Prayers for “Where the Church Suffers Most” in Europe
To mark the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church [this month], the European Evangelical Alliance (EEA) calls on evangelicals to unite in praying for the region of Europe where the Church suffers the most: the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine.
In 2014, Russian-backed rebels took control of the Donbass region and created the so-called Donetsk (DNR) and Luhansk (LNR) People’s Republics. Since then, thousands of civilians have died, nearly 2 million people have fled and those who remain have suffered the effects of the ongoing conflict, extreme poverty and a terrible government.
In addition to all of these hardships, restrictions on freedom of religion or belief make life even darker for anyone who follows a faith other than Orthodox believers linked to the Moscow Patriarchate:
- Many churches are illegal and cannot meet, especially Ukrainian Evangelical and Orthodox churches. Entire denominations are classified as extremists without any justification.
- Much of Christian literature is banned, including the Russian synodal translation of the Bible.
- Church buildings were forcibly seized; The Christian University of Donetsk is occupied by the military.
- The system for registering faith communities is totally unfair. The churches had their demands rejected or were later liquidated for their alleged extremism. No evangelical church in Luhansk is registered.
- Ukrainian Orthodox and Roman Catholic clergy were not allowed to return to the [region].
- Defying a ban and coming together like [a] the church results in fines and harassment anyway.
The [DNR and LNR] are not recognized by the international community due to the illegal and violent manner in which they were created. This means that international human rights law does not apply. The only international actors that have influence are the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the International Red Cross.
The situation in Donbass is grim. Fear abounds.
And that’s why we invite Christians to join us in praying for change:
- Pray for miracles.
- Let us pray for our brothers and sisters there: for miraculous hope and peace, for wisdom and protection, for freedom and for joy, and for the Good News of Jesus to be seen and heard.
- Pray for those who work to strengthen peace and reconciliation and bring concrete hope. May God multiply the impact of local Christian efforts to love and care for others.
- Pray for those working in the OSCE: those in the Donbass mission and those seeking to exert influence from abroad. Pray for protection, wisdom and courage, and for religious freedom to be a priority.
- Pray for a change of heart among those who control the Donbass region in eastern Ukraine so that the freedoms of religion, peaceful assembly, expression and travel are fully respected.
- And pray for a dramatic turnaround so that shalom can return.
Thomas Bucher is secretary general of the European Evangelical Alliance. This editorial was first published on the EEA website.
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