The Worth community came together in the Abbey Church this morning for a special assembly to mark the anniversary of the start of the war in Ukraine.
Students and staff gathered to pray for the suffering people of Ukraine and to pray for peace. There were readings from two students and, poignantly, a traditional Ukrainian prayer was read in both Ukrainian and English.
Head Master Mr Stuart McPherson spoke to those gathered. He said: “How are we to make any sense of the war in Ukraine, which we gather to remember this morning, and of all those thousands of innocent people who have lost their lives to its barbarism and cruelty?
“And how much harder for those, especially those amongst us this morning, whose lives are caught up in this war, whose families are affected?
“If you are a world leader you have the power to make choices for the good of Ukraine, that can change the direction of the war. You can supply weapons, and restrict trade, and influence votes at the United Nations.
“But we are not world leaders.
“If you join a protest group, you can gather at embassies and other prominent places to declare your message of peace, your condemnation of Russia’s invasion and the death and destruction it has wrought on the people of Ukraine.
“But we are not protesters here this morning.
“What we are is a community of people, joined together, some of us from Ukraine, at the foot of the Cross of Christ, which hangs above us here as a powerful symbol of the God of Peace, the suffering God at whose feet we can lay our confusion, our grief, our anger, our doubt, our questions, our prayer for peace.”
Mr McPherson also spoke about a project called Icons on Ammo Boxes which was started by two Ukrainian Catholic artists, husband and wife Olekesandr Klymenko and Sofia Atlantova.
He explained: “This project represents the transformational power of prayer and art in an extraordinary way, and offers hope that there will be an end to war and that light will, ultimately, overcome darkness, like a candle in a dark room.
“Klymenko and Atlantova’s project involves them collecting discarded ammunition boxes from the battlefields of eastern Ukraine – boxes that once contained bullets, grenades or artillery shells – and paint Icons onto them: beautiful, prayerful images of Christ, Our Lady and various saints – there are dozens of different Icons painted onto these rough-hewn wood panels, almost literally bringing them to life with this ancient form of Christian art with its bright colours and gold leaf. Boxes that stored the instruments of death are re-presented as celebrations of life and faith.
“The art has been displayed around the world since 2014: until last week it was in Oxford; this week it is in New York. As the project has gathered momentum, so it has also become a way of raising money – the icons sell for $2000 each, with all the proceeds going to the Pirogov First Volunteer Mobile Hospital. There, volunteer doctors help the wounded and ill: both the Ukrainian soldiers and civil locals.
“Icons on Ammo Boxes, thus, demonstrates how violence and pain can be transfigured into peace and relief, and contributes to this transfiguration through the work of doctors.
“The project is a reminder that out of the midst of the horror of war, suffering can be redeemed and, in the end, that love will always win. That is our prayer here this morning.”