Ukrainian Baptist appeals for prayer as violence spreads

Pavel Unguryan, a Baptist leader in Ukraine, says only prayer will stop growing violence and bloodshed in his country, where security forces are attempting to put down protesters calling for Ukraine's president to resign.

By Robert Dilday

A Ukrainian Baptist leader is appealing for prayer as two months of increasingly violent demonstrations in his country have pitted security forces against protestors calling for the resignation of President Viktor Yanukovych.

“Today, as never before, Ukraine desperately needs prayer,” said Pavel Unguryan, a Baptist who was a member of parliament from 2008-2012. “In light of recent events, we realize that only Almighty God can reconcile the conflicting parties and stop the violence and bloodshed in the country.”

UkraineUnguryan told the Baptist World Alliance that authorities are “ignoring the demands of hundreds of thousands” of protesters, which led “the enraged people [to take] matters into their own hands.”

The unrest grew out of weeks of largely peaceful protests prompted by Yanukovych’s decision last November to reject a trade deal with the European Union and sign an agreement with Russia instead. Anti-protest laws recently adopted by the government have sparked concerns that they will be used to squelch demonstrations and prohibit the right to free speech.

The New York Times reported clashes throughout the country this week, with protestors burning police buses, beating some officers and setting large numbers of tires on fire. In the past few days reports of extreme police brutality have emerged.

Unguryan, a Baptist youth leader in Ukraine who is a member of the BWA’s General Council, said “this confrontation resulted in a conflict which like a spark ignited the anger of protesters. In response the law enforcement officers used against protesters stun grenades, teargas, water cannons and traumatic weapons. The protesters ‘armed’ themselves with catapults and started hurling stones, tiles and fire bombs at the police. Thick black smoke from burning tires engulfed the [capital, Kiev].”

“We kindly ask you once again to join us in prayer and fasting for a peaceful solution of the situation in Ukraine,” he added.

BWA President John Upton joined Unguryan in his appeal. “Our prayers go with Ukrainian Baptists as they try to minister in this time of turmoil,” he said Jan. 24.

Upton, who is executive director of the Baptist General Association of Virginia, made an official visit to Ukraine last September, meeting with Yanukovych and members of parliament, as well as Unguryan and other Ukrainian Baptist leaders.

The All-Ukrainian Union of Associations of Evangelical Christians-Baptists, a member organization of the BWA, has more than 121,000 members in about 2,300 churches — one of the largest Baptist bodies in Europe.