The Russian war in Ukraine is a military conflict with a long train of dead and wounded soldiers on both sides. Accurate numbers and long lists of names will only emerge over the course of weeks and months. It is also a humanitarian crisis of almost unimaginable proportions. Reliable estimates are that approximately 1.5 million Ukrainian civilians have already crossed the western border into neighboring countries like Poland, Moldova, and Romania. Millions more are coming, and tens of millions who remain in Ukraine will be displaced from homes, short on food, and lacking in power, water, sanitation, and access to medical services. Some of them are LDS. There were 11,000 LDS in Ukraine before the war began. Let’s talk about them and all the other refugees.
At the LDS Newsroom: “How the Church is Helping Refugees in Europe.” It’s a short article. Here’s a paragtraph:
Relief supplies — including sleeping bags, cots and tents — are being delivered to local government agencies, the Red Cross and other NGOs who are attending to Ukrainian refugees arriving in bordering countries. Additional aid is being organized. Church members and friends have also been invited to fast and pray for those so deeply impacted. More will be shared about their efforts in the coming days and weeks.
I can vouch for that. I know an LDS couple serving a mission in a neighboring country who just helped collect relief supplies and load them in a van, then drove eight hours to a town near the border to deliver them to a refugee welcome center. I’m sure they will do this several times in coming weeks. I’m sure you’ve seen the clips on CNN of cold and tired Ukrainians, often with children in tow, trudging across a border zone after long days travelling hundreds of miles with little rest and little food or water. There are relief sites set up just across almost every border crossing to provide them with a meal and a place to rest, with cots, blankets, and facilities. That’s where LDS supplies are being directed, it sounds like. Good work, Team LDS. Every little bit helps.
Local units are here in the US are organizing their own initiatives. One of the YSA branches in my stake is running a collection. We kicked in thoughts and prayers plus a hundred bucks, and received a response that our donation funded three blankets and some humanitarian kits. Every little bit helps.
Many of those crossing borders have family or friends somewhere in Europe where they can get a temporary home or perhaps a permanent one. To hear some accounts of LDS refugees, go listen to the Salt Lake Tribune’s Mormon Land podcast, episode 223, “The stories of Latter-day Saints in Ukraine.” I listened to it start to finish last week while cleaning the church on Saturday morning. A few themes that emerge: Emergency preparedness (a much better name and program than “food storage”) isn’t a joke, it can be really handy. All refugees struggle to keep in touch with family as communications become difficult or impossible. Church ties and fellowship transcend national boundaries. The gratitude they all feel for the help they have received from various sources is touching. Every little bit helps.
In that part of the world, these are very tough times. I’m sure some readers have their own contacts and have heard similar accounts. Share what you’ve heard.
Dave thx for writing this important post. Hopefully this will also encourage the Church to do more and for members to contribute moneys.
It’s a good thing that one General Authority gave that one pro-refugee talk a couple of years back. We probably need another one in three weeks.
Josh h, I assume you’re referencing Patrick Kearon’s talk “Refuge From the Storm.” Honestly, it’s one of the best talks ever given from that pulpit and remains a powerful re-read. I love how he connects refugee assistance to James’ definition of “pure religion.” And I love that he gives practical, actionable advice on how to help in literal, immediate ways. And I really, really love this paragraph:
“Being a refugee may be a defining moment in the lives of those who are refugees, but being a refugee does not define them. Like countless thousands before them, this will be a period—we hope a short period—in their lives. Some of them will go on to be Nobel laureates, public servants, physicians, scientists, musicians, artists, religious leaders, and contributors in other fields. Indeed, many of them were these things before they lost everything. This moment does not define them, but our response will help define us.”
Truly mind-blowing and distressing to see nearly 2 million refugees from Ukraine in just two weeks, and to see cities under siege by Russian forces who won’t let cold, starving people escape. Donate time, attention, money, resources to help these poor folks. Thanks Dave B.
I’m sick about what is happening in Ukraine, and it makes me extremely happy to see people helping every way they can. And of course it’s great that the church is donating relief supplies. But I can’t help but note that the supplies the church says it’s giving are in-kind donations, rather than cash. That means that they are still just collecting even more resources from members and then claiming the credit, rather than dipping into the $100 ($124? 140? $200?) billion humanitarian fund that exists for this exact purpose (or so they say). What does it take to break their iron grip on that money?
This private, but LDS group (of Ukrainian mission and Russian-speaking RMs and converts) was one of the first rapid response humanitarian efforts to send supplies back into the country (not just the border). In addition to general humanitarian supplies (like baby formula, diapers, food, etc.), they also provided medical supplies and drones to the Ukrainian army. You can still donate…
@josh h & @Kirkstall
Thank you for the reminder. One notable aspect of this is that Patrick Kearon’s talk “Refuge From the Storm” was delivered at General Conference (Sunday, April 3, 2016). That adds a meaningful weight to it. There was a lot of politically-motivated pushback against refugees at the time.
And this past August, “The update to the General Handbook of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released online Wednesday includes a new section on refugees (38.8.35).
“As part of their responsibility to care for those in need, church members offer their time, talents and friendship to welcome refugees as members of their communities,” the section says.
“It points readers to an official web page, ChurchofJesusChrist.org/refugees and two scriptures. It also links to a revised section titled “Immigration” (38.8.20) that uses the same language to encourage a welcoming attitude toward immigrants.”
Aiding and assisting refugees is official policy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“But I can’t help but note that the supplies the church says it’s giving are in-kind donations, rather than cash. That means that they are still just collecting even more resources from members and then claiming the credit…”
I don’t this this means the church is merely forwarding blankets and so forth donated by members — not at all — I feel rather certain the church is spending real money to donate supplies. I also feel rather certain that it is a substantive amount, not a token amount. I am okay with the church’s decision to prefer donating real supplies rather than cash.
@ji—I hope you’re right, but I don’t know why you would feel “rather certain” about that. There is no evidence of it and plenty of evidence to the contrary. And why wouldn’t they tell us that they’re using the funds the members have generously donated? That would be great news! That’s what that money is for.
Donating real supplies has value, too, of course, so I’m not denigrating that. But as long as many or most members feel the way you do, the church will continue to operate this way.
I think there is evidence. The supplies were ready and in place when they were needed, before Utah wards started collecting blankets. And there still hasn’t been a general solicitation for people to donate supplies to the church for shipment to Europe — and their hasn’t been a solicitation for members to donate cash for Ukraine relief, either.
That, plus I choose to be positive in my outlook towards the church. The church is not calling much attention to itself, but is helping quietly. I am okay with that.
Ok. Let’s be crystal clear. The church newsroom’s press releases over the past month cite over $4 million in donations to various initiatives providing relief to UKR refugees. It is going to kick in a heckuva lot more. Come on Brethren, you are sitting in a $100B nest egg. Look up. It’s raining. Rainy day fund use authorized. I know that the relief efforts (e.g. tents, food, etc.) go to any refugee and are not per diems or per capita investments, but if they were $4 million divided by 11k (number of LDS UKR saints) is $362 per person. That’s not a lot of money for food, travel, medicine, housing for an individual for a month.
In March, it also donated $5 million to the American Red Cross, a long-time church partner. I cringe thinking about that imbalance.
The church’s total contribution to UKR saints is likely more than $4m as many refugee members are in the care of various wards and stakes throughout Europe and have been for the better part of this month. I don’t know how much welfare support is given from various governments to refugees, but the church uses government support first, then supplements. I have no idea how to calculate this.