Hundreds of Saulites showed their support for the people of Ukraine during an interfaith walk for peace.
About 500 people arrived at St. Luke’s Cathedral for prayers before moving to St. Andrew’s United Church, Zion Lutheran Church, the Sault Ste. Marie Mosque, with a final stop at Precious Blood Catholic Cathedral.
The two-hour walk was organized by Archbishop Anne Germond in partnership with other faith leaders in the community.
“There was a real joyful feel that we were out and about and doing something together after having been separated throughout the pandemic. I am very pleased at how it turned out,” said Germond at the conclusion of the event. “People feel so helpless and this gave them the sense they were making a contribution in whatever way they could as an individual.”
The event began with a smudge ceremony and land acknowledgement by Mitch Case, Region 4 Regional Councillor of the Metis Nation of Ontario.
Sault MPP Ross Romano made a statement prior to the event, as well as Ward 3 councillor Donna Hilsinger on behalf of the city in the mayor’s absence.
In his remarks immediately prior to the walk, father Michael Hayes said the phones at St. Mary’s Catholic Church have been ringing non stop.
“Over the past few weeks, the outreach, the support, the words of concern have really been astonishing.,” said Hayes.
Saultites have been offering support in a number of ways, said Hayes, including contributing toward humanitarian efforts and disaster relief, as well as addressing an interest in helping to house refugees that may eventually come to the Sault from Ukraine.
The hundreds who turned out for Sunday’s walk is just the most recent way the community has shown its support for the people of Ukraine.
“I didn’t really know what to expect,” said Hayes. “The turnout is very large and very encouraging. It’s very nice to see.”
“It’s a very wonderful gesture of solidarity and support, that’s for sure,” he added.
At the Zion Lutheran Church stop, pastor Brad Mittleholtz said he is offering prayers for the people of Ukraine, but also for the people of neighbouring nations who are afraid war will come knocking in countries like Finland, Lithuania Estonia and Latvia.
“I know some parishioners who lived through the last war as children who had to flee and have been worried for generations about Russia coming back,” Mittleholtz told SooToday. “This stirs up those childhood memories of terror.”
At the Sault Ste. Marie Mosque, Imam Saber Alkilani told SooToday it was important to show solidarity with the people of Ukraine.
“Part of our faith as Muslims, we have to support the victims, we have to support the oppressed people, so for that we came here to show our solidarity and give our condolences to the victims in Ukraine,” said Alkilani. “We hope Almighty will bring peace to earth.”
Alex Chornyj attended Sunday’s walk holding a Ukrainian flag and a t-shirt with the words ‘I (heart) Ukraine. His father opened a store called Chornyj’s-Hadke that lived on for 45 years before closing in 2015.
“We had the flag right on our sign and the name of the store was ‘Chornyj’s-Hadke,’ and in Ukrainian that meant ‘thoughts, notions and ideas,’” said Chornyj. “There are a lot of people with thoughts, notions and ideas about how to dispose of a tyrannical leader who is wrecking havoc on one nation.”
He said the images of war in the country his grandparents lived in are absolutely heartbreaking.
“I know my father is probably rolling in his grave seeing the destruction that is being done to a peaceful, loving people,” said Chornyj.
Standing among the crowd, Chornyj said he was uplifted by Sunday’s event.
“It makes you feel proud inside to know this many people feel so willing to come out and spend their time for such a worthy cause, to show their support, their love — not just for Ukraine, but for the entire world — because this easily can go beyond those borders and if it does, we all know where it can lead to,” he said.