RELIGIOUS PERSECUTION AND ONGOING MINISTRY

Since 2014, portions of eastern Ukraine have been ravaged by political and military conflict, and the already occupied territories have faced increasing persecution and hardship.

“In the Luhansk Occupied Territory, the Ukrainian Baptist churches were officially declared a terrorist organization, therefore requiring all of the churches to close,” said Brown. “The Baptist hymnal and the Gospel of John were outlawed as ‘extremist material.’ The
churches that have tried to remain open do so at great risk and in secret.”

In September 2018, the BWA and the European Baptist Federation (EBF) – one of the six regional fellowships of the BWA – participated in a joint solidarity visit to the border of the occupied territories in a region called the “Gray Zone.” Participants included Brown, Paul
Msiza, Tony Peck, Jenni Entrican, and Helle Liht.

Despite persecution and the daily hardship of life in an area of conflict, 25 Baptist churches have been established in the Gray Zone within the last five years. Over the last six years, the Baptist union in Ukraine has invested more than $54,350,000 Ukrainian Hryvnia (equates to over $2 million USD) into the Gray Zone for

aid, relief, and community development. Pastors who have fled from the occupied territories and resettled elsewhere in Ukraine, including in Kyiv and Lviv, have started ten new churches. Even in the face of unimaginable challenges, Baptists in Ukraine have demonstrated unwavering faithfulness for years.

The All-Ukrainian Union of Associations of Evangelical Christians-Baptists, a BWA member body for 30 years, is the second largest Baptist community in Europe and the Middle East. The union represents the largest Protestant group in Ukraine with over 100,000 members across more than 2,100 churches – a nationwide network of Baptists poised to respond.

RESPONDING TO THE CRISIS

On February 24, the challenges that had only been the daily reality of those in the gray zone became the reality of all Ukrainians when they woke to the sounds of sirens and falling artillery as Russian military launched a full-scale invasion by land, air, and sea.

Within hours, EBF organized a global solidarity call to hear directly from Baptist leaders in Ukraine. Attended by more than 75 Baptist leaders around the world, the global Baptist community pledged support and prayers as Bandura emotionally described the short term and anticipated long-term impact of the attacks.

Hungarian Baptist Aid team members arrive in Ukraine with an initial shipment of humanitarian aid and supplies.