Religious Sisters: Builders of Peace
Religious Sisters: Builders of Peace
On February 24 we recall the outbreak of the war in Ukraine. UISG has been supporting congregations of sisters who are welcoming the refugees and migrants in Ukraine and the surrounding countries.
The conflict in Ukraine has overshadowed many events this year with its burden of sorrow and pain. Ukraine is not the only country scarred by the horror of war. In the same period we have seen the conflicts in the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan, the countries recently visited by Pope Francis. These inflicted terrible sufferings on local communities and still rage, shattering the lives and the hopes of millions of innocent people. In addition, many conflicts, which do not cross international borders, have continued exacting a painful toll while going unnoticed or, sometimes, almost forgotten.
At this time, which marks one year of war in Ukraine and reminds us of conflicts in other parts of the world which are wounding people we asked Religious Sisters to shed a light of hope, sharing with us how they are able to hold fast and create a space for the wounded, the vulnerable, a space for peace in a world full of conflicts. How do they feel called to be ‘peace builders’, creating the possibility of dialogue with those names as “the enemy.”
"To be a peace builder means to be able to enable others to create relations based on friendship and respect"
The contributions of Religious Sisters to peace building are numerous, but what becomes very clear from their personal testimonies is their fundamental belief in the value and dignity of every single human soul.
The Felician Sisters in North America welcomed a family of four from Ukraine, offering hospitality to support the program initiative by United States’ Department of Homeland Security, called United for Ukraine. In their words, “welcoming our new neighbors has been a collaborative process with many people, including Felician sisters in community and the school staff, teachers, board members, and families of the schoolchildren on campus” becoming involved. A whole community in Connecticut, USA, seems to have been transformed by the simple presence of a family of refugees coming from the other end of the world. They conclude, “Witnessing the impact of war on this one family has propelled us to take any action we can to work for peace in our world.”
Sr Urszula Głowacka rscj, runs the Open Heart Foundation (Fundacja Otwarte Serce), which she founded fifteen years ago near Warsaw, in Poland. In the last year the Foundation began providing services for refugees, starting from collecting and distributing necessity items to those in need, thanks to the voluntary effort of the Foundation members and supporters. “The Foundation organizes workshops for children, young people and adults” explains Sr. Głowacka, “We established therapeutic groups for young people from Ukraine, language classes, psychological support, and job search support for adults. […] Education aims to provide people with instruments of peace building by teaching non-violent conflict resolution skills. To be a peace builder” she adds, “means to be able to enable others to create relations based on friendship, respect, understanding of each other’s cultures and on sharing the same enthusiasm for life.”
Other Religious Sisters have been serving their communities in the conflict areas. Sr. Villana Kramartchouk CJ, works in Kyiv at a recently opened kindergarten for 11 small children by Caritas-Spes International. Her experience taught her that “In the war there is confusion, fear, disappointment, pain, abandonment. Each of us feels it intensely in our hearts.” For Sr. Villana “ to be a peacemaker means patiently trying to spread peace in my surroundings every day with small gestures, a kind word, openness and a sensitive attitude towards others, and to bring and witnessing Christian values by my life.”
An other important part of Sisters’ contribution to peace is underlined by Sr. Myroslava Teodozija Mostepaniuk, Sister of the Order of Saint Basil the Great, who has been working in Croatia for fifteen years. Since the beginning of the conflict in Ukraine, she started translating information daily and sending reports to Croatian and English-speaking Catholic media. For her “true peace is impossible without truth.” At the same time, she volunteers at the local Red Cross, accompanies refugees to hospitals and social services, teaching Croatian to Ukrainian children. Her effort is to keep alive the flame that connects us all as children of God. “The war is terrible and inhuman. By sharing our pain and simple gestures of being-together we still can keep on being human.”
At this time may we pray even more intensely for peace in our troubled world; may we remember the dignity of each person; may we work to heal wounds and build bridges of reconciliation; may we pray to rid ourselves of our own blindness and prejudice; may we collaborate together so that all may live peacefully and flourish together as sisters and brothers, members of the one human family.
UISG Communication Office
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