World Religious Leaders in Kyiv

in Emergency Just Peace Mission to Pray

24-25 May 2022

World Religious Leaders Travel in Emergency Just Peace Mission to Pray in Kyiv (24-25 May 2022)

Mateusz Piotrowski
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In March, Mayor Vitali Klitschko of Kyiv, Ukraine’s besieged capital, issued a call to the religious leaders to come to Kyiv: “I make an appeal to the world’s spiritual leaders to take a stand and assume the moral function that is incumbent upon them, and to proudly assume the responsibility of their religions for peace,” said Klitschko. “… Come to Kyiv to show their solidarity with the Ukrainian people. To show their compassion, and to join together in a spirit of harmony that my country and the whole world needs. Let us make Kyiv the capital of humanity, spirituality, and peace.”

On 24-25 May religious leaders from around the world have answered Klitschko’s plea. Seventeen religious leaders and people of faith from the major world went to Kyiv to engage in prayer, pastoral accompaniment, and distribution of humanitarian aid, as well as key encounters with peacebuilders, religious leaders, and political leaders.

May 24

On the first day, the delegation met with papal nuncio Archbishop Visvaldas Kulbokas, the Vatican ambassador to Ukraine. Following at 9 am the delegation held a prayer service for peace at Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center, host partner of the delegation’s visit to Kyiv, a non-governmental organization that formed the first modern Holocaust museum in Eastern Europe and is the center for tragedy study. The delegation was greeted by Mr. Maksym Rabinovych, CEO of the Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center, a site bombed in early March by Russian military. The prayer service opened and closed with a violin selection by Pavlo Kaurov, who played Albinoni’s Adagio in G and Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. Rabbi Dawid Szychowski, rabbi of Lodz (representing the Chief Rabbi of Poland, Michael Schudrich) led prayers with Lord Maurice Glasman and Dr. Barbara Wien, followed by Rt. Rev. Dr. Jo Bailey Wells, Anglican bishop of Dorking (U.K.), with Sr. Sheila Kinsey, FCJM, and Ms. Michele Dunne, OFS, the service concluded with prayers with Imam Pallavicini and Imam Ibrahim Mogra. The papal nuncio led The Lord’s Prayer in Ukrainian as part of the service. Following the prayers, the delegation met with Mr. Oleskii Dniprov, from President Zelensky’s office and Mrs. Olena Bogdan, head of the state service of Ukraine on ethnic policy and freedom of conscience. In the afternoon, the delegation met with members of the Association of Muslims of Ukraine, a community of primarily Crimean refugees. From there, they went to Irpin where they met Fr. Vitaliy and Fr. Myroslav at the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church of the Nativity of Mary who spoke of the experience of 30 members of their community living in the church basement for two weeks during the vicious “battle for Irpin” (Feb. 27 – March 30) while the region was held by Russian military. In Bucha and Irpin about 1,000 bodies were recovered, including 31 children. And at least 50 unlawful killings had been documented by OHCHR as of April 9. At least 270 bodies of civilians were discovered in mass graves. A shell damaged a section of the priests’ house and shelling damaged the walls and windows, however the new iconostasis was unharmed. At the Caritas facility in Irpin the delegation met with the manager of Caritas-Kyiv and delivered a package with medicine, toiletries, feminine hygiene products, blankets, undergarments, and chocolate and assisted in unloading a delivery of supplies brought from the Polish border into the Kyiv regions for redistribution, while speaking with the community of elderly who have taken refuge in the Caritas center. The delegation was pleased to share their meals at Taki Da Restaurant in Kyiv that served kosher and halal meals for the interreligious group.

