Anglican responses to Ukraine emergency one year on
On February 24, 2022, Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine. Since that day, life has been shattered for millions of Ukrainians, who were forced to flee to safety while loved ones stayed to defend their country. The war has now lasted one year, causing huge loss of lives, physical injuries to many thousands, destruction of property, displacement of populations, and disruption of energy and food supply chains all over the world.
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights recorded 18,817 civilian casualties in Ukraine, of which 7,155 had been killed and 11,262 injured, as of 5 February 2023. Numbers of military fatalities remain uncertain, but are considered to be significantly higher than officially reported.
By February 15, 2023, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) had recorded over 8 million Ukrainian refugees spread across Europe with Poland, Germany, Czechia, Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom registering highest numbers as host nations. 4.8 million of these refugees have registered for temporary protection or similar national protection schemes in Europe. UNHCR has also recorded 6.5 million as displaced internally within Ukraine and 2.8 million Ukrainians into Russia.
Significant numbers of people have crossed back into Ukraine after some areas like capital Kyiv were considered safe, although concerns are increasing about intensified attacks with the end of winter. Humanitarian needs remain high with UNHCR estimating that about US$5.6 billion is needed by around 900 partners to help 22 million people in need, including refugees in countries under its Refugee Response Plan providing humanitarian assistance and protection services.
Ukrainian Space, the Day Centre and Educational Facility set up by St Margaret’s Church in Budapest Hungary. Photo credit: Diocese in Europe
Anglican Communion responses to the Ukraine emergency
Churches and agencies across the Anglican Communion have seen an outpouring of prayer for the situation and support for Ukrainians whose lives have been devastated and often uprooted by the conflict. Congregations on the ground across Europe have risen to provide practical and pastoral support to refugees. In Ukraine itself and its neighbouring countries, where the Anglican presence is small, Communion relief agencies have also channelled funds through ecumenical partners working through our sister organisation, the ACT Alliance.
At the start of the conflict, the response focused on immediate welcome, including meeting people at borders or at stations, helping with accommodation, food, and onward travel, working with other agencies. Besides the direct services provided to the Ukrainian refugees by the Anglican and Episcopal congregations and programmes in Europe, Anglican Board of Mission, Anglican Overseas Aid, Episcopal Relief & Development, and the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund also supported the Action by Churches Together (ACT) Alliance appeal to respond to the humanitarian situation both inside Ukraine and in countries hosting the refugees.
The five ACT Alliance members – Ecumenical Association of Churches in Romania, Church World Service, Hungarian Inter-church Aid, Swiss Church Aid, and Lutheran World Federation – have been providing a range of services including protection, water, sanitation and hygiene support, food security and livelihoods, health, shelter and non-food items, logistics, multi-purpose cash assistance, and information. The collective ecumenical humanitarian response is described here in ACT Alliance’s anniversary booklet.
On the ground, congregations of the Church of England Diocese in Europe and the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe have been among the many churches, faith groups and NGOs who have been responding to the humanitarian crisis occasioned by the war.
Together with United Society Partners in Gospel (USPG), the Diocese in Europe launched an emergency appeal to support humanitarian work both in Ukraine and with refugees fleeing into neighbouring countries. The funds raised are being used by partners on the ground to provide food, medicine, shelter and child-care for people internally displaced in Ukraine. They are also offering care at the border and beyond across Europe for refugees fleeing Ukraine.
The Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe has similarly responded through its local church presence across the continent, with support and accompaniment from Episcopal Relief and Development. In each case, the local church builds on its own skills and assets and the opportunities in the local context to bring hope and help to refugees.
Local congregations offer welcome and practical support
Below are some examples of local congregations responding with practical care and pastoral support to the needs of Ukrainian refugees in their midst.
The Church of England Diocese in Europe is supporting the Vallila Help Centre in Helsinki which offers humanitarian aid (such as clothes, food, and hygiene items), emotional and psychological support, as well as information and practical guidance relating to life in Finland. The Centre is operated by the Ukrainian Association in Finland and seeks to provide at least 140 families per week with food support. The centre not only provides shelter and safety but also a sense of community for displaced families. The Diocese’ appeal funds contributed towards the employment of a humanitarian aid coordinator. See more here.
The Vallila Help Centre in Helsinki welcoming and supporting refugees. Photo credit: Diocese in Europe
In Budapest Hungary, St Margaret’s Church, a congregation of the Diocese in Europe, established a day centre and educational facility called Ukrainian Space. Supported largely by St Margaret’s own refugee appeal, it aims to help refugees from Ukraine settle into Budapest life. The space offers parents with children aged 8 to 16 a place to belong, talk, and learn new skills for themselves whilst their children are cared for and offered schooling in an environment amongst fellow Ukrainians. The resources from the joint appeal of Diocese in Europe and USPG also supported provision of English language teaching. The Centre is helping the refugees to recover while also providing skills that will be useful when they return home. One child drew her story in the days before she and her mother fled Ukraine; you can hear their story here.
Emmanuel Church in Geneva, part of the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe, has a long history of responding to disasters and needs of refugees. The church opened its doors to a local community of Ukrainian refugees, offering French language classes together with snacks and cooking facilities through its outreach programme, Refugee Welcome Center. They are also developing a team of counsellors and mentors, to support refugees and asylum-seekers who are facing challenges related to administrative/legal/employment procedures within the local asylum system. The project also aims to recruit volunteers to support these activities and enable other activities and visits. The project is funded by the Convocation Refugee Grant Program, in partnership with Episcopal Relief & Development.
