“The spirit of communism never left Russia”
Over 500 representatives of evangelical churches and organisations in Europe attend the European Leadership Forum conference in Poland. A pastor from Kyiv shared details about the response of Christians during the invasion.
WISLA (POLAND) · 22 MAY 2022 · 15:14 CET
On the first night of the European Leadership Forum (ELF), which this year brings together between 500 and 600 evangelical Christians, the war in Ukraine was one of the first talking points. Stefan Gustavsson, member of the ELF steering committee interviewed Jaroslaw Lukasik, who leads the forum’s work in Eastern Europe.
The main group of the Eastern European Leadership Forum (EELF) network is formed by Russian-speaking Christians in Belarus, Ukraine, Russia and Moldova, among others.
“People in Ukraine have lived in fear of this war for a long time. What is the reason for the Russian aggression against Ukraine?”, Gustavsson asked.
“In the West we have forgotten what war is, but war is still a part of humanity”, Lukasik began. He said there were many reasons why Russia went to war had no doubt about the main reason: “From my perspective, it is about the spirit of communism, which never left Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union. We condemned Nazism, but we did not condemn Communism. So, when Putin saw the weakness of the West, this spirit came back, perhaps with seven even worse spirits”, Lukasik said, referring to Matthew 12:45.
“It is about rebuilding the empire”, Lukasik continued. “The first victims are Ukraine and Belarus, which many Russians think do not exist as separate nations. But Ukraine exists, and all the resistance that the Ukrainians are putting forward is a testament to the existence of the nation Ukraine”, the pastor emphasised.
“The Christian church must be under enormous pressure in this situation. What has been its response, what has happened between God's people?”, Gustavsson asked further. “Disciples of Christ should be where there is pain and suffering, and I do not know of any churches in Ukraine that are not active. For example, many Christians help evacuate people from dangerous places. Churches have taken in hundreds of thousands of refugees”, said Lukasik.
According to the Eastern European Leadership Forum, there are more than 14 million displaced people in Ukraine. The majority of them are still in Ukraine, in the western part of the country, but many also crossed the borders. In Poland alone, there are 2.8 million refugees.
“At the beginning of the war, churches functioned as hospitals. It is also a great opportunity to give spiritual help to people, because people really want to pray now. War is a situation where you face evil, and then you need love”, Lukasik emphasised.
Praying for Ukraine
So how can other Christians pray for Ukraine and the Ukrainian churches? “Do it! We need prayer, we need God. I believe that only God can help us. No one knows what will happen in a week, a month, six months. But we trust in God, so we must pray”, stressed Lukasik, and elaborated: “We should ask for victory. About victory for justice, for only justice can give lasting peace, and about victory for truth. I believe prayers are precious to God when we can also act in line with our prayers. In the midst of this disaster, we see a lot of beautiful response in the form of solidarity, care and love from all nations. It is great to receive all this love”, said Lukasik.
Help in the long term
A practical example is to start a partnership with churches or organizations that provide support to Ukraine. “And it is important to be aware that the war can be long-lasting, and that the need for support can also be long-lasting”, Jaroslaw Lukasik concluded.
Renewal in Europe
Adam Szabados leads the European Leadership Forum’s work in Hungary. He recalled one of the goals of the ELF, namely to renew the biblical church and bring Europe back to the gospel.
Szabados told of a man he met in connection with a relief mission he attended to the western part of Ukraine. The man had fled Irpin. Two weeks before the war started, his pastor had spoken about Acts. “The pastor told this man’s congregation that if we do not obey Acts 1.8, what it says will happen”. In this verse, Jesus tells the disciples that ‘you shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth’.
“It is about the dispersal of the church in Jerusalem. ‘Perhaps’, said the man I met, ‘God is doing something in Europe by spreading many Ukrainian Christians to Europe’”.
Adam Szabados, speaking at the opening night of the European Leadership Forum 2022 conference, 21 May 2022. / Photo: Petter Olsen.
Refugees as Christian witnesses
Szabados showed a picture of a 16-year-old boy who had been accommodated by a family in his congregation. When he arrived, his first question to the family was this: “Are you Christians? Because I am”. And he gave them a Bible, which he had brought with him. His parents are not Christians, but he is, Szabados said, continuing: “Two to three weeks later, I took the boy with me to a Hungarian high school, where he presented his testimony in front of at least a hundred students”.
When the war began, Ukrainian refugees flooded into Hungary. According to Szabados, approx. 700,000 have been helped in Hungary, and about a third of the Hungarian population has been involved.
There was chaos at the train stations, because every day tens of thousands of Ukrainians arrived. Groups of Hungarian Christians then went to the stations to clean the toilets so that weary refugees could get to clean toilets. This was a testimony to non-Christians in Hungary about Christian charity, said Adam Szabados.
A new Iron Curtain
Ukrainians are suffering greatly due to the Russian aggression. Millions have left their homes, and many no longer have a home.
“Let us pray that the Lord must meet their needs, perhaps through us, said the forum leader”, and added one thing that was also on his heart: “There are no Russian Christians here at the ELF conference right now. A new iron curtain has sunk in Europe. Let us pray for those who are behind this Iron Curtain now, so that they may be good witnesses to their own nation in this dark time”.
The Soviet Union invaded Hungary in 1956. “My father saw the Soviet tanks rolling in. He was a strong opponent of communism all his life, but he always said to us: ‘Do not hate Russians, they also suffer’”, said Adam Szabados, concluding with a call: “Let us pray that this war can renew Europe through God's wonderful ways, and renew the church and help us evangelize. Let us pray for the Ukrainian Christians and for the Ukrainian people, that God will show them mercy, and that they will experience grace and justice”.
This article was first published in Norwegian in Sambaandet and used with permission.