Ukraine (MNN) — The civilian death toll continues to rise in Ukraine as Russian forces bombard several major cities. The UN reports at least 400 civilian deaths so far. That number includes several children. One family died as Russian mortar shells hit an evacuation checkpoint in the capital Kyiv.
Thus far, Russian progress in conquering Ukraine has been slow, but if they succeed, local churches could face increased persecution.
Greg Musselman with The Voice of the Martyrs Canada says, “Vladimir Putin continues to lock down anything that doesn’t go along with his ideology. [There have been efforts] to present religion and even Christianity, evangelical Christianity, as being a threat. Some ministries and Christian organizations have even been labeled as terrorists.”
“It’s been very difficult for the churches in Russia. So if this happens in Ukraine, it definitely is concerning for the leaders there.”
In areas of Ukraine already occupied by Russia before the invasion, Christians face many troubles. Any church not affiliated with the Orthodox Moscow Patriarchate has been declared illegal. One Gospel of John translation was labeled as “extremist.”
Musselman says Ukraine has also sent many missionaries in recent years to “[present] the Gospel in those areas of the former Soviet countries.” Russian occupation could threaten that.
In October of 2021, a new religious law came into effect in Russia. Its stated goal was to “protect the spiritual sovereignty of Russia.” It requires all religious leaders educated abroad to receive new training inside Russia.
Musselman says after the fall of the Soviet Union, churches saw some religious freedom in Russia. “Many ministries, realized at the time that the window may be short. They were proven right.”
Pray for peace in Ukraine. Ask God to protect Ukrainian Christians and equip them to reflect the love of Jesus.
The header photo shows Ukrainians sheltering in a metro station during the invasion. (Header photo courtesy of the Kyiv City Council, CC BY 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons)