The life of evangelical churches and their spiritual leaders has been portrayed in some recent films and series. Can they help us start conversations?
Ukrainians need to see that their striving for justice and peace only makes sense in a God who defines what is right and wrong
Last year’s Maidan Revolution in Ukraine was sparked by rampant social injustice, unimaginable corruption, and the abuse of political power. From the early days of the peaceful protests in Kiev’s Independence Square in February, Christians and local churches were involved.
People gathered in prayer tents, shared the Gospel, and handed out food and clothing to protesters and other visitors. When the protest turned violent and the bloodshed began, many faithful Christians continued to serve as chaplains, helping the wounded and providing food and medical treatment.
As the conflict worsened and war erupted in Eastern Ukraine, many churches became involved in humanitarian aid not only to refugees fleeing the area, but also to members of the Army. They helped children at orphanages, becoming foster families, and provided assistance to people who were trapped in the war zone.
Many of our fellow Christians have become chaplains or volunteers, faithfully serving in word and deed to people in desperate need. The small Reformed church that I pastor in Kiev, continues to collect food and cloth for refugees and provides essential goods for Ukrainian Army soldiers.
Tragically, the situation in the separatist-controlled regions of Ukraine is desperate. Christians have been arrested and beaten for trying to help others, while church pastors and deacons have been tortured and killed. Some church buildings and a seminary complex in Donetsk have been overrun by separatists. One of our own Reformed Church pastors in Donetsk has been forced to flee the city with his family. He has now started a new Reformed Church in Western Ukraine, for refugees who have also fled the conflict.
And yet amid the horror of war, there is a flicker of light beginning to emerge. The role that Christians have played in meeting the needs of our fellow-Ukrainians has been evident to the population. People have genuinely appreciated this help and their attitude towards Protestant churches is improving. Hearts are softening.
These tumultuous events have become stimuli for many Christians to rethink the role of the Church in the area of social justice. We now have a much deeper understanding that the Church cannot remain silent when confronted by injustice, abuse of power and many other social issues.
We understand that we are compelled to raise our voices and take a stand for the oppressed, for widows and orphans, and for the persecuted. We must preach to our nation the saving gospel of Jesus Christ.
Ukrainians need to see that their striving for justice and peace only makes sense in a God who defines what is right and wrong. If there is no God of justice and mercy then everything is meaningless. We are, in effect, reduced to being just animals that are somehow trying to survive in this world, who vehemently fight with each other in order to get power, control, and influence for this short period of human life. Ultimately, we die and our bodies are returned to the earth. In living like this, there is no hope, no comfort, no future.
The social, political and economic situation in Ukraine is chaotic. Life is hard for so many people, and yet in spite of this we can still praise God! Because it is in enduring these hardships that He teaches us to find comfort, strength, and hope only in Him, serve others for His glory, and boldly proclaim the Gospel to the people of Ukraine.
Sergey Nakul is the pastor of Grace Reformed Church in Kiev, Ukraine.
This article was first published in Solas magazine. Solas is published quarterly in the U.K. Click here to learn more or subscribe.