May 25

The delegation was welcomed on Wednesday morning at the mayoral offices of Mayor Klitschko by Mr. Valentyn Mondryivskyi, chief officer of humanitarian affairs for the Mayor’s office and Rabbi Jonathan Markovitz, chief rabbi of Kyiv. Both thanked the delegation for their presence, shared their recent experiences under Russia’s military invasion, and laid out their current needs from the wider world, and particularly from religious communities. From the mayor’s office, the delegation traveled to the Ukrainian Catholic Church of the Resurrection where they met Fr. Ihor Shaban, chair of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Catholic Commission for Interfaith and Interreligious Relations and Metropolitan Sviatoslav Schevchuk, major archbishop of Kyiv and head of Ukrainian Catholic Church, who described how his local community survived the occupation of Russian troops and how many people came from the surrounding areas to take shelter in their church compound. He also expressed some new difficulties that emerged between some of the Orthodox churches and how now “the very essence of the Christian message is at stake”. Next the delegation traveled to St. Sophia’s Cathedral complex where they led a prayer service in front of St. Sophia’s Cathedral that included prayers and reflections on God’s demand to stop aggression and to seek peace and pursue it. At the conclusion of the prayer service for peace, Ms. Nella Kukovalska, director general of the Cathedral of St. Sofia led a tour of the complex for part of the delegation. Other delegates were guests of Sheikh Akhmed Tamim, Grand Mufti of Ukraine at the mosque of Mercy (al-Rahma) where they joined a wedding reception celebrated by the community, which had been postponed due to the war and the lack of food. Part of the mosque (namely where the holy Quran is usually taught) is now dedicated to host refugees during day and night. In the late afternoon, delegates met at the Central House of Artists to meet with members of DobraDia, founded by Lydiia Shevchenko with a purpose of using arts to build resilience, humanitarian aid, and assistance to school children and elderly. DobraDia is currently working with the UN World Food program to distribute food to 100,000 people each month. A panel of civil society peacebuilders discussed how their work has changed during the war. Dr. Tatyana Bilyk, mediator, trainer and consultant, Head of the Board of ITC Mediation School, co-founder of League of Mediators of Ukraine and Ukrainian Association of Family Mediators that addresses conflict mediation in families and trauma counseling, particularly now with widows. Andre Kamenshikov, director of Global Partnership for Prevention of Armed Conflict–Eastern Europe and a strategist developing effective anti-war messaging for use inside Russia. Bishop Theodosius, Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) from a monastery in the Diocese of Nizhyn (Chernihiv Oblast), also on the panel, described the Christian mission for peace and explained that his local community does “not agree with the policies and actions of Russia.” Ms. Olena Suslova, founder of the Empowering Education peacebuilding program used in 10 countries and president of the Women’s Information Consultative Center. At dinner the delegation was joined by Rabbi Moshe Reuven Azman, Chief Rabbi of Ukraine, and Rabbi Markovitz and his wife Mrs. Inna Markovitz who now runs Care For Kiev (, a humanitarian aid foundation.

Europe, a Patient Association:
Mateusz Piotrowski, President of EaP
Dorota Bentke, Administrative Manager of EaP
Aleksander Temkin, Vice-President of EaP
Rose Marie Berger, Sojourners
Eli McCarthy, Georgetown University

Members of the delegation:

Rt. Rev. Dr. Jo Bailey Wells, Anglican bishop of Dorking, U.K., representative of the Church of England and supported by the Archbishop of Canterbury

Imam Yahya Pallavicini, president of COREIS (Islamic Religious Community-Italy) and coordinator of EULEMA, the European Muslim Leaders’ Majlis

Sr. Sheila Kinsey, FCJM, Executive Co-Secretary of the Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Commission of the Union of Superior Generals (male religious congregations) and of the International Union of Superior Generals (female religious congregations), Catholic Church, Rome

Lord Maurice Glasman, Labour peer (UK) and director of the Common Good Foundation

Rev. Dr. Mae Elise Cannon, Executive Director of Churches for Middle East Peace (USA)

Ms. Michele Dunne, OFS, Executive Director of Franciscan Action Network (USA)

Imam Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra, Religions for Peace (UK)

Ms. Rose Marie Berger, senior leader, Sojourners (USA)

Prof. Jose Casanova, senior fellow, Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs,
Georgetown University (USA)

Ms. Sara Prandi, member of Stopthewarnow (Italy)

Ms. Maura Galati, member of Stopthewarnow (Italy)

Prof. Eli S. McCarthy, Georgetown University (USA)

Prof. Barbara Wien, American University (USA)

Mr. Alberto Capannini, member of Comunità Papa Giovanni XXIII – Operazione Colomba (Italy)

Dawid Gospodarek, Journalist at the Catholic Information Agency

Mr. Aleksander Temkin, cofounder of Europe, a Patient Association (POL)

Dr. Mateusz Piotrowski, President of Europe, a Patient Association (POL)