Open appeal the All-Ukrainian Union of Churches of Evangelical Christians-Baptists to the Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists leadership and churches.
This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:5-7).
For the ninth year, Ukraine has suffered from armed aggression by the Russian Federation. The aggression began in February 2014 and led to the annexation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the occupation of certain districts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions in the east of Ukraine. On February 24, 2022, a full-scale invasion began, and Russian troops advanced into Ukraine under the guise of a so-called “special military operation on the territory of Ukraine.” As has already become apparent, the “military operation” has turned into a destructive, bloody war aimed at destroying Ukraine as an independent state and subjugating the Ukrainian people under the complete control of Russia.
Over the entire period of the full–scale war, more than 5 million Ukrainians have become internally displaced persons, and 6.5 million have become refugees in Europe, North and South America, and other continents. More than 20 percent of the territory of sovereign Ukraine has come under the control of the Russian armed forces. The atrocities of the Russian military against the civilians of Irpen, Bucha, and Gostomel have become known to millions worldwide. A humanitarian catastrophe is approaching in the territories occupied by Russia due to a lack of food, medicine, unstable communications, lack of social benefits, and the like. The civilian population is subjected to terror and is often deprived of the opportunity to travel to the territories controlled by the Ukrainian authorities. Hundreds of thousands of citizens are forcibly exported to the Russian Federation. In the Luhansk region, in certain districts occupied in 2014, all the churches of the ECB were deprived of legal rights, and the All-Ukrainian Union of Churches of the ECB itself was called an extremist organization.
Over the past 30 years, the Ukrainian Brotherhood of the ECB has sent hundreds of families of Ukrainian Baptists to missionary ministry in the Russian Federation. More than 500 ministers in Russia are from Ukraine. We prayed for the Russian brotherhood and sympathized with you when violations of religious freedoms began in Russia. We are sympathetic to the challenges of ministry in the context of the control of the special services over churches in Russia. We see how over the previous 15 years, the government in Russia has been pursuing a policy of dehumanizing Ukraine through controlled media, sowing division and enmity between our countries.
As ministers of the Church of Christ, we are concerned about trends among ministers and churches in Russia. Apparent lawlessness, dictatorship, aggression, and war are perceived by many as a natural process that ensures the “interests of great Russia.” The Russian Brotherhood at the congress in 2014 welcomed “the return of Crimea to its native harbor” and prayed for “an end to the internal Ukrainian conflict.” This conforms to the state policy of seizing foreign territories. It is difficult for us to understand and accept statements that you are “out of politics” and, at the same time, you sign a political account about “discrimination of Orthodox in Ukraine,” while in the occupied territories of eastern Ukraine, the “new government” destroys and closes houses of prayer, arrests and tortures pastors of churches, and bombs, among other things, the Orthodox churches.
In May of this year, when Russian soldiers were killing civilians and destroying cities in our country, you wrote an appeal to President Putin with the wishes of “good health and wisdom for many achievements for the benefit of Russia and the whole world.” You make statements about how the Baptists of Russia are helping the “liberated territories” and are waiting for “the end of hostilities to begin protecting the rights and freedoms of believers in Ukraine.”
Against what is happening, we perceive the position of many ministers of the Russian Union of Churches of the ECB as unacceptable and irresponsible. We call on you to distinguish the truth of God from the propaganda of the destructive ideology of the “Russian world.” The church ministers need to condemn the atrocities of those who shoot residential neighborhoods, destroy civilian objects, and shed blood in invading a foreign country. As ministers, you are called to give a just, biblical assessment of the lawless actions of those who seize foreign lands, plunder, rape, and kill. Church pastors need to raise their voices in defense of Christians who are being tortured and persecuted in the territories of Ukraine occupied by Russia. We urge you to realize your responsibility before God – to be a prophetic voice in your country and this sinful world. We urge you to defend the principles of freedom and human rights, which have always been characteristic of ministers of the Evangelical Baptist Churches.
We pray for you, realizing with pain in our hearts what a situation the ECB churches in Russia may find themselves in. We believe the Lord will help His Church pass this difficult and responsible time with dignity.
Board of the All-Ukrainian Union of Churches ECB
Kyiv, July 2022