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Ukrainian believers share glimpse of life amid conflict, ask for prayercomment (0)

May 15, 2014

By Brian Harris

Ukrainian believers share glimpse of life amid conflict, ask for prayer

Did you not know this place is dangerous?” Pavel, a Ukrainian pastor, asked as I walked through Independence Square in Kiev on May 7. “What did your wife think (about this trip)?”

I quickly replied, “There are a lot of people praying for me right now while I walk your streets. I wanted to be here so they will be able to see what the Square has become now and so others can pray for you.”

Ukraine has been headline news since February when peaceful political protests turned deadly in Independence Square and in March when Russia seized the Ukrainian territory of Crimea. Violent demonstrations erupted in other eastern Ukrainian cities in April.  

And while the unrest continues in various parts of the country, Independence Square easily tells the story of what happened there.

Every entrance is blockaded and guarded by Ukrainian military members. Tires, scrap metal and burned-out shells of cars are all around. The bare cement where the passionate fingers of protestors dug to pull out pavers to throw at the police stands as a reminder. The blood of the Heavenly Hundred — as the ones who lost their lives are called — is replaced by makeshift memorials. Candles line the street. 

Walking the streets

As I walked the streets with my interpreter, Sasha, the military members moved in and out of tents in the area. They now depend on donations from the Ukrainian people to feed them, and they want the true story of what happened told.

Sasha, a believer and native of Kiev who also spent five years in the United States, shared about the historical significance of Eastern versus Western Ukraine. 

Eastern Ukraine had previously been more of a Russian area before being unified as Ukraine, he explained. Its people speak Russian and it influences everything including their buildings. Western Ukraine has more European influences and thus its own style and language, he added.

The reason for their unification points to religion, Sasha said. While much of Europe has traditionally been influenced by the Catholic Church, Eastern and Western Ukraine’s influence came from the Eastern Orthodox Church, similar to Russia.

And so with three distinct groups grasping for power — one fighting for the continued unity of Eastern and Western Ukraine, another eager to let all of Eastern Ukraine go to Russia and another wanting to allow all of Ukraine to join with Russia — the unrest continues to grow, Sasha said. It was these three views that led to the violence in Independence Square earlier this year, he noted.

As Sasha and I said goodbye to Pavel, he said, “Please pray for us.”

I smiled, shook his hand and promised to pray for them, and that I would ask my friends to do the same.

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