Amidst devastation and terror, God is at work in Ukraine. Displaced people are finding shelter in church basements. Russian Orthodox clerics are uniting to petition for an end to the war, at risk of their livelihoods. Above all, Christians in Ukraine are finding many opportunities to minister and be ministered to. This is all evidence of God’s care.
But how can we, distanced from the violence, help those caught in the crossfire? This article will discuss Christians and churches in Ukraine and share ways we can help support them during the war.
IS UKRAINE A CHRISTIAN COUNTRY?
Though this is a question some people have raised since the Russian-Ukrainian conflict began, it is perhaps not the right question. A 2011 Q&A from Focus on the Family affirms that “biblically speaking, there is not and cannot be any such thing as a ‘Christian nation.’” Our concern is always with individual Christians and the countercultural Kingdom of God. While Ukrainian citizens adhere to a variety of religious beliefs, 70% do identify as Christian.
The history of Christianity in Ukraine is long and storied. There is evidence that the first Christian church in the region was built in Kyiv in the early 900s. In 988 Vladimir the Great adopted Orthodox Christianity, inviting the entire city of Kyiv to the Dnieper River to be baptized. More recently, Ukrainians formed the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and severed ties with the Russian Orthodox Church to protest the increasing politicization of the religion.
UKRAINE CHRISTIAN POPULATION
Of the Ukrainians who identify as Christian, 70% are Orthodox, 8% are unaffiliated, 7% are Catholic, and .8% are Protestant. According to Baptist News Global, of all of the countries that formerly comprised the USSR, Ukraine has the largest population of evangelical Christians. Through lenient government policies, Ukraine provides many religious freedoms to its citizens. This has led to an explosion of Baptist, Protestant, and Pentecostal faith communities in the area since Ukraine gained its freedom from the Soviet Union in 1991.
The Kyiv Theological Seminary and other evangelical educational institutions work to send missionaries, plant churches, and equip believers in the area. This winter, these institutions joined together to pen an appeal condemning the war and demanding peace. In this appeal, they write,
“…we want to remind that the invisible Body of Christ must manifest itself in a visible way: “If one member suffers, all suffer together with it” (1 Corinthians 12:26 NRSV). The suffering of brothers and sisters in Christ requires a public identification with them.”
ORTHODOX CHURCHES IN UKRAINE
Most of us have seen images of beautiful Orthodox churches in Ukraine. The Saint Sophia Cathedral in Kyiv dates back to the eleventh century. This building serves as a visual testament to the enduring hope found in salvation through Jesus Christ.
Unlike many Russian Orthodox leaders, who have remained silent in the face of Putin’s aggression or even affirmed his actions, leaders in the Ukrainian Orthodox Church have been outspoken in describing the evil nature of Putin’s actions and calling for justice for their country. If Russia wins this war, it could lead to the disappearance of Ukrainian Orthodox Churches. According to Baptist News, “Religious liberty in Ukraine is doomed if Russian invaders defeat the Eastern European nation that has become a bastion of church-state separation among former Soviet republics.”
Speak the truth.
Disinformation is a weapon in this war, and as media consumers, we can combat the spread of lies. Tell the truth about the persecution the Ukrainian church is experiencing. Tell the truth about the war itself. Satellites have captured images of mass graves in Ukraine and first-hand accounts of other atrocities abound. Each of us can choose to be outspoken in defense of the victimized.
Commit to lifting up the Ukrainian people in prayer daily. Involve your family, housemates, friends, small group, or church body. If you struggle like many of us with knowing what to pray, SEND International offers 11 ways to pray during the crisis in Ukraine.
Give to Ukrainian Christians.
Prayerfully consider donating to organizations that are working to provide aid and support to Ukrainian Christians. Multiple sources affirm that the need for Bibles, in addition to more general humanitarian resources, is significant. Here are five charities serving in Ukraine that each hold a ‘Give With Confidence’ rating with Charity Navigator.
Please click the button below to see what MegaVoice International is doing in Ukraine.
Photo 1 by Max Kukurudziak on Unsplash
Photo 2 by Julia Tsukurova on Unsplash