Ukraine (MNN) — Tensions between Russia and Ukraine just got gravely serious with rumblings of war on the horizon. On Sunday, Russian warships fired on and seized three Ukrainian naval vessels. The conflict took place on the Kerch Strait, a narrow waterway that serves as the only access to the Sea of Azov.
Russian forces say the Ukrainian ships came into their national waters and shouldn’t have even been there. Ukraine says they told Russia they were coming through the strait and did nothing to provoke an attack.
A bridge over the strait connects Russia with the Crimean Peninsula, which the Soviet nation annexed in 2014. Ukraine and most other countries do not recognize Crimea as a Russian territory.
Joel Griffith with Slavic Gospel Association says, “It’s obvious [there are] an awful lot of geopolitical considerations going on here. This situation certainly has been going on since 2014 when the conflict between Russia and Ukraine broke out, especially in the Eastern regions and the Crimean Peninsula. Now, this most recent affair certainly is a major escalation of that situation.”
Ukraine’s president and parliament met yesterday to discuss instating martial law — a move typically reserved for war or an invasion. Martial law would allow the military to take over the activities of a civilian government and even delay Ukraine’s upcoming elections.
“The [Evangelical] Baptist Union of Ukraine leadership is asking for churches around the world to pray for their country in light of this. Of course, [they are] not taking a political position on this…. If this conflict escalates even further and then if martial law is declared, there are an awful lot of concerns about what that means for the Ukrainian people.”
Griffith says tensions between the two nations can also indirectly affect SGA’s ministry in Ukraine.
“As the missionary pastors we sponsor go into Eastern Ukraine to try to help the churches there as well as to try to visit people who are in some of the most heavily damaged areas to take in humanitarian aid like food and medicine, it can be very dangerous. You never know when shelling is going to break out in Eastern Ukraine and these regions that are controlled by the separatists.”
With winter here as well, the frigid temperatures and restricted travel conditions only make humanitarian needs starker in Ukrainian neighborhoods affected by Russian-backed separatist clashes.
However, that doesn’t hinder SGA or their ministry partners’ persistence in getting the hope of the Gospel to Ukrainians — which is needed now more than ever.
“The churches we serve with SGA, we’re really trying to simply dedicate ourselves to helping people whose lives have been shattered…with the Gospel and certainly humanitarian aid. The churches, of course, are wanting to minister to their people as best as they can,” says Griffith.
“It’s just a horrible situation, but hopefully, it’s one where the Gospel can shine a light and the peace of the Gospel can be proclaimed and the love of Christ can be shown by the churches as they try to render help in Jesus’ name to these shattered people.”
SGA has a Crisis Evangelism Fund which is designated to “meet the special needs of people living in regions or countries ravaged by war, extreme violence, and acts of terror.” It’s a tangible way you can encourage Christians in Ukraine and inject the hope of the Gospel into this situation.
Griffith explains, “Anybody who wants to support the ministry in these regions can certainly make a gift to that. They can either designate it to general humanitarian aid or if they specifically want it to go to help Ukraine, that can certainly be done as well.”
Then, most importantly, you can pray. The tensions between Ukraine and Russia, although ongoing, have seemed to fade into the background with less media coverage dedicated to the conflict.
“It’s been out of the news for quite a long time even though the conflict hasn’t ended. Now that you’ve got this open situation with the ships being shelled and the possibility for martial law, I think that’s going to maybe serve to drive that back into awareness again and, hopefully, people will be reminded to pray about this and pray that peace will come.”
Header photo of the Kerch Strait courtesy of Valeri Pizhanski via Flickr under Creative Commons: https://goo.gl/zSgGDg