Source: Elijah Interfaith
Pilgrimage of Solidarity
The Elijah Board of World Religious Leaders, in partnership with the Peace Department, led a delegation of leaders of the world’s major faiths to visit Ukraine. The visit, held on April 12th, was to Chernivtsi (formerly Tschernowitz) in Southern Ukraine, just north of the border with Romania. It was made possible with the support on the ground of the local Jewish-Chabad community that made the nearly impossible happen – holding a major public meeting in war-time Ukraine, overcoming all military and logistical challenges.
Participants included the emeritus Archbishop of Canterbury and other high-level representatives of the Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim, and Christian religions (for full list of participants click here). The goals of the visit were to show solidarity with the Ukrainian people under attack, to offer comfort and support to refugees and to share teachings and messages that could help address the spiritual and psychological challenges faced by refugees and by the Ukrainian people. The process was characterized by a movement from listening (to refugees and their experience) to sharing (teaching and messages, in a nationally televised public event).
Meetings with Refugees
Some members of the delegation visited refugees in Romania, prior to entering Ukraine. The entire delegation met with refugees and other war-impacted populations in Chernivtsi, Ukraine. Read more
One additional “first” characterizes this program. This was also the first time religious leaders delivered teachings, nationwide, as part of a theatrically oriented production. Read more
The carefully crafted messages of participants sought to deliver comfort, solidarity and hope, based on the Glocalities report, described below. The messages of participants in the pilgrimage were accentuated by a poignant letter sent from HH Pope Francis.
In his pointed letter to participants in this pilgrimage of solidarity, which was read from the stage,HH Pope Francis expressed, “I thank you for the initiative of this moment of prayer and fraternity between followers of the different religions, which contributes to strengthening the sense of responsibility of believers before a war that contradicts all those efforts made in past decades to build a world with fewer weapons and greater peace.”
Pope Francis also wrote, “The present moment leaves us deeply troubled, because it is marked by the forces of evil. The suffering inflicted on so many frail and defenseless persons; the many civilians massacred and the innocent victims among the young; the desperate plight of women and children… All this troubles our consciences and obliges us not to keep silent, not to remain indifferent before the violence of Cain and the cry of Abel, but instead to speak out forcefully in order to demand, in the name of God, the end of these abominable actions. The atrocious and grievous events that we have witnessed now for all too many days confirm that “war is a failure of politics and of humanity, a shameful capitulation, a stinging defeat before the forces of evil” (Fratelli Tutti, 261).
Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams said, “If there is any comfort to be had, it is that we all here know what freedom and humanity might look like; and we feel the bitterness of knowing that those who abuse the freedom and humanity of others are in fact destroying their own humanity and wounding the image of God in themselves as well as in their victims.”
Archbishop Williams further stated, “The oppressor, the aggressor, destroys others – but in doing so destroys his own integrity and faith and future. Our fellowship here today may not change the circumstances of this dreadful conflict, or touch the hearts of the aggressors, but we can still speak of the human dignity we share and commit ourselves to the long struggle to see that this human dignity is affirmed and defended throughout our world.”
Said Grand Mufti Mustafa Ceric (Muslim, Bosnia), Emeritus Grand Mufti of Bosnia, and present Head of the World Bosniak Congress: “Here we are to show the world that we all take different paths in life, but no matter where we go, we take a little of each other everywhere… Here we are to take some of your pain, your grief and suffering with us because there is a sacredness in your tears.”
Said Maureen Goodman, United Nations Representative for Brahma Kumaris, “In our quiet moments, even in these times of conflict, let us go inside and know our true inner strength, and connect with God, the one to whom we all belong, the unlimited source of love, and draw the power of God's love into our hearts. This gives us the courage and strength to care and comfort, to conquer hearts and minds and so to relieve all from suffering.”
The event had an international flavor not only by virtue of its participants, but also through the distant participation of religious communities and their choirs. Read more
The event was held on the 120th birthday of the late Grand Rabbi of Chabad-Lubavitch, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, whose message of caring and giving was featured in a video presentation, and whose call for the prevention of bloodshed, especially on a national scale, were emphasized by Rabbi Glizenshtain, the local Chabad rabbi.
Said Rabbi Alon Goshen-Gottstein – "In some ways, this is the best event I have had the privilege of producing over the past 25 years. It was powerful in terms of context, messages, participants, and production. Above all, it was a moment where interfaith solidarity touches deeply the common heart of humanity. The video record of the event is a tribute to interfaith at its best."
Media Coverage The historic event was covered by the global media, reaching tens of millions of people through networks including BBC Global (radio, TV and web) and a national Ukrainian station, which aired the event nationwide. It was also covered extensively by the print media, including by the Washington Post, Reuters, Voice of America, and newspapers across Europe, North America, Africa and Asia.
Conceptualizing the Event In planning the event, Elijah leaders and participants in the pilgrimage sought to offer spiritual support and messages of hope to participants, beyond the condemnation of the Russian invasion and aggression that were sounded, both during the event and prior to it. Underlying the choice of messages of the event was a Glocalities report, in which nearly 25,000 people were interviewed across the EU, Russia and Ukraine on their values in 2020. The report, published in early April, shows time and again that in all three spaces, people’s highest aspirational values were identical. Read more