Churches Respond to Growing Humanitarian Needs in Ukraine and Bordering Countries

Hosting refugees, providing food, helping in hospitals, and ringing church bells as a warning when shelling starts—these are some of the many ways churches are responding in Ukraine and bordering countries as the war continues.

GENEVE — The Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate reports that it is helping all those in need—the military, hospitals, and refugees all over Ukraine.

The Ukrainian Orthodox Church reports that it is helping all those in need—the military, hospitals, and refugees all over Ukraine.
23-year-old mother Paulina closes her eyes for a moment as she and her children spend time in their new temporary home in Nyíregyháza, Hungary, 9 March 2022. With the recent influx of refugees arriving in Hungary following the Russian invasion of neighbouring Ukraine, the Evangelical Lutheran congregation in Nyíregyháza Kertváros is working hard to accommodate and support people arriving in the city. 23-year-old mother Paulina alongside her husband, a new-born baby and two daughters are staying in a house offered as accommodation for incoming refugees by congregants from Nyíregyháza Kertváros. Being 8-months pregnant when starting the journey from Ukraine to neighboring Hungary, Paulina gave birth to her third child the same day she and her family crossed the border. Having started going into labour while still being on the way, Paulina was rushed from the border crossing to a nearby hospital in Fehérgyarmat in order to give birth. Hospital staff reportedly said it was a miracle the child and mother are both healthy and well. Photo: Albin Hillert/LWF

Monasteries are providing all possible humanitarian aid to refugees, internally displaced persons and all those affected by the war. Refugee reception points have also been organized at churches through joint efforts of the clergy and volunteers. Some provide 24-hour aid, giving out warm clothes, mats, sleeping bags, water and medicines.

Queues and checkpoints at the borders of Ukraine are overflowing with refugees, with 10-kilometer lines formed at some points.

“We are trying to help everyone,” reported one parish in Lviv, as packages of food were taken to a centre for refugees, which was operating at the Arena Lviv stadium. There, churches are working with the Department of Social Protection of the Lviv City Council.

“The clergy and all the employees of our churches are making every effort to help all those who need it,” the Volodymyr-Volyn Diocese of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate reported.

Many retired doctors among parishioners also are pitching in to help.

Ukrainian Orthodox Churches are also providing basements for the possibility of shelter from shelling and bombing, with churches helping to sound the alarm of impending attacks by ringing the church bells.

Fr Mykolay Danylevych, deputy chairman of the Department for External Church Relations of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, has reported that priests are also accompanying many with prayer.

“Priests pray, comfort and reassure people, and provide spiritual and even psychological help,” he said.

Needs are growing

There is an urgent need for humanitarian support in Ukraine and in the countries to which many refugees are fleeing — Poland, Hungary, Moldova, Romania, as well as Belarus and Russia.

ACT Alliance members are responding to these needs for humanitarian support. Churches are organizing fundraising; collecting clothes, food and hygiene items; and organizing accommodation for refugees.

ACT has issued an alert and is supporting national members through its Rapid Response Fund, while an appeal for multi-country support will assist in scaling up the response in Ukraine and neighboring countries.

Catholic Relief Service (CRS) and Caritas partners are providing immediate support to meet ongoing needs as the situation intensifies.

“CRS and partners on the ground are preparing across Ukraine and in bordering countries, ready to provide safe shelter, hot meals, hygiene supplies, transport to safe areas, counseling support and more,” reported CRS.

The Red Cross is providing lifesaving aid to those in need—both in Ukraine and in neighboring areas.

“Many of the people affected were already vulnerable before the conflict and now face an even harsher situation as they are losing their homes and their livelihoods, being forced to seek shelter wherever they can or fleeing their country in search of safety. They urgently need food, water and shelter, but also emergency medical care, protective measures and psychosocial support to avert an even greater humanitarian catastrophe,” said Birgitte Bischoff Ebbesen, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies regional director for Europe.

His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, announced a major fundraising effort that will help those most affected.

Archbishop Elpidophoros also announced the creation of the Ukrainian Relief Effort, which was established in collaboration with International Orthodox Christian Charities. “We join our spirit to the spirit of His All-Holiness and exhort all our Faithful: offer prayers and tangible support for all the Ukrainian People, those of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine and those of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church under the Moscow Patriarchate, those of the Ukrainian Catholic and Jewish communities, and all who find themselves in the dire circumstances of war,” stated Archbishop Elpidophoros.

Hungarian Interchurch Aid set up a 24-hour refugee support point on the Ukrainian side of the border at Beregsurány.

The line of refugees trying to cross into Hungary at this crossing is kilometres long, according to reports.

The support point was set up at Asztély, near the border crossing, in a heated pavilion, which will be supplemented with additional tents and mobile toilets in the coming days.

The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) launched a call for donations to support the churches and people of Ukraine, who are fleeing their homes and seeking shelter, basic necessities such as food and water.

LWF general secretary Rev. Anne Burghardt said this “support is vital for people desperately seeking shelter from the gunfire and bombing. Every donation counts.”

Bishop Christian Alsted, who serves in the United Methodist Central Conference that consists of Nordic, Baltic and Eurasian countries, including Russia and Ukraine, offered a pastoral word on the crisis, and urged prayer as a form of response as well.

“We pray for a change of hearts and minds of leaders, we pray for de-escalation and dialogue instead of violence and war,” stated Bishop Alsted. “I call on all our congregations to intercede for the people of Ukraine, and for the leaders in the world, who have the power to bring an end to war.”

Read more news on Faith Based Organizations, the Refugee Crisis, Ukraine, Russia and Disaster Relief on Missions Box.

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