The Russian invasion of Ukraine is unfolding as the worst possible scenario faith leaders could have envisioned, a Baptist leader said in a Zoom call Thursday, Feb. 24.
More than 75 people joined the online conversation organized on short notice by the European Baptist Federation and Baptist World Alliance. It followed shortly after a private call among key Baptist pastors in the besieged nation.
One by one, representatives of Baptist groups from across Europe expressed their solidarity and prayers for the people of Ukraine and Ukrainian Baptists in particular. They discussed how best to get aid to the country, even as neighboring European countries begin to close borders.
The Baptist Union of Ukraine is mobilizing to help its pastors and church members and their communities, the leader said. Of six regions within the Baptist Union, only one so far reported no immediate impact of the Russian military action.
“What I was feeling (today) was like a big black hole that tried to absorb your soul and destroy you completely. You feel helpless.”
“We are here … it is very frightening,” the Baptist leader said. “What I was feeling (today) was like a big black hole that tried to absorb your soul and destroy you completely. You feel helpless. Everything you lived for can be quickly destroyed. Humanly speaking, it is terrible.”
Some of the bombing already has hit near Baptist churches and organizations, he said. In Odessa, a bomb exploded about 100 meters from a Baptist-run orphanage that is home to 60 children.
“The situation is here; it is terrible,” the Baptist leader reported. “We don’t have time. The situation is right here.”
Baptist leaders had imagined three possible scenarios for the long-anticipated invasion by Russia, but “unfortunately, today the bigger war started, and it started in a way we couldn’t imagine.”
One of the “better” scenarios would have involved getting aid from the western portion of Ukraine to the eastern sector, which is closer to the Russian border. But the situation is worse than that because Russian troops have instead invaded from all directions.
“Ukraine is surrounded by the Russian army, shooting everywhere,” the leader reported.
European Baptist leaders and aid workers on the Zoom call asked the Ukrainian representative about preparing to receive refugees from Ukraine in their countries. The leader replied that if it comes to such a moment, “it means we have lost the battle.” If Russia successfully takes control of Ukraine, no one knows what that might mean for ordinary citizens or religious leaders.
The Baptist leader explained that in Ukraine, “war is not something new for us. It started in 2014. Crimea was taken peacefully; no one was killed. … What is going now is not only about Ukraine; it is about our right to be a nation, to be a people. Putin said there is not such a nation as Ukraine, … there is no such people as Ukrainians.”
“What is going on now is not about Ukraine, it is about the situation in the world.”
He warned that Putin’s ambitions and the effects of the current war represent a “much bigger” problem. “What is going on now is not about Ukraine, it is about the situation in the world.”
After an hour on the call, the Ukrainian leader offered this final word: “Please keep believing that God will be glorified. As Ukrainians we want to say we would win. But our hope is that God would be glorified.”
And with those words, the Ukrainian leader was lost from the call and went silent. A hush fell over the rest of the participants, with one declaring this is no doubt a moment none of them will ever forget.
Then the Baptist leaders from across Europe took turns praying aloud for the people of Ukraine.
To give to Baptist relief efforts in Ukraine, visit the website of BWAid, the humanitarian services arm of the Baptist World Alliance.
Ukrainian and European Baptist leaders issue urgent calls to prayer