Johnson-Miller, who attends St. Luke United Methodist Church in Lexington, organized the vigil a few days prior to the invasion after learning that an attack on Ukraine was imminent. "I couldn't sleep and was wondering how to help," the 66-year-old explained. "We all want to do something to help during this crisis, and it's important to show support for the Ukrainians in our own communities. I wanted to show them how deeply we all care."


Although she was initially a bit nervous about calling Pastor Yaroslav "Jerry" Boyechko at the Ukrainian Pentecostal Church at such short notice to ask for permission to hold a public vigil in his parking lot, he proved to be very supportive. "But he was all for it, so I started making calls and put the word out that anyone was welcome to come and encircle the church physically and spiritually," Johnson-Miller said. Boyechko—who immigrated to the United States from the former Soviet Union in 1989—shared that it meant a lot to him and his congregation to see people of all faiths holding hands, singing and praying outside their chapel on a chilly evening. Almost all of the church's members have friends and relatives who are in braving the war in Ukraine, he said.


"We really appreciate the support from the American people as this is a very hard time right now for Ukraine," said Boyechko, adding that his church is urging people to send donations to Hope for Ukraine. Emily Belz, a staff writer for Christianity Today, shared a similar story of support on Twitter. "I went to a Ukrainian evangelical church service today in Manhattan, and the back quarter of the church was full with members of a Korean church that the Ukrainians know. They all just showed up to be with them today," she wrote. Belz said she was moved by the humanity displayed at the service. "To watch them sing together and pray together and cry out to God for help was really moving," she said. "It was a wonderful feeling of unity."

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