Since 2014, the Luhansk region of eastern Ukraine has been under the control of rebels. This self-declared government has imposed oppressive religious restrictions. Last year, an order was made that no religious groups may hold services of any kind without registration. Subsequent to the deadline of October 2018, no Protestant church of any kind was granted registration.
Now, a year later, the ban remains in effect and those who do not heed the restrictions are taken to court. There have been at least six court cases in 2019, including that of Pastor Vladimir Rytikov of the Krasnodon Baptist Church. In June, he was sentenced to 20 hours of community service for leading unregistered worship. His appeal was rejected on 21 October. Some of the others have received fines and some have avoided further punishment
Many church buildings now sit empty. While these church communities officially own their buildings, they can no longer legally use them. At least one church has begun using Skype to provide broadcasts for congregants. Members of other churches have been meeting in homes, but they are careful to limit these gatherings to no more than four people at a time.
Along with restrictions on public worship, foreign religious leaders have been banned from visiting the territory. As a result of being denied contact with fellow believers, many Christians are feeling isolated.
Source: Forum 18
- Uphold the Christians in Luhansk by praying for them to be granted the freedom to meet peacefully in worship.
- Ask the Lord to work in the hearts of the governing officials within this region, impressing upon these leaders the importance of honouring Christ.
- Pray the isolated church members receive needed encouragement and fellowship by meeting in small groups.
Post your prayer in the comments below.
Many churches in eastern Ukraine have stopped meeting after Russian-backed rebels ordered a ban on services.
Rebel leaders in the self-declared Luhansk People’s Republic, seized from Ukraine in 2014, have declared all unregistered religious groups illegal.
Protestant, Seventh Day Adventist and Pentecostal churches have all had their applications rejected: the 48 Baptist churches in the region did not apply to register on principle.
Baptist leaders say that they are complying with the ban because they fear that their services will be raided or they will be arrested. Other churches have closed too and some pastors have reportedly left the region. Local Christians believe they are under surveillance.
Already, certain Baptist leaders have been targeted for persecution. Pastor Anatoly Tolstenko, who is 82, is on trial for leading ‘illegal worship’ after rebel fighters raided his Path of Salvation Church in Luhansk last month. Militants say they found banned ‘extremist’ literature at the church: local Christians say it had been planted there.
Russian-backed rebels control about a third of Ukraine’s Luhansk Region and about half of neighbouring Donetsk Region.
Sources: Forum 18, Release International
- Ask God to give wisdom and strength to church leaders in the Luhansk region.
- Pray that Christians in the area will find alternative ways to meet and have fellowship.
- Thank God that the government of this region – and of the whole world – is on His shoulders and that “in all things God works for the good of those who love Him” Romans 8:28.
Post your prayer in the comments below.
VOM received this letter from a prisoner in the Ukraine. Even in prison, this brother is sharing Christ. He prays that we believers will learn to love and serve Muslims.
Dear VOM ministers, brothers and sisters! Peace be with you! The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. 2 Corinthians 13:14.
By God’s grace, since 2014 I have been receiving your VOM newsletter. Thank you very much! In it I find encouragement and support. The difficulties I face as well as my life sentence are nothing compared to the suffering that our brave brothers and sisters in Christ undergo. Every day I send my prayers to God for all his suffering children. I thank God for the honour to be a partaker in their sufferings!
We are not able to change Muslims, but we can do our best to change ourselves, to become disciplined and faithful in prayer, and become a light to them. In our prison, there are a few Muslims with a life sentence. Recently God put me into the same cell with one of them. I shared about Christ with him and prayed five times a day right next to him – he prayed as a Muslim and I prayed as a Christian. In Matthew 10:16 the Lord says, “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.”
I read that Mahatma Gandhi once said, “I like your Christ, but I do not like Christians, who are not like Jesus Christ!” There are so many people around us, who do not know God, but none tells them about Him. We Christians are often busy with our own problems, struggles and fights with one another. I thank you very much for sending me your materials that remind me to re-evaluate my Christian life and my values! I pray that Christians learn to love Muslims and serve them, while preaching them the Gospel of Jesus Christ by the way they live and act towards other people.
With gratitude and love, your brother,