You are not alone: praying for just peace in Ukraine

16 May 2024

LWF leaders bring message of solidarity from global church to Lutheran congregations in Kyiv and Kharkiv.

Henrik Stubkjær and Anne Burghardt Kyiv

LWF General Secretary Rev. Dr Anne Burghardt greets Karolina Lindholm Billing, the UNHCR representative in Ukraine. Photo: LWF/Anatolyi Nazarenko 

LWF leaders visit Lutheran congregations in Kyiv and Kharkiv, Ukraine 

Millions are praying for you and supporting you in your suffering. Leaders of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) brought this message to the Ukrainian Lutherans in Kyiv and Kharkiv, during a solidarity visit this week.  

On 12 May, the LWF delegation joined a Sunday service with about 100 participants in St. Catherine's Lutheran Church in the city center of Kyiv. LWF General Secretary Rev. Dr Anne Burghardt preached from John 16:5-15, on Christ’s promise to send the Holy Spirit, highlighting the difference between the spirit of Christ and that of a human leader who may be charismatic, yet leads people to embrace dangerous ideologies. “We sense the lack of the presence of the Holy Spirit in communities and institutions where hatred is planted into hearts, where authorities govern through fear, oppression, exclusion and injustice,” she said.

“My heart goes out to you when I think about all the sufferings you have gone through in the past years. So many lives that have been lost, so many plans that have been ruined, so many families whose homes have been destroyed overnight,” she added, assuring the congregation of “the prayers of thousands of your sisters and brothers in the Lutheran communion of churches from around the world who pray daily for the end of the war and for just peace for Ukrainian people.”

Kyiv service

LWF President Bishop Henrik Stubkjær shares Holy Communion with participants at a service in St Catherine's Church. Photo: LWF/C. Kästner 

Messengers of hope 

LWF President, Bishop Henrik Stubkjær, then shared Holy Communion with participants, including members of a delegation accompanying the Danish Minister for Ecclesiastical Affairs, Morten Dahlin.  

“Jesus calls us to work for peace, and to be messengers of hope,” the LWF president said at a reception after the service. “We pray for an end of the aggression and the violence, so you can rebuild, and as LWF, we will stand with you until that time comes.” The LWF delegation then presented Bishop Pavlo Shvarts of the German Evangelical Church of Ukraine (GELCU) with a replica of the Lund cross, which has been shared with many LWF member churches worldwide.  

In Kharkiv, the LWF delegation also visited the congregation of the Holy Ascension, which welcomed them warmly with a choir performance. “You have come during difficult times,” said Bishop Shvarts who is also based in Kharkiv where the GELCU has its head office. “But you show us that people are still caring for us and remembering us”.  

Environment of shelling and threat 

About 40 people were present during the visit to the Kharkiv congregation, ten of them children. As Kharkiv is currently under heavy attack from Russian military forces, they live with daily missile strikes, alarms and destruction. Children learn online, some attend underground schools. “The parents have to raise their children in an environment of shelling and threat,” Bishop Shvarts said.  

The city receives hundreds of displaced people from the frontline every day. As younger men serve in the army and many women and children have left the city, the elderly are sometimes lonely and without help, the bishop said. The church provides support to vulnerable people, in and outside the church.

LWF delegation with the Lutheran congregation in Kharkiv

LWF delegation with the Lutheran congregation in Kharkiv. Photo: LWF/Anatolyi Nazarenko 

Serving others 

“We can support each other and pray together, searching for the hope of Christ with the Lord’s help” the bishop added. “We go on with our lives, serving others.” 

Rev. Dr Ireneusz Lukas, LWF Regional Secretary for Europe, conveyed greetings and solidarity, especially on behalf of the European LWF member churches. “I am deeply moved to be standing in your church today. You have been in my heart for many years,” he said. 

“The European churches in the LWF are praying with you, we stand with you and we support you. You are not alone”, the Regional Secretary added. “May God keep, protect and bless you in all to come”. 

LWF/C. Kästner