A group of prominent faith leaders gathered in Chernivtsi, Ukraine, on Tuesday (April 12) to offer an alternative to and denounce violence, appeal for peace, deliver a message of hope and express solidarity with Ukrainians.
Members of the Delegation were:
- Sister Maureen Goodman (Brahma Kumaris, UK), International Centre of the Brahma Kumaris and the Spirit of Humanity Forum
- Archbishop Rowan Williams (Anglican, UK), Archbishop of Canterbury Emeritus, Representing the Present Archbishop of Canterbury
- Metropolitan Nikitas Lulias (Greek Orthodox, UK), Greek Orthodox Archbishop of Great Britain under the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, Representing Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew
- Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg (Jewish, UK), President of the Council of Christians and Jews, and Senior Rabbi of Masorti Judaism
- Massimo Fusarelli (Catholic, Italy), Minister General of the Franciscan Order of Friars Minor
- Rabbi Daniel Kohn (Jewish, Israel), Chief Rabbi, Bat-Ayin
- Grand Mufti Mustafa Ceric (Muslim, Bosnia), Emeritus Grand Mufti of Bosnia, and present Head of the World Bosniak Congress
- Grand Imam Yahya Pallavacini (Muslim, Italy), President and Imam of the Islamic Religious Community of Italy and advisor on Islam to Italy’s Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Ministry of Education
- Sister Giác Nghiêm, (Buddhist, France), Abbess of Maison de l’Inspir (of Plum Village)
- Swami Rameshwarananda (Hindu, Spain), President of the Phi School of Vedanta
- Rabbi Alon Goshen-Gottstein (Jewish, Israel), Founder and Executive Director of the Elijah Interfaith Institute
Pope Francis dispatched a letter written for the occasion. “The current second leaves us deeply troubled, as a result of it’s marked by the forces of evil,” Francis wrote. “All this troubles our consciences and obliges us to not maintain silent, to not stay detached earlier than the violence of Cain and the cry of Abel, however as an alternative to talk out forcefully with a purpose to demand, within the title of God, the top of those abominable actions.”
Swami Rameshwarananda expressed a desire for “artists of communication” who can “codify a language that raises consciences instead of lowering them and inspires us all to embrace peace and freedom.”
Sister Maureen addressing the gathering asked, What is Freedom? She said, freedom is the right to shelter, education, and the belief process of inner freedom. The freedom to dream, the freedom to hope, the freedom to find meaning in life. The freedom to be who we really are. And when our dreams are alive, then hope is alive and with that hope, there is the determination that the dream, the vision will be realized.
Determination means that no other possibility other than the dream. And it is our courage our faith that makes us go on and we have that strength within to continue. Faith means that our tasks cannot fail. If there is honesty in everything that we do and that we think, God’s help and that means you are never alone and the practical help that you need will come to you. We have a saying “That we take one step of courage and God takes a thousand steps of help towards us”. We all hope for peace in Ukraine, Peace in the region, Peace in the world. Peace is the inherent nature of the human spirit. Peace, love and wisdom. God didn’t give us power to fight one another. God gave us power for peace. True religion means peace. More than the hope for peace we know that the peace will come. Sister Maureen asked everyone to take a moment of silence to invoke God’s presence to experience the depth of God’s peace and to spread that peace to the country, to the region, to the world. Om Shanti.
The program included prerecorded choir performances, a song sung in English and Ukrainian and a wind instrument performance by Kohn.
Organizers encouraged those watching the service, which was broadcast live on the BBC, to sign a letter of solidarity on the Faith in Ukraine website, which the Elijah Interfaith Institute helps maintain.