Ukrainian Baptist leaders, along with other European Baptist leaders, have issued urgent calls to prayer for the intense conflict emerging at the Ukrainian-Russian border.
As dawn broke in the region Wednesday, Feb. 16, the status of the enormous threat from Russian troops on the border remained unclear. News reports said at least some of the 150,000 Russian troops formed at the border were retreating, but the White House said it had no such confirmation.
U.S. President Joe Biden addressed the nation Tuesday afternoon, Feb. 15, in what has become almost daily updates on the threatened invasion of Ukraine by Russia. Russian leader Vladimir Putin has denied plans to invade the neighboring country, but both Ukraine and NATO allies remain on high alert because of the huge numbers of troops amassed in what can only be considered preparation for an invasion.
“All our churches are in the middle of the week of special prayer time for our nation and our life,” said Igor Bandura, vice president of the Baptist Union of Ukraine.” In every church all around the country, every night, people come together either at private homes or churches and urgently pray for God’s protection and intervention. We believe this is the most important task of Christians in times such as this. We are praying for peace, for our political leaders and their unity.”
Bandura spoke through the European Baptist Federation. He added: “We are urgently praying and intentionally working to be ready for whatever happens. We realize that we can’t do much but we want to be faithful in what God entrusted us with.”
Valery Antonyuk, head of the All-Ukrainian Union of Evangelical Baptist Churches, posted a message on the group’s website addressed to all churches and every Christian.
“Dear brothers and sisters, Ukraine is going through special, difficult moments in its history. It is a time of trials, difficulties, anxieties and the whole Christian world is praying for our country today. We call on all churches and every Christian to raise their voice to heaven. Pray especially, increase our prayers by fasting, and in the coming days, next week, call on God to bless us, protect us, stop aggression, prevent bloodshed, and peace on our land, and God’s blessing be upon us all. We believe that we will pass this stage of our lives and Almighty God will bless us. We pray, believe and stand before him in intercession for all our people and for our country. ”
The All-Ukrainian Union of Evangelical Baptist Churches is the largest Protestant community in Ukraine. It encompasses more than 2,000 churches and 320 missionary groups, uniting more than 113,000 adult believers.
Baptists and most Protestants are a distinct minority in Ukraine, which is a heavily Christian country. More than 70% of Ukrainians describe themselves as believers, with about 67% of the population being Orthodox. (The Orthodox Church itself is divided into multiple segments in Ukraine.)
Only about 2% of the nation’s population could be classified as Protestant.
A news story from the European Baptist Federation included a brief statement from Peter Mitskevich, president of the Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists of Russia. The news item said Mitskevich “spoke of the need for prayers of peace and protection from war, recognizing the great suffering of many in the borderlands including the community of believers.”
Meanwhile, Alan Donaldson, general secretary of the European Baptist Federation, joined in calling on the global Baptist family to pray for peace in the region and to remember those who are suffering, feel hopeless, have high levels of anxiety and are traumatized.
“The EBF is prayerfully following the situation in the region and is praying for a peaceful resolution. As followers of Christ, we have a common goal to love one another and seek his kingdom’s values on earth. So we continue to pray in unity for peace on earth and in particular upon the Ukraine-Russia borderlands.”
The European Federation news item also carried a message of support from Elijah Brown, general secretary of the Baptist World Alliance: “As the Baptist World Alliance stands with EBF and with brothers and sisters across the region, we affirm our commitment to live as one Baptist family rooted in Jesus Christ as Lord, even as we urge all political and social actors to work for immediate de-escalation and call upon every Baptist to fervently pray for the establishment of just peace. Together we echo the words of Jesus, ‘Blessed are the peacemakers.’”
Geographically, Ukraine stands between Russia and most of the rest of the rest of Europe.