BRADFORD came together to show support for the Ukrainian people tonight as a large crowd gathered for a peace vigil.

Bradford Cathedral welcomed a full house of visitors who were there to “show solidarity” after Russia’s invasion, with a number of guests taking to the stage to speak on the “horrific” scenes which have been unfolding in the country.

People were also encouraged to donate money, which will be used to support those who are fleeing the violence.

Bishop Toby Howarth began the vigil by saying: “We gather here tonight because of the current conflict, but we are also not forgetting other conflicts around the world.

“There are people directly affected by the Ukrainian conflict with us today, who still have family and friends there.

“This evening we stand in solidarity with all those affected by the dreadful events.”

Bradfordians of Ukrainian heritage also spoke, while Bohdan Matwyjczuk, from the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Eccleshill, asked: “Dear father, how much longer can we suffer?”

“Graves are being dug, bells are ringing every day, day and night. Our sons and daughters are lying in graves”, he added.

Chris Mason, a Bradford church leader, also spoke: “Many of us from across Bradford and Yorkshire have friends and family in Ukraine.

“We may not be Ukrainian, but we stand with Ukraine in this hour for peace.

“Many of my Ukrainian friends fled their homes after the conflict in 2014. This last week has seen them move again, and their children are enduring what many across our world are experiencing.

“One friend of mine who was born and raised in Ukraine – whose identity I will not mention, for their own safety – said cities are being bombed, and that friends – including children – are being killed.

“They described the Russian invasion as a cruel, unprovoked assault, and said Russia is destroying Ukraine’s civil infrastructure, hospitals and schools.

“They said this is not just a war between Russia and Ukraine, but a war between darkness and light.

“They are living in a safe area, but are expecting the Russian army to attack at any moment, and they said they are prepared for it.

“They are appealing to their brothers and sisters around the world to pray for Ukraine at this dark hour – they also pray that god performs a miracle and stops Putin.”

Deputy Lord Mayor of Bradford, Councillor Bev Mullaney, also gave her thoughts at the vigil, and said that Bradford is ready to provide a “warm welcome” to any refugees fleeing Ukraine.

“We have all watched with horror the events unfolding in Ukraine”, she said.

“We have seen homes uprooted, citizens taking to the streets in defence or fleeing with their children in the hope of finding refuge.

“As a City of Sanctuary, the Bradford district stands alongside Ukraine, and all those affected by conflict and war.

“People in the Bradford district live peacefully, side-by-side. People of Russian heritage in our district are not the authors of this aggression, and whatever our background, we are all horrified at a situation which nobody asked for and nobody will gain from.

“As a district, we will play an active part in resettlement programmes. Our district has been home to a Ukrainian community for many years, and they have added immeasurably to our social and cultural lives in Bradford.

“Ukraine remains in our thoughts and prayers.”

Other speakers praised the “resilience and strength” of the Ukrainian people, and one speaker, Nicolette, said she could not imagine the “fear and helplessness” felt by the “innocent victims of oppression” in the country.

Another speaker, Kodi, added that we are “seeing pictures on social media which should only be seen in history books”, while Furaha Mussanzi, who moved to Bradford from the Democratic Republic of Congo with her family as a refugee 20 years ago – and therefore knows “first-hand about what it’s like to live under conflict, terror and fear” – added that war “never solves anything”.

Rabea Sultana, who is of the Rohingya ethnic group and also moved to Bradford as a refugee, also spoke: “As Rohingya people, we stand in solidarity with our Ukrainian friends, and we will be with you all the way.

“Often, it is the most vulnerable who suffer the most”, she continued.

“Those in Bradford and elsewhere are now worried and anxious about the safety and well-being of families in Ukraine.

“What is happening is not right or acceptable in any day and age, but to happen today, it is a catastrophic failure.

“The almighty says that failing to act against a bad deed is just as bad as committing the bad deed.”