Few Christians outside of Ukraine have been paying close attention to the crisis so far.
But they should.
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With Russian President Vladimir Putin poised to invade and occupy this large, religious and democratic country, it’s time for Christians around the world to start focusing on the crisis and turning to God in prayer, especially for peace.
As the crisis intensified, here are three facts all Christians should know about Ukraine.
1. Ukraine is one of the most Christian countries in Europe — and Christians there urgently need our prayers.
Of the country’s 43 million citizens, 78% identify as members of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, up from 39% in 1991.
About 10% identify as Roman Catholics.
Only 2% are Evangelical Christians, yet Evangelicals play an influential role in Ukrainian government and society.
In 2021, Christianity Today reported that “more than 500 evangelicals were elected to all levels of government. One even heads a major city—Rivne, in western Ukraine—as mayor.”
“Ukraine has become the epicenter of a global spiritual battle,” said Pavel Unguryan, coordinator of Ukraine’s National Prayer Breakfast, told Christianity Today.
“Today, as never before, our nation needs unity, peace, and the authority of God’s Word.”
Let’s be praying faithfully and without ceasing for the Church in Ukraine to be brave and bold in their witness for Christ.
2. Some 200,000 Jews still live in Ukraine — and they urgently need our prayers, too.
Today, upwards of 500,000 Israelis are from Ukraine or have Ukrainian roots.
Most Ukrainian Jews fled to the Jewish state when the Soviet Union imploded in 1991.
But since Putin invaded Crimea in 2014, an estimated 19,000 Jews have made aliyah to Israel from Ukraine.
Now, Israeli officials and the Jewish Agency are making emergency preparations for the possible arrival of large numbers of Jews fleeing Ukraine, perhaps as many as 200,000.
Please pray for the Ukrainian Jewish community to be safe and courageous, and for them all to be able to safely leave and come to Israel as new citizens soon.
3. Putin believes Ukraine is Russian sovereign territory — that’s why he’s willing to ignite the biggest land war in Europe since World War II to get what he wants.
Putin has been saying this for years, but few people have been listening.
At a NATO summit in Bucharest in 2008, for example, Putin claimed that “Ukraine is not even a state” but rather “a part of [Russian] territory in Eastern Europe.”
On March 18, 2014, Putin gave a speech declaring the annexation of the Ukrainian province of Crimea into sovereign Russian territory.
Here are excerpts from that important address:
• “There are millions of Russians living in Ukraine and in Crimea.”
• “As for Crimea, it was and remains a Russian, Ukrainian, and Crimean-Tatar land.”
• “As I have said many times already, we are one people. Kiev is the mother of Russian cities. Ancient Rus is our common source and we cannot live without each other.”
Vladislav Surkov, long one of Putin’s most trusted advisors, has repeatedly spoken of the need of Moscow to invade and re-occupy all of Ukraine, claiming that there is no such thing as an independent Ukraine.
In 2014, it was Surkov who advised Putin to seize Crimea and later the eastern region of Donbas.
In an interview published in February 2020, Surkov stated, “There is no Ukraine. There is Ukrainian-ness. That is, a specific disorder of the mind, an astonishing enthusiasm for ethnography, driven to the extreme.”
In an interview with the Financial Times just last June, Surkov stated, “Ukrainians are very well aware that … their country does not really exist.”
Until Russia retakes all of Ukraine, “the fight for Ukraine will never cease,” he said. “It may die down, it may flare up, but it will continue, inevitably.”
Though Surkov was recently relieved of his duties by Putin, he said he loved working with Putin on the re-taking of Ukrainian territory.
“I am proud that I was part of the reconquest [of Crimea]. This was the first open geopolitical counter-attack by Russia [against the West] and such a decisive one," he said. "That was an honor for me... Could it have been done better? Of course it could... But we have got what we have got.”