Ukraine (MNN) — Soldiers and officials have harassed four Protestant churches in Russian-occupied Eastern Ukraine. They conducted searches, demanded to see documents, and stole equipment. In one case, they even forced church members out of their building. All these incidents took place between June 12 and 16.
Pastor Eric Foley with The Voice of the Martyrs Korea, who has contact with these churches, says they have something in common that would cause officials to harass them: registration with the Ukrainian government.
When one church provided their registration papers, the officials actually took them away. Foley says, “A regional leader of the denomination told us that he’s encouraging church members to make sure they don’t present their original papers.”
Churches in the Russian-controlled Donetsk and Luhansk regions have seen similar treatment at times since 2014 when fighting first started in Eastern Ukraine.
But the fighting made things more difficult. Foley says, “The Central Baptist Church in Mariupol, which is one of these four churches, buried two church members who were martyred back in March. This was a group of five church members in the Mariupol area who were taking care of 200 people in the Central Baptist Church basement.”
“Those five were hit by a grenade as they were doing their deliveries and caring for those 200 people.”
Mariupol recently fell to Russian invaders after months of intense fighting. The church building was destroyed, and only the basement remains.
How to pray
Ask God to give these four churches endurance. Foley says, “The church leader was telling us that officials there present everything Protestant as American-planted. Only the Russian Orthodox Church, Moscow Patriarchate, has the right to operate. So we really need to pray for discernment for these churches.”
Despite harassment and destroyed buildings, the churches continue to pray and serve their neighbors. Praise God for their faithfulness.
The header photo shows the damaged Central Baptist Church in Mariupol. (Photo courtesy of the Voice of the Martyrs Korea)