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Hundreds of Russian Pastors Oppose War in Ukraine

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A woman holds a “Stop the war” placard in central Moscow during a protest against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, on March 3, 2022.

Ukrainian evangelicals have had enough.

Battered by a week of war, they have heard numerous prayers for peace uttered by their Russian colleagues. But they did not hear condemnation.

“Your unions have congratulated Putin, giving thanks for freedom of belief,” said Taras Dyatlik, the Overseas Council regional director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia. “The time has come to make use of that freedom.”

As Kyiv, Kharkiv, Kherson, and other cities have suffered missile strikes, the United Nations reports the death of more than 200 civilians. Ukraine’s State Emergency Service reports more than 2,000. The military casualties are disputed, with both nations claiming thousands of fatalities among the other’s ranks.

But rather than focusing on the numbers, Dyatlik, who coordinates a regional network of dozens of Protestant seminaries, turned to the Bible.

“Remember Mordechai and Esther,” he wrote March 1 in an open letter. “Do not be like Jehoshaphat, who entered into an alliance with Ahab, and was silent when God spoke through the prophet Micaiah.”

Dyatlik accused his Russian colleagues of buying into national rhetoric—first in 2014, when Russian-backed forces invaded the eastern region of Donbas—and again today. But “begging on my knees,” he leveraged his reputation with the heads of Russia’s evangelical unions—while acknowledging their difficult reality.

“You fear prison,” he said. “[But] do not be faithful to Putin. Be faithful to the body of Christ.”

A new draft law proposes a 15-year prison sentence for “fake” claims about the violence in Ukraine, as authorities crack down on Russians who call the “military operation” a “war.” The Russian parliament, the Duma, is scheduled to discuss such measures on Friday.

Dyatlik was not the only one frustrated. But instead of drawing from Scripture, his colleague Valerii Antoniuk appealed to history.

“Where are your Bonhoeffers, where are your Barths?” asked the head of the All-Ukrainian Union of Churches of Evangelical Christians-Baptists. “Your silence now is the blood and tears of Ukrainian children, mothers, and soldiers—that is on your hands.”

Pavel Kuznetsov, meanwhile, simply wants the correct word used—law or no law.

“Many believers in Russia are praying about the ‘situation’ in Ukraine. The situation is called WAR,” the pastor of Word of Life church in Boyarka, 15 miles southwest of Kyiv, wrote on Facebook. “And when you pray again, tell God it’s war, and we are being killed here.”

As of publication, more than 300 Russian evangelicals had reportedly received the message.

“The time has come when each of us must call things by their real names, while we still have a chance to escape punishment from above, and prevent the collapse of our country,” stated an open letter signed by a group of Russian pastors and other Protestant leaders. “We call on the authorities of our country to stop this senseless bloodshed!”

Their message was also biblical. It quoted…

This article was originally published at Christianity Today on March 3, 2022. Please click here to read the full text.

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