Three young people from Ukraine have helped spread more cheer at Durham Cathedral by turning on the Christmas tree lights. Larysa, Milana and Danna were joined by fellow Ukrainians and their host families during the service to illuminate the 26 foot Norwegian Spruce.
Each year, Durham Cathedral invites special members of the community to light the tree and the tradition continued this year, with Ukrainian guests invited to the service, enabling communities to stand together in solidarity.
The acting dean of Durham, Rev Canon Michael Hampel, who blessed the crib, said:
“Christmas gets us close up and personal to God through the person of Jesus who preached peace to those who were far off and those who were near. At our Lighting of the Tree this year, we brought together Ukrainian guests and local people to sing of the Christmas message of peace and good will and we hope and pray that our solidarity gives strength and brings peace to all who live in fear of the oppressor.”
In the last ten months, the UK has welcomed over 100,000 people fleeing from the Russian invasion to Ukraine, and has triggered the largest war related migration since the 1990s. Alice Ambrose-Thurman, a worshipper and volunteer at the cathedral, who has coordinated the welcoming of Ukrainian families staying in the region, said:
"Jesus himself had to flee his homeland with his family. It has been a privilege to be able to support our new Ukrainian friends in every way we can. We are taught to welcome everyone as Christ himself. I have seen incredible generosity of welcome from the host community, both from those of faith and those without."