Russia (MNN) — Ukraine’s acting president says he wants United Nations peacekeepers to help establish order by conducting a “joint counterterrorist operation” with Ukrainian forces. The struggle with Russia has been ramping up over the last few weeks, with bloodshed on both sides.
Since the recent escalation of anti-Ukrainian propaganda in Russia, Russian Ministries says they’ve been affected and are concerned about the escalation of oppression.
Meanwhile, Russian Ministries spokesman Wally Kulakoff says they just got disturbing news from Siberia and provinces in Northern Caucasus in Russia. “Christian leaders are being summoned today by local authorities, questioned about their ties with the Baptists in the Ukraine because the president is Baptist.” The focus of the questioning is “especially their ties with the West,” he adds.
Why? Kulakoff says Ukraine has been the evangelical backbone for the former Soviet Union.
In the years since the USSR collapsed, there were hundreds–if not thousands–of evangelical missionaries from Ukraine and Moldova who moved there to mostly-remote areas of Russia in an effort to plant new churches and spread the Gospel in the most-unreached territories.
Kulakoff goes on to explain, “Because the president of Ukraine, Oleksandr Turchynov, claims to be a Baptist and is a Baptist preacher, all of a sudden the Russian political machine has been involved.”
What’s more, it’s gone beyond intensified scrutiny. Kulakoff says evangelical workers and missionaries in Russia with roots in Ukraine face the heaviest pressure. “They say, ‘Baptists are becoming terrorists.’ So in Russia, instead of [coining Baptists as] sectarians (sectarian was a horrible word, and still is a horrible word), now to associate Baptists with terrorism is extreme.”
Since many Baptists can’t afford the grand-scale buildings of the Muslims or the Orthodox Church, they meet in cell groups, or house churches. In what was a natural response to a lack of meeting space, their approach is now interpreted as subversive. No one knows if this is the potential beginning of more trouble for missionaries from Ukraine.
“This has created fear. This has created confusion and the potential beginning of the escalation of pressure,” says Kulakoff, adding that the result of RMI’s successful ministry for the last two decades was hundreds of new church plants.
The Russian propaganda machine could change that through the terrorist label. Simply, Kulakoff says, “We need to pray for them that God would give [believers] wisdom, that God would give them the endurance and the ability to stand before authorities, to stand before the government and to tell them that they have a commission from Jesus Christ to disciple people, to baptize them, to teach them all that the Scriptures have for each one of them.”
Please continue to pray for God’s protection for His people and for the restoration of peace and unity between Russia and Ukraine. Pray that the Gospel will continue transforming lives in both nations.