St. Paul’s Within the Walls in Rome, Italy, set up a Help Desk for Ukrainian refugees which ran until late 2022. The goal was to support new arrivals with legal and employment issues and facilitate access to all of the rights and services under the Temporary Protection Directive activated in EU member states in March 2022. This church is where the Joel Nafuma Refugee Center (JNRC) is located, operating every weekday morning. The JNRC is now supporting several Ukrainians through Italian language classes. All of JNRC’s activities serve to empower and support a vulnerable minority transitioning from the harshest situations towards being able to fend for themselves independently, improving the lives of refugees and asylum seekers settling in Rome.
The Church of the Ascension in Munich, Germany, is currently planning a project with support from the Convocation Refugee Grant Program to provide material aid and therapeutic support (in the form of fun outings) to Ukrainian families. The Church of the Ascension has been engaged in a partnership with Johanniter-Unfall-Hilfe e.V. (St. John’s Accident Assistance), which has several houses in close proximity to the church. These houses are currently hosting 63 Ukrainian refugees, primarily women and children. The church is providing material aid in the form of appliances, bedding, furnishings and household goods, as well as portable kitchen facilities, in case the refugees need to move.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian refugees have also come to the United Kingdom and Ireland, welcomed into people’s homes. Local churches have often provided welcome and support to those arriving within their communities. The Church of England has issued parish guidance on how to support Ukrainian refugees. In a foreword to the toolkit, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, Justin Welby and Stephen Cottrell, said that The Church calls on “all people of goodwill to join in prayer for the people of Ukraine and to work practically to support them in their hour of need.“ They continue: “We have been inspired by the warm response from churches and community groups.”
The Episcopal Church of Scotland describes how people have opened their homes and made churches a place of welcome, where refugees can have ‘their own space’ for music, song and dance. Similarly, the Church in Wales and the Church of Ireland have provided prayers and resources and guidance to support local churches in welcoming Ukrainian refugees, while supporting wider fundraising appeals.
Reflections of Ukrainians on year old conflict
“The reflections and gratitude of Ukrainian refugees supported by church communities in Europe reminds us of the great love and compassion our Lord Jesus Christ modelled for us,” comments Nicholas Pande, Anglican Alliance Relief & Resilience Adviser. “Jesus called on us to continue demonstrating this love as we stand in solidarity with these brothers and sisters who have been devastated by war and displaced from their homes for a year now.”
The Church of England Diocese in Europe and USPG have produced a moving video with reflections from church members and refugees.
Eva, a teacher from Ukraine and now hosted at St. Margaret’s Church in Budapest, reflects, “So it has been a year now. The whole feeling (is) that we are not alone in this situation, that we are part of a Christian community that prays for us, together with us. And (they) support us in all different ways, financially and otherwise, as a community, as a praying community. This gives us hope for the future and strength to survive these hard days.”
A displaced father and his son in their reflection said, “The shelling was very disturbing, we were shocked, and we were afraid, of course. But it was crossing the border, and immediately we received such great support that gave us the strength to leave.”
This sense of hope and resilience is shared by many Ukrainians in and out of Ukraine. At Christ Church in Kyiv, Ukraine, Christina Laschenko, the church warden, reflects on the one year of conflict, saying, “Our small Anglican congregation in Kyiv has shrunk to 10 people who attend bi-weekly prayers and services in the premises of Lutheran church in Kyiv. We are staying here in Ukraine, and we are going to pray and give hope to all people around us who require physical and material help, human support, and spiritual encouragement in these dark times. Commemorating one year of full-scale war we are entering the Lent period, a time of trials. But the darkest hour is before the dawn, and we are looking forward for Easter, the time of Resurrection and Triumph of Life.”
The small Anglican congregation in Christ Church Kyiv, which has shrunk to 10 people. They come together bi-weekly prayers and services in the premises of Lutheran church in Kyiv. Photo credit: Diocese in Europe
Prayer for peace and recovery
The Diocese of Europe’s Suffragan Bishop, The Rt Revd Dr David Hamid, has called on Anglicans across Europe and the world, saying, “I encourage Anglicans across our diocese to mark this anniversary with prayer, upholding all those suffering from the ravages of the war and all those working for peace. We remember God’s promise that, despite the destruction of war, that it is God’s will for a new, peaceful, just, and blessed society, which arises from the ruins of violence. As the psalmist says, “He makes wars cease in all the world; he shatters the bow and snaps the spear and burns the chariots in the fire.” (Psalm 46.9-10) And again, “Truth shall spring up from the earth, and righteousness look down from heaven”. (Psalm 85.11).”
Prayers for Ukraine
Please join us in praying for the Ukrainian people and for peace in Ukraine:
God of peace and justice,
we pray for the people of Ukraine today.
We pray for peace and the laying down of weapons.
We pray for all those who fear for tomorrow,
that your Spirit of comfort would draw near to them.
We pray for those with power over war or peace,
for wisdom, discernment and compassion to guide their decisions.
Above all, we pray for all your precious children, at risk and in fear,
that you would hold and protect them.
We pray in the name of Jesus, the Prince of Peace. Amen.
By Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell
Give wisdom to the leaders of the nations,
that they may be a force for good on the earth.
Sustain the anxious and fearful and renew them with courage from on high.
Comfort all worried families whose loved ones are in danger,
surround them with your love and protect them from all harm.
Be with the sick and wounded.
Stand by all prisoners and captives.
Let your mercy be shown to all and your power to heal and save.
In Christ Jesus, your Son, our Lord. Amen
By Revd Tuomas Mäkipää, Chaplain of St Nicholas, Helsinki.