Dover Vigil brings together religious leaders and locals
Dozens of hands sheltered the small, flickering candle flames from the biting winds on Sunday evening as several dozen people gathered in Dover to pray for the people of Ukraine.
Crowds sat outside the Wesley Church educational center more than two weeks after Russia began its invasion of Ukraine. The vigil, organized by the Central Delaware Interfaith Alliance, brought together leaders and parishioners from various faiths and denominations.
Attendees prepared for the freezing night air by saying prayers and holding candles in the center of the city.
The vigil is the latest show of support from residents of the First State, after weeks of services, protests and rallies. Businesses and churches in Wilmington collected donations to support the people of Ukraine through humanitarian relief.
Russian missile strikes have killed hundreds of civilians and destroyed residential neighborhoods in Ukraine’s biggest cities.
Former parents from Delaware who now live in Ukraine also shared their harrowing stories of fleeing the country as they tried to escape bombs falling near their homes.
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So far, nearly 2.7 million Ukrainians have fled the country, according to the UN refugee agency. Additionally, around 1,300 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed since Russia began its invasion, according to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
For Anthony Falkowski, chaplain at Wesley United Methodist Church in Dover, it has been extremely difficult to follow the unfolding of events in Ukraine. Attending the vigil on Sunday was one of the ways he thought he could help, although he wishes he could do more.
“It breaks my heart,” he said. “It’s like seeing my own children and my own grandchildren.”
Still, he stressed the importance of people showing up at events like the vigil.
“A gathering like this is much bigger than it looks,” he said. “There is nothing too small that can be done as far as I am concerned.”
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Speakers at the vigil praised the show of unity between different faiths in the community to come together and support Ukraine. A few candles went out as various religious leaders from the community came up the steps to speak to the crowd.
Arqum Rashid, imam of the Islamic Society of Central Delaware, described the vigil as a way to show a strong and united stand against war and aggression.
“It shows a position beyond a particular group in a particular religion,” he said. “It shows solidarity on both fronts, from a humanitarian point of view and also from the point of view of combined religious ideologies.”
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Rashid stressed the importance of showing solidarity and support to each other, regardless of shared religions.
Similarly, Anne Strickert, pastor of St. Andrews Lutheran Church in Dover, described the event as a way to pray and support not only the people of Ukraine, but also those in surrounding areas who are hosting refugees.
“A lot of people here are acutely aware of what it means to send people to war,” Strickert said of the community’s proximity to Dover Air Force Base. “And while we ourselves may not have had to deal with this on our shores, many of our sons and daughters have.”
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For Strickert and many others, the vigil is just the beginning and they will be looking for other ways to support the country and its people. After the recitation of the last prayer, a moment of silence was observed, with only the sound of flickering candles heard.
Contact José Ignacio Castañeda Perez at [email protected]