LANCASTER, Pa. — Arguments over Ukrainian sovereignty have been ongoing for decades.
“The Russian government has seen the Ukraine as its little brother,” said Stefanie Kasparek, professor of government at F&M College.
The Ukrainian government, as an independent country under international law, disagrees.
The most recent skirmish with Russia happened in 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea, a largely Russian-speaking area of Ukraine, in a move denounced by a UN General Assembly resolution.
Pro- and anti-Russian sentiment amid the annexation caused a years-long civil war.
Through the conflict and years of war, many Ukrainians turned to prayer.
“It was the faith of the people that actually kind of got them through every time,” said Auxiliary Bishop Andriy Rabiy of the Ukrainian Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia, who is also pastor at Saint Michael the Archangel Church in Jenkintown, Montgomery County.
The current conflict is again drawing the faith community together.
Pope Francis of the Roman Catholic Church led an international day of prayer for peace in Ukraine on Wednesday, asking people of all religions to join in.
“I think it was an awesome gesture on the part of the Holy Father to raise awareness,” said Rabiy.
Here in Pennsylvania, Ukrainian Catholic churches are holding special services to pray for an end to conflict.
Faith leaders said caring for people’s spiritual and emotional health is just as important as dealing with the political realities in Ukraine.
“It sits so close to people’s hearts,” Rabiy said. “We do help parishes that have a lot of family relatives back in Ukraine and you can’t help but notice how worried they are.”
On Wednesday, Pope Francis said he hoped the "supplications that today rise up to heaven touch the minds and hearts of world leaders, so that dialogue may prevail and the common good be placed ahead of partisan interests.”