Religious freedom a concern as Ukraine prepares for new election

By December 7, 2004

Ukraine (MNN) — Thousands of Christians have taken to the streets of Ukraine, concerned about the future of religious freedom. That comes following the Supreme Court’s decision to invalidate the ‘run-off’ election results from November 21st. A new election is scheduled for December 26th.

HOPE International’s President Paul Marty lives in Ukraine. He’s concerned about this election. “A large part of what’s at stake here is the future of Christianity in this part of the world. If the election goes toward the pro-Russian candidate then a lot of the policies of the country are going to follow. And, he’s publicly stated that the only church he would recognize would be the Russian Orthodox Church and would not tolerate others.”

Marty says Christians have taken an active role in the peaceful protests. Last week 2,000 believers marched through the streets proclaiming Jesus is Lord. The election controversy has also unified the church, indicated by Sunday’s protests. “There was a prayer meeting down on the main square here in Kiev with probably about 100,000 people in attendance. The leaders of all the different dominations had a chance to get up in front of this massive crowd and lead people in prayer.”

HOPE International’s ministry is two fold. Children’s Bible clubs, called Tomorrow Clubs, and micro-enterprise loans to small business people. Marty says the election problems haven’t hurt these ministries. He says it’s actually made people more open.

“There’s a spiritual hunger here that you just don’t see in many places. In both of our ministries here, with the clients that take small loans from us, they’re very open when we share our faith with them. And, the response in our children’s Bible clubs, especially in the rural areas, is just phenomenal.”

Marty says funding is needed for their Tomorrow Clubs. “We’re trying to establish 500 clubs and we’re at about 275 right now. You can support a club for $500 for a whole year and see lots of lives changed as a result of that investment.”

To help HOPE International, go to http://www.HopeInternational.net or send a financial gift to Hope International, P.O. Box 10001, Lancaster, PA 17605

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