As tensions boil between Russia and Ukraine, interfaith vigil invokes biblical call to beat ‘swords into plowshares’
by Rich Copley | Presbyterian News Service
LEXINGTON, Kentucky — The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) joined an ecumenical and interfaith vigil at noon Eastern Time Wednesday to pray for peace in Ukraine, where Russian aggression is bringing the nations to the brink of war.
“We pray that your wisdom might penetrate human hearts in order that there is a greater value placed upon human life than national pride,” the Rev. Jimmie Hawkins, Associate Director of Advocacy for the Presbyterian Mission Agency’s Compassion, Peace & Justice ministries prayed toward the end of the hour-long vigil.
“We pray that the leaders of both nations might seek diplomacy, rather than war. Words over weapons. Truth over propaganda. For true diplomacy involves compromise and determination to do that which is right and just for all. We pray that political disagreements are not interpreted as intractable intolerance leading to hatred and violence.”
The vigil was hosted by the Episcopal Office of Government Relations and the Friends Committee on National Legislation and included participants such as the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the United Church of Christ, Sojourners as well as Sikh, Islamic, and Jewish leaders.
Leading off the prayers was The Most Rev. Michael Curry, Presiding Bishop and Primate of The Episcopal Church.
“I’m mindful of what St. Paul said in Romans, when he said, ‘The Spirit helps us in our weakness, because we don’t know how to pray as we are,’” Curry said. “And sometimes the Spirit intercedes for us, with sighs too deep for words.
“We pray for peace, but maybe we don’t have the words. We pray for a just peace, but maybe we don’t have the words. We pray that the lives of innocents and the lives of any human child of God will be spared. We pray that our leaders will find a diplomatic way, a nonviolent way of solution. But we don’t know how to pray as we are. So, the Spirit must intercede for us at this time.”
Several speakers invoked the call in Isaiah 2:4 that nations “shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks.”
Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, director of the Religious Action Center and senior vice president of the Union for Reform Judaism, made the chilling point that “outside of the state of Israel, there are more Jews per capita in Ukraine than anywhere else in the world as a percentage of population. And the Jewish community of the Ukraine in large part is the descendant of those who are the victims and survivors of the Holocaust, whose lives and whose deaths are a remembrance of the dangers of war and genocide, and the potential of the inhumanity of warfare and brutality, of bigotry and hatred.”
Pesner then offered the Hashkiveinu prayer, a nighttime prayer for protection.
Dr. Mohamed Elsanousi, executive director of the Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers, offered a prayer from the Islamic faith, saying, “Fill our hearts with mercy and compassion for one another and allow us to coexist peacefully and harmoniously on Earth.” He went on to ask God to prompt political leaders to “prioritize peace over war.”
After being introduced, Hawkins thanked the organizers for “bringing together Jews and Muslims and Presbyterians and Disciples and people of faith, because we truly believe that there’s power in prayer.”
Here is the entire text of Hawkins’ prayer:
Most gracious, loving and just God, our hearts are heavy with concern over the crisis between Russia and the Ukraine.
We pray that the world might be attentive and work diligently to prevent war between two sovereign nations who each have their perspective on their right to exist and what that means. We pray that the rights of one might not be interpreted as a threat to the existence of the other.
May the buildup of military might on the border between the two nations not be a call for an invasion that triggers war and leads to the death of children, teenagers, and adults.
May the words of your prophet Isaiah be realized as never before: “(God) shall judge between the nations and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.” (Isaiah 2:4)
We pray that your wisdom might penetrate human hearts in order that there is a greater value placed upon human life than national pride.
Most just God, you call for acts of justice, not only on the part of your people, but of nations as well.
We pray that the leaders of both nations might seek diplomacy, rather than war. Words over weapons. Truth over propaganda. For true diplomacy involves compromise and determination to do that which is right and just for all. We pray that political disagreements are not interpreted as intractable intolerance leading to hatred and violence.
Bless and be with those who did not sleep well last night, concerned about what the new day might bring. Concern over the wellbeing of their children and elderly parents who won’t be able to get out of danger’s way. Concern for the destruction of everything they know and care about: their way of life, their culture, their independence, their homes, and their faith.
Let people of faith around the world lift their voices to you for peace now and forevermore, in Ukraine and all around the world.
Wherever people are divided by nationality, ethnicity, race, class, or anything that dares to separate us, bring forth your spirit of peace, that we may study war no more.
In your holy and just name, Amen.
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Categories: Advocacy & Social Justice, Peace & Justice
Tags: beating swords into plowshares, compassion peace & justice, Dr. Mohamed Elsanousi, most rev. michael curry, prayer vigil, rabbi jonah dov pesner, Rev. Jimmie Hawkins, Russia, the episcopal church, Ukraine
Ministries: Compassion, Peace and Justice