CFJ hosts interfaith celebration

XU and local community members gather for moment of peace on campus

By Katie Sanchez, Staff Writer

Xavier students, faculty, staff and community members joined together on March 3 in an interfaith prayer service for Ukraine in solidarity against the Russian invasion.

The event was organized by the Office of Student Affairs and the Center for Faith and Justice (CFJ)  in the days following Russian President Vladimir Putin’s declaration of war against Ukraine on Feb. 24, one week before the service.

Attendees gathered in the Peace Garden outside Bellarmine Chapel for a series of prayers and testimonies dedicated to peace and comfort in the midst of suffering. 

Photo courtesy of @xavieruniversity via Instagram
Xavier and local community members gathered on March 3 to participate in an interfaith celebration sponsored by the CFJ.

Sunflowers, the national flower of Ukraine that has come to symbolize peace and solidarity with the nation, were distributed and provided spots of bright color on the brisk, gray day.

“This is a moment to appreciate the God in one another and how we are all part of the solution,” Rabbi Jennifer Lewis, Xavier’s Interfaith Program Director and Jewish chaplain, said. Lewis helped to organize and lead the event, sharing her own emotions and prayers among a diverse group of speakers and attendees.

Students, faculty and staff led the crowd in a variety of prayers from their own traditions, including Judaism, Hinduism, Christianity and Islam. Speakers also shared their own experiences with Ukraine, including the CFJ’s Shannon Hughes, who works with Xavier’s Alternative Breaks program. Hughes recalled trips the program took to an orphanage in Ukraine and how the site has struggled due to ongoing violence and unrest.

A specific emphasis was placed on a plea for safety for the refugees of the crisis, with recognition of people of color in Ukraine who face higher levels of discrimination as they seek shelter and safety.

The service was designed as a space for people to share their worries and hopes in a time of uncertainty. 

“We have our own connection to here and the earth and other people,” Mina Adinehzadeh, a sophomore nursing major who spoke during the event, said. “This whole thing will not only affect them; it will affect us as well, so I think it’s important to recognize people’s feelings and mental health.” 

Many students appreciated the opportunity to discuss political topics and issues of social justice on campus. 

Photo courtesy of @xavieruniversity via Instagram
Prayers in many different faith traditions were offered, and speakers shared their experiences with Ukraine, including CFJ staff.

“It was pretty powerful to see people of all different backgrounds come together over this shared belief,” Jack Fulton, a first-year computer science major who attended the service, said.

Xavier has offered several other opportunities to get involved with the crisis in Ukraine, from educational seminars to providing resources for donations. 

Lewis believes that continued support in times of injustice from Xavier and the wider community is vital. 

“That’s how peace begins – with each of us. We can’t just remain silent when we see this kind of suffering,” she said.