Baptists from more than 50 nations gathered virtually to mark the one-year anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and to pray for those who continue to suffer from the military onslaught.
The Baptist World Alliance sponsored the Feb. 24 gathering, which also featured staff updates on international aid being provided to Ukrainian pastors, churches and refugees. Leaders from all six BWA global regions offered prayer for the war-torn country.
The livestreamed event began with a briefing from Igor Bandura, a pastor and vice president of the All-Ukrainian Union of Evangelical Christian-Baptists. He described the material and emotional challenges faced by Ukrainians, as well as what they experienced in the early days of the conflict.
“In western Ukraine, we still were able to meet in church buildings, but in most parts of Ukraine, churches were in the church cellars or online,” Bandura said. “Or people were just staying at home without churches and church services.”
While Russian air and ground assaults continue 12 months later, Baptists and many other Ukrainians are confident that, with God’s help, the Russians will be repelled, he said. Their belief is strengthened by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s initial prediction Ukraine would fall in two days.
“We believe we are standing for freedom, for dignity, for independence, so we keep hope.”
“We are glad that our president (Volodymyr Zelenskyy) is strong … and our army is fighting like a lion,” Bandura said. “We believe we are standing for freedom, for dignity, for independence, so we keep hope.”
Strength also has come from “millions of Christians all around the world” who have provided prayer and material support to Ukraine and to the refugees who have fled to other countries, he added. According to the United Nations, 8.1 million Ukrainians have sought refuge across Europe and around the world, while another 5.4 million are internally displaced due to the invasion.
“God is making us stronger in these terrible days, and we continue to work and support our people,” Bandura stressed.
BWA General Secretary Elijah Brown assured Bandura the material and spiritual support will continue.
“We hear your call for peace, your call for perseverance, and we stand with you as an individual, … and we stand with you as a union,” Brown said. “Individuals from more than 50 countries registered for this prayer call, so please take back to the union the world is praying with you.”
Brown recalled a visit to Ukraine before the war, when he heard a pastor say the Ukrainian church wanted to actively serve Christ. BWA promises to follow that example in serving war-weary Ukrainians, he noted. “To all of our brothers and sisters in Ukraine, you are the church who is active in reaching out, and we will be your hands and your feet with you.”
BWAid Director Marsha Scipio described the rapid reaction of more than 25 Baptist unions around the world in the first hours after the invasion.
“The response was swift and generous, with more than ($200,000) raised within 48 hours of the first air strike,” she said.
That generosity has continued. “Funds have been deployed to the Ukrainian (Baptist) union for the leaders to set up aid centers to provide food, hygiene kits, and blankets and shelter for the displaced,” Scipio reported. “Resources will be shared shortly with the Polish Baptist Union, who are caring for the refugees who have flooded their churches and homes near the border.”
The BWA Forum for Aid and Development is working to ensure assistance continues, she added.
“BFAD member organizations have launched appeals to their constituencies to continue to respond to the myriad needs in the days and weeks to come,” she said. “We are committed to exercising biblical compassion, which requires action.”
Albert Reyes, president of Buckner International and a BWA vice president, followed with a prayer for the global supply chain that has grown up around the Ukrainian people.
“We ask you in this hour to help us make available basic humanitarian support for children, families, senior adults that have become refugees overnight, fleeing for their lives,” Reyes prayed. “Some will need water, food, clothing, hygiene supplies, shelter and other items we normally take for granted each day.”
Reyes pleaded for the availability of governmental assistance and that warehouses and hearts would be opened to the cause of helping Ukraine.
“Open our hearts to be generous and to share what you’ve blessed us with for the benefit of those in need today,” he said. “We ask that you activate individuals, churches, ministries and sister denominations around the world to provide resources at this crucial time.”
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