Latter-day Saint leaders who oversee four countries that are absorbing the bulk of Ukrainian refugees said Thursday that they are providing humanitarian aid and called for a day of fasting and prayer on Sunday.
“Our hearts and prayers go out to those who are suffering and whose lives have been altered,” said the Europe Area Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in a letter issued Thursday night.
The church has provided sleeping bags, cots, tents and other supplies to local governments, the Red Cross and other groups helping Ukrainian refugees who are arriving in bordering countries, according to a separate release issued Thursday night by church headquarters in Salt Lake City. The Europe Area Presidency is identifying needs and addressing them with headquarters support, the release said.
“From the earliest hours, the church began contacting friends and collaborating organizations in the region to assess needs and purchase food and other necessities,” the headquarters release said.
The church’s Europe Area includes four countries that share a border with Ukraine and are receiving Ukrainian refugees — Poland, Slovakia, Romania and Hungary. Those four countries have accepted more than 800,000 refugees, according to the U.N. Refugee Agency, UNHCR.
Russia and Ukraine are part of the church’s Europe East Area.
UNHCR reported Thursday that more than 1 million Ukrainians — 2% of the national population — have fled the fighting that began when Russia forces invaded Ukraine by land, air and sea a week ago.
“We invite all members to participate in an area-wide day of prayer and fasting for peace, on Sunday, 6 March 2022,” members of the Europe Area Presidency wrote to members in the 31 nations in their care.
“We are grateful and stand in awe as we contemplate the generosity of so many of you across the area who have contacted us to offer support,” the Europe Area Presidency said. “All who feel a desire to serve and contribute are invited to coordinate their efforts with their stake presidency or — for multi-stake projects — under the leadership of the area seventy in their jurisdiction.”
Stakes are geographic groupings of between five and 12 congregations. Area seventies are leaders who oversee groups of stakes.
The church’s welfare services department and Latter-day Saint Charities use area and local leaders to identify needs and use church funds to buy humanitarian aid resources locally. They also regularly provide financial resources to larger partners like the Red Cross with established footprints in areas where needs emerge.
The statement from church headquarters said additional aid is being organized.
“Church members around the world have inquired about how to help or contribute. We invite them to do so through the church’s Humanitarian Aid Fund, which will be used to address this and other crises,” the statement said.
Last week, the church’s highest governing body, the First Presidency, issued a statement saying the church’s senior leaders “are heartbroken and deeply concerned by the armed conflict now raging” and that they are praying for peace and pleading with world leaders to seek a resolution.
The Europe Area Presidency echoed that message in its letter Thursday.
“As followers of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, we long for resolution, comfort, and peace during these times,” it said.