Bayonne is praying for Ukraine as the country is battered by a war with Russia. Russian Federation forces invaded the Ukraine on Feb. 24 at the direction of Vladimir Putin, and have besieged Ukrainian cities as the invasion continues.
The city of Bayonne and the Bayonne Interfaith Clergy Association held a candlelight vigil in front of City Hall at 630 Avenue C on March 3 in honor of Ukraine, the Ukrainian people, and the now over one million estimated refugees fleeing the country.
Residents and faith leaders gathered in front of City Hall to lead attendees in prayer, with the Ukrainian Flag raised at the flag pole in the background. Despite the chilly, windy night, a sizable crowd showed up in support of Ukraine.
The ceremony was led by Father John Fencik of St. Mary’s Orthodox Church, the Chairman of the Bayonne Interfaith Clergy Association, who said: “We gather here regardless of your faith, regardless of your belief, we are here to pray for Ukraine.”
Officials offer support for Ukraine
Mayor James Davis spoke at the start of the ceremony, calling for everyone to unite behind Ukraine.
“Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it,” Davis said. “Right now, we cannot, cannot, allow this to happen. We’re starting here in Bayonne… The world needs to get together to stop this… The only way we can do this is if everybody stands together and stands for Ukraine. This is the only it’s going to work.”
Davis also called out Putin for starting the war.
“This is all about one man’s vision,” Davis said. “We lived through history once before. We cannot allow this to happen. No matter who you are, where you are, where you live, we all need to stand together and stand up in front of one bully and let him know we’re not going to allow this to happen.”
To Ukraine, Davis said: “We are here to tell you we will stand right by your side. Anything you need, we will be there for you.”
Members of the Bayonne City Council, including City Council President Sharon Ashe-Nadrowski, First Ward City Councilman Neil Carroll, and Third Ward City Councilman Gary La Pelusa, as well as state Assemblyman William Sampson among other officials were in attendance.
After the vigil, Ashe-Nadrowski said: “The blatant attack on the innocent people, families and children just shows Putin’s disregard for sovereignty of Ukraine. It is important that we as a community of many ethnicities and religions stand by our Ukrainian brothers and sisters and help in any way that we can. When one of us hurt we all hurt.”
Prayers for the people suffering
Pastor Vasyl Putera of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Ukrainian Catholic Church at East 25th Street in Bayonne led a prayer.
“Look down with mercy and compassion on your house servants,” said Putera. “Help us, oh God, our savior, and deliver the land of Ukraine.”
Sister Lecia Nichols of Wallace Temple AME Zion Church spoke next, quoting from the Bible and echoing calls for peace.
“We pray for the people of Ukraine and the people of Russia for their countries and their leaders,” Nichols said. “We stand in a space where pain is deeply etched in the souls of innocent people, and the lives of millions of Ukrainians have been delayed, disrupted, and destroyed. Our presence here speaks to our unity. We must stand together and stand up for one another and recognize the fear, hurt, and outrage rightly provoked by the senseless violence.”
Other Bayonne Interfaith Clergy Association members also offered prayers on behalf of their respective congregations. Pastor Austin Newberry of Grace Lutheran Church said: “We pray for Ukraine, for all of humanity distorted by war, for all the lives lost, homes seized, and peace broken. May the spirit of comfort and compassion envelop all who dwell in fear. May the spirit of wisdom and humanity enliven our global leaders. May we affirm the dignity and rights of all. May we seek peace.”
Brother Alberto Velasco of the Church of Jesus Christ and the Latter Day Saints offered a passage from scripture, and then a prayer for peace: “We call upon the Lord whose strength is mighty and whose powers are infinite to bring an end to the confilct that will result in a better life for all concerned.”
Deacon Michael Missagia from St. Vincent de Paul Parish read the same passage, also offering prayers for Ukraine, stating: “Heavenly Father, we pary for the people of Ukraine. Please remind us that evil is overcome by good.”
The clergy led the crowd in singing “Let There Be Peace on Earth.” After that, the Ukrainian National Anthem was sang before the vigil concluded.
Bayonne collecting donations
“The people of Ukraine are fighting to preserve their democracy, freedom, and independence,” Davis said. “They need our help desperately.”
According to Davis, the people of Ukraine are in desperate need of supplies as many have been displaced by the war.
“More than a million Ukrainians have fled from their homes,” Davis said. “They are living in bomb shelters, subways, and refugee camps. They need support from the outside world. We can help send Ukrainians the things they need to get by from day to day. I am sure that the people of Bayonne will respond to this urgent humanitarian cause.”
The city will be collecting donations of basic items such as clothing, baby clothes, pampers, and other diaper products, sleeping, and personal hygiene products. The donations can be dropped off at a trailer in front of City Hall from Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
“I want to thank all the people of Bayonne in advance for your generosity towards the people of Ukraine,” Davis said. “We have a responsibility to help in this time of great human need and I am confident the people of Bayonne will come through for Ukraine at this crucial hour.”
For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.