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Prayers for peace in Ukraine

A group of people holding candles while sitting in the pews of a church.
Mike Desmond
A variety of religions prayed for peace in Ukraine Sunday at Williamsville's North Presbyterian Church.

A variety of religious traditions assembled Sunday evening to pray for one thing: peace in Ukraine.

The meeting at North Presbyterian Church was assembled by the Williamsville Interfaith Clergy Association and was led by two Ukrainian clerics, one Catholic and one Orthodox. Joining them were Presbyterians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Baha'i, Sikh and Unitarian Universalists.

A cleric in white robes and a red sash.
Mike Desmond

North Presbyterian Pastor Bill Hennessy said the array of clergy was deliberate.

"What we have tonight is a lot of different traditions represented. Our organization is the Williamsville Interfaith Clergy Association. In Williamsville, of course, we have a lot of different religious groups and tonight we're trying to have as many of them represented as we can," Hennessy said.

The meeting assembled hours after Russian missiles by the dozen hammered a military base in Western Ukraine, which until then had been fairly quiet. It was the original home of Fr. Mykola Drofych of St. John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Church in Kenmore.

"So many flee for different reasons. So many flee for political persecution and, also, they basically are less able in economic ways. So that's why you can find so many Ukrainians all over the world," Drofych said.

A cleric in a yellow turban and navy suit.
Mike Desmond

Drofych said there are organized efforts locally preparing to house Ukrainian refugees, as the community has done so many times before.

Congregation Shir Shalom Rabbi Alex-Lazarus Klein said Ukraine is also important to his family and to that nation's Jewish community.

"We have a very long history in that whole region. Most of my family and my wife's family is from Ukraine. My wife spent Ukraine right after college to support the Jewish community. It's actually quite a large Jewish community, with tens of thousands of individuals now. But it really hits home, because all the Holocaust survivors, many of them are from that region," Klein said.

Not only were there many different religions and traditions present, there were also the many different languages of those religions and some songs in various languages.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.