(RNS) — More than a dozen faith leaders offered prayers for a peaceful resolution to the escalating conflict between Russia and Ukraine during an online vigil Wednesday (Feb. 23) hosted by the Episcopal Church and the Friends Committee on National Legislation.
“There are people and children of God whose lives and freedom are threatened and so we pray,” said Bishop Michael Curry, head of the Episcopal Church.
The vigil came not long after Russian President Vladimir Putin declared the independence of two Ukrainian regions bordering Russia and delivered a speech arguing Ukraine is part of Russia’s “own history, culture and spiritual space.” Russian troops have been massing around Ukraine.
U.S. President Joe Biden characterized Russia’s actions as “the beginning of a Russian invasion of Ukraine,” announcing plans for sanctions against Russia and more U.S. troops in the region.
Still, faith leaders at Wednesday’s vigil said members of their traditions dream of and work for a world without war — and part of that work is prayer.
“We’re here with a commitment and a persistence that peace is still possible. We can pull the world back from this brink yet,” said Bridget Moix, general secretary of the Friends Committee on National Legislation.
“We urge all those involved in this conflict to do everything they can to immediately end the hostilities, return to the negotiating table, protect all human life. We know that another way is possible.”
Wednesday’s vigil included prayers by leaders from a number of religious traditions. Among them were Bishop Elizabeth Eaton, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism; and Mohamed Elsanousi, executive director of Religious and Traditional Peacemakers.
They offered prayers for presidents Biden, Putin and Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine. The faith leaders lamented the world’s worship of power and acknowledged that the poor and marginalized are the ones who would be most impacted by continuing conflict.
“The drums of war are beating louder with each passing moment,” said Tarunjit Singh Butalia of Religions for Peace USA. “We must stand up as people of faith and people of peace to speak truth to power.”