By Braedan Shea
From 6:00 to 6:15 p.m., the sun began to set over Springfield College, bringing along with it the darkness of night. Still, members of the campus community could be seen thanks to the dancing flames of candle light.
Springfield College Administration invited the community to a vigil at the campus Peace Pole, located just to the left of the Harold C. Smith Learning Commons, with the focus being on the current crisis in Ukraine.
“I think it is hard to be a person in the world, a global citizen, whether or not you have a specific connection to Ukraine or Russia,” Springfield College Director of Spiritual Life David McMahon said. “But when you are seeing folks being forced out of their homes and the violence that is happening in the cities, and also what you are seeing with the incredible spirit being shown, of solidarity and defiance and citizens standing up for liberty I think it is really important to honor both aspects of that. We also must acknowledge the very important hope that is taking place.”
As people arrived and circled around the Peace Pole, each was given a candle to hold which they then lit and spread the light to their neighbor. By the time it came all the way back around the circle, McMahon opened up with a prayer for the people of Ukraine.
Dr. Calvin Hill followed, giving a prayer in which he focused upon how this is not just an issue for Ukrainians, but rather it is something that impacts all of us. He mentioned that this “needless war” has not only brought pain and suffering, but has had local effects. Gas prices have soared in the past week, most of which can be attributed to this war.
As the prayers were being wrapped up, everyone involved in the vigil was asked to say just one word that they would like for this war. Many alluded to ideas such as hope, safety, justice and love, among others. Once everyone had gone, those who wanted to were invited to move indoors for a period of reflection in the Harold C. Smith Presentation Room in the Stitzer Welcome Center.
During this period, a few spoke about what they wanted to see, but also some personal connections to Ukraine. There was a consensus feeling of despair for the country of Ukraine.
“There is a sense of sadness,” said Hill. “Especially when you are a Diversity of Equity and Inclusion officer that focuses on social justice, my heart goes out to those that are suffering. Anytime that you have people that are suffering, it impacts the lives of all of us as human beings. While I am trying to not think about the political aspects of this war, my thought process goes to the suffering of those women, those children, the refugee status that is being created, as well as those individuals that can’t flee.”
“The images have been particularly heartbreaking,” McMahon added. “Not myself, but through my family – I have folks that are from that area, and so there is a personal connection. Also, I have learned from the wonders of social media, all of these people that have connections with Ukraine. Some of them are staying, some of them are fleeing. It may seem so far away, but the personal connections make it feel so close. I am very heartbroken with the images of destruction, but I take some hope in those moments where you see people rallying, and you see the world coming together in support of Ukraine.”
With this sense of despair, there was a major theme of privilege that we have, and that we must use the privilege we have to help who we can. And one of the biggest steps that must be taken is raising awareness, at least according to Hill.
“I think it is important at any time for our students to have raised awareness about the lived experience of others, and it is critical. Even though we had a small turnout, the reality is that a lot of students on campus knew we were here doing this. Even though they may not be here in person, I understand that they are here in spirit.”
Photo Courtesy Springfield College