Pentecostals persecuted in Ukrainian rebel areas


Religiia v Ukraine, 13 February 2015


For the first time in the years of Ukrainian independence, not all pastors of the Christians of Evangelical Faith [KhVE] of Donetsk and Luhansk provinces who planned to come to the provincial conference were able to do so. They were prevented by armed actions. It was in connection with events in the east that the annual conferences of Pentecostal Christians of these provinces were merged. Consequently, on 31 January 2015 about 80 ministers of both provinces gathered at Krasnoarmeisk, Religiia v Ukraine reports with reference to the website of Pentecostals of Ukraine.


The senior presbyter of the Association of KhVE churches of Donetsk province, Anatoly Beskrovnyi, reported that in the past year, 320 members left church congregations of the province, in the main persons displaced from the territories occupied by separatists of the DPR (before this Christians of Evangelical Faith numbered more than 3,000 in the province). In 2014, 98 persons received water baptism. By comparison to the Luhansk region, in Donetsk province the churches function with more stability, although two small congregations ceased to function because their members left these territories.


News about the state of affairs in Luhansk province was presented by Senior Presbyter Rostislav Velichko. He noted that today in the province churches are functioning freely only on territories that have been liberated by Ukrainian forces, in such cities as Severodonetsk, Kremennaia, and Lisichansk. These three places serve as the base for aid to people who remained on the territory of armed action in the ATO [Anti-Terrorism Operation] zone. Believers who did not leave occupied territories gather in their homes. When possible, they leave for free territory in order to get help to the needy through the checkpoints—bread, other products, and things. That is, the church is actively involved in social aid for people who are in occupied territory.


During the conference, with great thankfulness, Christians from the affected provinces spoke about the help that believers from various regions provided, especially from western Ukraine. Thanks to them, Donetsk and Luhansk churches are able to share help with "hungry and cold" people today. Today even the authorities turn to the church for help. When it is necessary to support a kindergarten or hospital, believers are always ready to respond. To the extent of their strength, Christians of Evangelical Faith provide victims clothing, produce, medicines, and, if necessary, financial help. As is known, after the liberation of Slaviansk, brigades from Rovno and other provinces arrived to restore the city. In all, about 1500 Pentecostals participated in this ministry. But the main thing is the good news about Christ.


Participants of the conference received a word of support from the senior bishop of TsKhVEU, Mikhail Panochko. He also served at the evening worship service of the Krasnoarmeisk church, at which evangelical Christians from various churches and denominations gathered.


"The roads there are very battered, but we reached Slaviansk fine, where we took part in a worship service in the Transfiguration church, whose pastor is Alexander Pavenko," Mikhail Panochko described. "This is the pastor whose two sons (Albert and Ruvim), along with two deacons (Vladimir Velichko and Viktor Bradarsky) were martyred by militants of the DPR in the summer of last year." In Slaviansk the senior bishops spoke with the widow and children of Viktor Bradarsky and gave brotherly advice. Also along with Vladimir Soloviev, the pastor of another Slaviansk church, New Life, he made an excursion around the city that suffered the consequences of armed actions.


"We were struck by the terrorists' hatred for our businessmen brothers whose business the militants tried to tear to the ground," Mikhail Panochko described. "This was how a furniture store suffered that had been established by the family of Pastor Alexander Pavenko. Some of the equipment was stolen by men of the DPR and carried away, and what they could not carry away they shelled and destroyed. At the same time, the buildings around the shops remained almost undamaged, which shows that the shelling was deliberate. It must be said that believers of KhVE churches in Slaviansk succeeded, both spiritually and materially, and this obviously evoked such strong envy and hatred from those who illegally took up arms and who spiritually supported and blessed such criminal actions."


Today believers of the Transfiguration church (it has 300 members) thank God for the preservation of their house of worship. The separatists stole only the television and radio studio and took computer equipment. Now the ministers have already restored the radio station of Christian broadcasts.


During the worship services in the east, prayer was made especially for peace. People want one thing—that the war end and the wounds of this land be healed as quickly as possible. (tr. by PDS, posted 13 February 2015)


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