By Laura Blanco
Feb. 24, 2022 marked the beginning of the Russian invasion in Ukraine. An estimated 4.3 million people have fled from Ukraine since Feb. 24, according to United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNCHR).
The Office of the President, Campus Ministry, the Office of International and Multicultural Programs (IMP), and the Barry University Institute for Immigration Studies united in a prayer service on March 21 in solidarity to support those impacted by the war at the Peace Pole.
Prayer by the Peace Pole is customary on campus when there is an event that affects the local community, country, or a geopolitical conflict in the world.
“Part of it is to let those people know that we stand with them, that we care about what’s happening to them, that they’re with us. They’re part of our community,” said University Chaplain Father Cristobal Torres.
Vice President for University Administration Jennifer Boyd-Pugh and Father Cristobal both reflected on how there are many individuals at Barry and in Miami that have had to flee their countries and can sympathize with the Ukrainian people.
“People have had to leave for different reasons, and not because they’re pursuing an American dream, but because they’re facing a crisis situation,” said Father Cristobal.
President Mike Allen called for peace and non-violence during his address.
“When you look at it from a social justice perspective, it’s hard to imagine that this is happening in 2022,” said Boyd-Pugh, referring to one of Barry’s core commitments.
The four core commitments at Barry are knowledge and truth, inclusive community, social justice, and collaborative service, all of which served as cornerstones for this event.
Boyd-Pugh continued to say, “It also speaks to our inclusivity to know that we have Ukrainians on our campus as well as other eastern Europeans all being impacted by this war. It really touches upon our community and how we really unite and come together in times of tragedy.”
Director of Campus Ministry, Karen Stalnaker, felt the gathering was powerful and worked in keeping the tragic events in the public eye.
“It’s still important to us. It might be in the news differently. As our world continues, something else takes the headlines,” she said.
The department of English and foreign languages sponsored an event, Covering the War in Ukraine: A Journalist’s Perspective, with prominent journalist Linda Kinstler on April 12. She described her coverage of the 2014 conflict, and how important it is that the war gets continued coverage.
“We have absolutely no idea, the volume of atrocities that are being committed there, and the risk is that we never will be able to verify it,” said Kinstler. One example of this is the city of Mariupol.
Father Cristobal reflected on the mission Christians have to care for those suffering injustice, poverty, marginalization, and violence based on Matthew 25:31-46 in the New Testament.
“To put it in uniquely Christian language, that person is Christ,” he said.
“He gives this very powerful parable where the King comes and is sort of separating the sheep from the goats,” said Father Cristobal. They are separated by those who have fed, clothed, given drink, and visited the hungry, naked, thirsty, sick, and prisoned people and those who have not.
Both groups then asked when they did or did not provide in these ways for Jesus. Father Cristobal summarized the lessons.
“To whoever you give of the least of my brethren, you give it to Me,” he said. “And whoever you did not do it for the least of my brethren, you did not do it to Me.”
The university continues to comfort those affected by the tragic events.
“Barry is such a close-knit, welcoming, and inclusive environment that being there for each other is critical in moments of need, and this is one of those moments,” BoydPugh said.
If you’re in need of support or prayer, counseling for students, staff, and faculty is available at the Center for Counseling and Psychological Services and Campus Ministry.
Financial Aid, the Center for Academic Success and Advising, and the IMP can be of assistance to eastern European students for funds, advising, and student visas.
If you’d like to donate to on-the-ground efforts in Ukraine, donate to Barry’s partner, Catholic Relief Services at https://support.crs.org/donate/donate-ukraine