Displaying items by tag: Ukraine
In light of the Russian attack on Ukraine, many politicians have spoken of a turning point in history. ‘Rarely does evil show its face so openly,’ said one daily newspaper. Our society has largely ceased to reckon with the reality of evil, so how do we confront it? Do we allow ourselves to be infected with negative thoughts and feelings, even hatred? A Ukrainian brother’s prayer can guide us to real prayer. He prayed that, despite the brutal war, hearts would not harden but remain soft. May the Holy Spirit transform all stony hearts. The Conference on the Future of Europe has presented its final report, containing 49 proposals about Europe’s future. In the entire text of 336 pages the words ‘religion’, ‘faith’, and ‘church’ are not mentioned. Faith having a significance in the future of Europe is no longer considered.
In under two weeks, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine became a full-fledged humanitarian crisis. The turmoil is affecting gospel workers in Ukraine and throughout the region in significant ways. The Slavic Gospel Association (SGA) reports a sense of excitement. Kherson, a very important city to Ukrainians, is now accessible. Battlefields are constantly changing, with villages and cities burned to the ground. People are hiding in their basements: drones, missiles, and rockets are attacking their infrastructure, and they are bracing for a terrible winter. A new SGA initiative, Heat and Hope, will provide heating, blankets, and food to Ukrainians. They work through over 240 local churches across the embattled regions. They will not only be centres of warmth when all else has been destroyed, but centres of hope. In the middle of a bitter cold winter, these churches are proclaiming the hope and love of Jesus.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine, a major exporter of grain, led to the blocking of all grain shipments until an agreement called the Black Sea Grain Initiative was signed in Istanbul between Ukraine, Russia and the UN. This agreement will expire on 19 November unless renewed. Renewal negotiations were being facilitated by the UN throughout October until the 29th, when a drone attack on Russian naval ships prompted Russia to suspend participation. Talks resumed on 2 November, with hopes to extend the agreement for a year. On 17 November Ukraine’s minister of infrastructure said the initiative would be prolonged, but only for 120 days.
Russia has ordered its military to pull out of Kherson, the only regional capital it has captured since invading Ukraine. Russia will entirely leave the western bank of Dnipro River, saying it wasn’t possible to continue supplying the city. Ukraine's president Volodymyr Zelensky said his country is moving ‘very carefully’ in response to the announcement, fearing a Russian trap.
1,500+ new graves have been dug at a mass burial site near Mariupol in Ukraine. Over 4,600 graves have been dug there since the beginning of the war. Officials believe at least 25,000 people were killed in fighting there, and 5,000-7,000 died after their homes were bombed. Witnesses have seen Russian authorities removing bodies from destroyed buildings and taking them away for burial, over 1,500 according to new satellite images. From the start of the war Mariupol, a strategic target, was pounded relentlessly from the air and from the ground. Pray for the thousands of survivors who have now escaped the city, but do not know where their families’ bodies are. Pray for those unable to get that information, and pray for those who suspect their loved ones are still buried beneath the rubble of their houses.
Fighting and shelling continues in eastern and southern Ukraine, and strikes in other areas have caused additional destruction of civilian infrastructure and a large number of civilian deaths and injuries. The civilian toll has reached 14,000 confirmed deaths since the beginning of the war. Nearly 18 million people (40% of Ukraine’s population) need humanitarian assistance, and the situation is expected to deteriorate further in the winter months. As villages and towns are being liberated from Russian occupation in Ukraine’s ongoing counteroffensive, significant needs remain - and the Ukrainian advances may halt with the arrival of winter. Many communities still lack access to clean water, electricity, and mobile phone service. Many have limited food supplies. The clean-up and rebuilding effort will take some time. Pray for: The church and ministry networks across Ukraine and neighbouring countries who are mobilising to bring food, clothing, first aid and medicine; evacuation and temporary accommodation assistance; psychological and spiritual support; rebuilding damaged properties and preparing for winter.
Russians are closing evangelical Protestant churches claiming ‘only one faith would be tolerated - Orthodoxy’. They raided Grace Baptist Church while a worship service was being broadcast live. Viewers watched online while they halted the service, registered the names of all present, detained several ministers, and gave the pastor 48 hours to leave the city. They closed Melitopol’s largest Protestant charismatic church with a 1,000-seat auditorium. They tore down its cross and turned the building into a ‘cultural sports entertainment complex’. They are doing the same as they did when they seized and annexed Crimea: they raided places of worship, closed churches, banned missionary activity, fined people for leading worship meetings, seized religious literature, and forced religious communities to re-register with the state, refusing re-registration to the majority. Christians were also driven to the underground churches in the Soviet era, surviving seventy years of Soviet totalitarian rule - demonstrating that persecution can often strengthen the Church.
On 10 October Russian troops began launching a daily series of missile strikes, targeting civilians and energy facilities in populated regions to kill and create chaos. President Volodymyr Zelensky said, ‘They want to destroy our energy system. They are incorrigible. The second target is people. Such a time and such goals were specially chosen to cause as much damage as possible. We are dealing with terrorists trying to wipe us off the face of the earth.’ On 13 October Ukraine’s allies from fifty countries meeting at NATO headquarters announced deliveries to Kyiv of advanced air defence weapons, including missiles and radars. The USA earlier made a similar pledge. One high-tech system from Germany is already in Ukraine. Kyiv hailed the summit as ‘historic’. Hours later, while people slept, Russian shelling hit a five-storey residential building in Mykolaiv, destroying the upper two floors.
Not all Ukrainians desire to start a new life abroad. There are tens of thousands of Eastern Ukrainians in refugee camps, schools, kindergartens or government buildings, hoping they will be able to return home once the war is over. They refuse to think that there will be no homes to return to. These refugee camps are everywhere in Transcarpathia (in the far west of Ukraine) which, at the moment, is a place of safety. The Carpathian Mountains separate them from Putin’s bombs. Pray for the safety of the brave Europeans visiting refugee locations with food, clothes and household needs.
Military Ministries International (MMI) are in various continents including Europe. In Ukraine they have been busy serving soldiers, military widows, and military families by providing daily internet prayer and Bible study times to different groups. There are several meetings with large numbers of soldiers for evangelism. MMI received food produce at the logistics centres and then distributed it to soldiers and widows. They were able to include a large group of military widows in the UN humanitarian programme this summer. A young American volunteer was baptised recently by an MMI pastor who sends a word of encouragement from the Bible individually to a few hundred people (mostly soldiers) and coordinates the ministry of the MMI chaplains. A very great encouragement for chaplains is the international daily MMI prayer through Zoom, which has been held since the war began. MMI requests prayer for God to give strength, wisdom and unity to all the military.