For Putin’s conversion, to be able to see our friends again soon, for a good day, for an end to war, we pray.
For over a month, every night since the war began in Ukraine, members of Faith and Light and L’Arche-Kovcheh Ukraine have hosted a “Prayer For Peace and an End to War” Zoom service that L’Arche communities all over the world have been invited to.
I tuned in to some of these prayer services from Chicago at noon central time — a midday remembering and pause. In song, silence, presence, tears, laughter and noise, in all of our different languages and ways of expression, we prayed for peace.
L’Arche is a federation of communities around the world where people with and without disabilities live and work together. Core members are those in the community with disabilities. During these Zoom prayers, core members with disabilities were invited to share about their days and how they were doing at the end. Answers ranged from “I had an okay day, did some crafts today” to “I really miss my friends” and “the sirens went off this morning and that was scary but I’m better now.” At times some of them were totally in the dark, the lights in their homes turned off so that they weren’t visible during air raids.
L’Arche Poland is receiving refugees from Ukraine, and they joined in these Zoom prayers. One Ukrainian family joined from Poland, saying they miss their home and want war to end. Yet even in that heaviness, along with others at the Zoom meeting, they smiled and laughed and sang and made hand motions to simple prayers. A Lithuanian priest gave us a goodnight blessing.
We lit candles. Most of the service was spoken in Ukrainian, but some of the songs and prayers featured English translations to follow. The prayers were simple and repetitive, which was comforting and meaningful. Many were sung in an Eastern Orthodox style in minor key, including the Jesus Prayer, which was sung 33 times in Ukrainian. “Isuse, Isuse, sine Božiji, pomiluje, pomiluje nas.” Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us.
We sang Taize chants led by different people, including a core member in Moscow. “Lord Jesus Christ, your light shines within us. Let not my doubts nor my darkness speak to me.” We prayed the Psalms together, their longing and sadness and rejoicing coming alive and relevant in new ways.
We shared our prayer intentions. These included: For the repentance of all those who supply armor and help the war to go on. For those who wish us harm. We pray to you, Lord.
For all the people in power who make decisions, and who determine the course of the war, especially Putin’s conversion. We pray to you, Lord.
For an end of the war and love of the enemy. We pray to you, Lord.
Recently Stephen Posner, the leader of L’Arche International, wrote, “We know from decades of experience that people living with disabilities often suffer more in disasters like the war in Ukraine and are often forgotten by efforts to help.”
I share life at L’Arche Chicago, where we share the privilege of not having to experience war firsthand. But ableism shows up in how those with disabilities are often forgotten or left behind in our efforts to ‘progress.’ L’Arche, and sharing life with those with intellectual disabilities, reminds us there is a different way to live — a way that is not competitive or focused on power and capitalistic progress.
In making those with intellectual disabilities central to our lives and decisions we, little by little, create a world of peace. In my work as a direct support person for adults with disabilities, I often step back and listen, encourage and make myself present to the needs, goals, hopes and dreams of those with intellectual disabilities. This sometimes includes noticing needs unmet and unspoken, which can only be learned in relationship, with time. With patience, in relationship, I realize that I too want to belong and share my needs.
Whether via Zoom or physically crossing borders, we create safe spaces of solidarity and community for each other in L’Arche. We create a gentle space to say “you belong, your voice matters, we hear your pain and anxiety and we trust that God hears you too. It feels like we can’t do a lot in the face of war, but for now we can pray and sing together.”
L’Arche has been, and continues to be, a sign of peace. Through communities in San Diego and Chicago, I have been transformed by the way sharing life with those with disabilities enriches my being; teaches me to slow down, pay attention and reject narratives of ‘success,’ competition and possessiveness.
L’Arche flips all of that on its head — for to be human in L’Arche doesn’t mean to be successful or powerful. In relationship with core members, I am constantly reminded that “to become human,” as disability philosopher and theologian Sharon Betcher says, “it is not necessary to become whole, but to attend to the call of the other, and thus to become just, to practice love, pardon, tenderness, mercy, welcome, respect, compassion, solidarity and communion.”
These prayers for peace have reminded me that nonviolent resistance to war and empire includes practices of authentic joy-making and finding reasons to laugh and stay alive for one another, not giving in to the despair of senseless death and destruction.
One of the many songs we sang during these Zoom prayers included rainbow-shaped hand motions of a rising sun, and then hands like pillows going to sleep: “Коли новий день встає І як сонце спати йде, прославляємо Тебе, Наш Господи!” When the new day rises, and as the sun goes down to sleep, we glorify You, Our Lord!
The final prayer for peace service took place on April 7. We wore yellow and blue, lit our candles and showed up with bright sunflower Zoom backgrounds.
I am so grateful for Faith and Light and L’Arche Ukraine for hosting these prayers that grounded weary and broken hearts. May we remember those with disabilities in times of war. May we choose to believe in peace — authentic, difficult peace — through acts of nonviolent resistance. May we stay for each other: stay to sing our pain, see the new day rise and glorify the God of life, even in the dark.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Cassidy Klein is an essayist, journalist and creative writer based in Chicago, Illinois. She grew up in Denver, Colorado, and attended Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego, California, to study journalism and philosophy. After college Cassidy moved to Washington, D.C. for a fellowship with Sojourners Magazine, where she worked as an editorial assistant. Now in Chicago, she lives at The Fireplace, a community of artists, activists and Catholic sisters. She is a freelance writer, editor and assistant with adults with intellectual disabilities at L’Arche Chicago. Find more of her work at cassidyrklein.weebly.com.