Russia-Ukraine Crisis Makes Ukrainian Churches Wary About Future

Christians of many denominations in Ukraine gather daily to pray for peace and unity.  IMB photo by Charles Braddix.
Christians of many denominations in Ukraine gather daily to pray for peace and unity. IMB photo by Charles Braddix.

In Tom Long’s* city in eastern Ukraine, life is “fairly calm” — except that people are carrying baseball bats and packing semi-automatic rifles.

And Long is packing his bags — all of them.

“It’s difficult. We don’t know what the situation is like or if I’ll be able to come back,” Long, an IMB representative who has called the city of Donetsk home for the past four years, said. “It’s hard. I care about the people. I have grown to love this city, and I wish I could stay.”

The Donetsk area and the neighboring region of Luhansk passed referendums May 11 to withdraw from Ukraine and move toward joining the Russian Federation. The Ukrainian government in Kiev — along with the U.S. and the European Union — called the move illegal, and international leaders called for Ukraine to be reunified.

But ever since Russia absorbed Crimea in March, Ukraine’s “normal” is shaky in both the short and long-range forecast, the International Mission Board representative said. The nation is on edge for the rapidly approaching presidential election May 25. No one knows what the future may hold, he said.

Donetsk’s government offices are closed for now, keeping Long from renewing his residence permit and forcing him from his home indefinitely.

The crisis is also affecting day-to-day life for Ukrainian nationals, Tim Johnson,* an IMB representative in Kiev, said. Bloodshed breaks out occasionally in “shocking” ways in an otherwise calm nation, he said. Border checks have become increasingly complicated, and Ukrainians find their wallets pummeled by a falling currency and rising prices.

“This isn’t Cairo, Somalia or the West Bank,” Johnson said. “We are not accustomed to this. This (kind of crisis) is new territory for us.”

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SOURCE: Baptist Press
Ava Thomas

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