Captions, clockwise from top left: Greetings from Rev. Christina Paradela; Irene Newton speaks at the vigil; windy conditions made it challenging to keep candles lit; at the side of First Avenue, peace anthems were sung as traffic passed by the vigil venue./Photos by Joe Barkovich.
By Joe Barkovich, Scribbler-at-large
WELLAND – Ukrainians and their supporters are living through “a very painful time,” says Irene (Irka) Newton, president of Ukrainian Canadian Congress, Niagara branch.
She was in Welland Sunday evening as a guest speaker at Wesley United Church’s outdoor candlelight vigil for Ukraine. The short but moving service began when Wesley’s signature chimes pealed over the neighbourhood shortly after 7 p.m.
Newton said the lives of millions have been an “emotional roller coaster” since the start of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war, February 24.
But countering that, it has been “overwhelming” to see the outpouring of support for the country, she added.
About 60 people attended the vigil in the church parking lot. Some were congregants of the First Avenue church and others were members of the local community.
Newton thanked them for coming out on a cold evening. She cautioned about becoming complacent as days go by and the war goes on because complacency can erode the powerful solidarity that has kept them united thus far. Their active interest and concern should not be allowed to wane because it is so important.
“If Putin wins, he’s a threat to the rest of the world,” Newton said. An unbridled Putin could have designs challenging Canada’s Arctic sovereignty, she warned, worrying that Canada would not be able to defend it.
Niagara Centre MP Vance Badawey (Liberal) said Ukraine was attacked by Putin, “a very, very evil individual.”
He said the Russian president is bent on destroying democratic-style governments.
“When we look at history, history will not be kind to Mr. Putin. He will go down in history as an evil individual.”
“We’re all in this together, it’s not just one country,” Badawey added.
After minister Christina Paradela read a prayer, she asked participants to walk to the street where they would be better seen by traffic.
There they sang peace anthems like We Shall Overcome and Let There Be Peace on Earth. Several drivers showed solidarity with the group, honking horns as they passed by.
One was heard to shout out, ‘Slava Ukraini’, which means ‘glory to Ukraine’.
The vigil prayer as read by Rev. Christina Paradela:
O God, we pray.
God of ploughshares, pruning hooks, and peace-making,
translate such old archaic words into hope today in Ukraine
that your promise to shatter bows and arrows, spears and shields be manifest.
We pray for the people of Ukraine, that they be spared trauma, violence and death.
We pray for Ukrainian soldiers doing what they can to hold off Russian advances.
We pray that peace may come and we may silence the air-raid sirens in Kyiv, which will then indicate an end to the horrific missile strikes and other violent attacks.
We pray for those who flee; help them to know that you are with them, remembering in particular the orphaned children who have no understanding of the root of this violence.
We pray for those who are taking shelter in various targeted cities near Russian borders.
We pray for Ukrainian troops and allies already exhausted from their long watching.
We pray your wisdom continues to inform NATO in their decisions, knowing that they are being constantly threatened and baited. We pray fervently that you guide the global democratic leaders, that they hold strong to their unity and stand on the values of diplomacy rather than violence and hold strong the diplomatic boundaries set for the purpose of weakening Russia rather than escalating further violence
We pray the Russian people rise up and say, “No!” to violence, aggression and war.
We pray for Germany and Poland, Romania and Slovakia as they open borders to fleeing refugees; and we pray that Canada’s doors will be open sufficiently wide to offer safety and sanctuary.
God, we have studied war for so long, let it be no more, no more.
Teach us a new peacemaking,
teach us ways to ensure that home is always home;
removing the need to take sanctuary elsewhere.
Strengthen them to do all that they can to protect innocent human life.
O God, may you hold gently in your heart the many who have lost their lives; bless those who love them and who grieve their loss.
We pray in the name of your all the world’s many faiths, all of which call us into peace.
We pray for safety.
We pray for retreat.
We pray for peace.
God, in your mercy, hear our prayers.
(Adapted from a prayer composed by Rev. Maren C. Tirabassi.)