RIDLEY PARK, Pa. – The Ukrainian Evangelical Baptist Convention in the U.S.A. is urging its churches and members to pray for churches and people undergoing religious persecution in the war zone in southeastern Ukraine.
The UEBC’s president, the Rev. Roman Kapran, recently sent a letter to pastors in his association calling for prayers during services on Sunday, October 28, and other Sundays.
“In connection with the circumstances that have arisen for our brothers and sisters in Christ in churches in parts of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions, I propose to offer intercessory prayers,” the Rev. Kapran wrote.
The Rev. Kapran cited information he received from the Baptist Union of Ukraine that “Russian-supported occupation authorities of the so-called ‘LPR’ (Luhansk People’s Republic) have refused to re-register Evangelical churches and banned all their religious activities, including at church-owned prayer houses and even in private homes.”
Information provided by the Rev. Igor Bandura, first vice-president of the Baptist Union of Ukraine, points out that “leaders of various Evangelical Protestant churches of Ukraine indicate that occupation authorities in Luhansk have refused to register any of the Evangelical Christian church communities (Baptists, Pentecostals, Adventists). This means a complete ban on any religious activities of Evangelical churches in the occupied territories of the Luhansk region. At the same time, as church representatives testify, this ban affects not only worship at the prayer houses, but also includes gatherings of believers in homes, for which there are threats of fines and arrests.”
Russian-backed militants are forcing religious organizations in the occupied territories to re-register under the threat of banning all their activities, by fines and seizure of temples, churches and other church property, yet now they are refusing to accept registrations.
Occupation authorities of Luhansk passed a law in February requiring all religious communities to undergo a mandatory re-registration procedure. The deadline was October 15.
Up to 100 Baptist churches are forced to survive under conditions of occupation and oppression. Currently, there are 40 Baptist churches in the occupied territories of the Luhansk region and 43 in the Donetsk region, with a total of 4,763 members, that belong to the Baptist Union of Ukraine.
The situation for religious communities is alarming and unstable. Key human rights are violated, freedom of religion is limited and the existence of religious groups there is threatened. Some congregations have begun to gather in the countryside and in forests, according to the Baptist Union.
Also noteworthy is that the so-called “law of LPR” also limits the Orthodox communities allowed to operate in the occupied territories of the Luhansk region, requiring them to be recognized by world Orthodoxy and only “within the canonical territories of the Moscow Patriarchate” (Article 6). Such a requirement jeopardizes the activities of Kyiv Patriarchate communities of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
The Rev. Kapran said he is appealing to people of all confessions and to all people of goodwill to pray and to raise their voices about violations of human rights in the occupied regions of Ukraine.
In calling for prayer, the Rev. Kapran cited the Scripture passage in 1 Timothy 2: 1-2: “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people — for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” He continued, “We believe that our God is Lord of the whole earth, and He holds in His right hand the ‘seven stars’ (Church). By having direct access to the throne of grace, we will bring protection and spiritual strength in prayers for our brothers and sisters in the Lord.”