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As Russia Tortures Evangelical Christians, US Baptists Urge House Speaker Johnson to Take Action

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More than two years into the Russia-Ukraine war, evangelical Christians in Ukraine continue to face being tortured, having their places of worship shut down, and experiencing other horrors at the hands of Russian soldiers, according to a letter Southern Baptist leaders wrote to House Speaker Mike Johnson. 

On Monday, Daniel Darling, director of the Land Center for Cultural Engagement at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary; Richard Land, the former president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC); and Ukrainian church leaders sent a leader to Johnson asking him to "consider the plight of Christians" in the Eastern European country. 

"Despite Russian efforts to paint Ukraine as intolerant of Christians, it is the Russian government that has aggressively harmed peaceful law abiding faithful Christians in the occupied areas of Ukraine," the letter says.

Johnson is a former trustee of the ERLC and as the newly appointed House Speaker he's under pressure for a $95 billion package, that includes aid to Ukraine, that was passed in the Senate in February but still has to be approved in the House. 

House conservatives who opposed the funding package have threatened to trigger a vote to remove Johnson from office, Christianity Today reports.

"Speaker Johnson has a really difficult job right now, maybe the most difficult a speaker has ever had," Darling told Religion News Service. "I think he does in his heart want to support Ukraine."

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But politics aside, Baptist leaders are looking to shine a spotlight on the religious liberties being violated in areas of Ukraine.

"Evangelicals and Baptists are being mistreated in the Russian-occupied territories significantly," Darling said. "We've lost probably 300 churches. Pastors are really struggling over there, wherever Russians have taken over." 

On September 11, 2022, Pastor Mikhaylo Brytsyn of Grace Evangelical Church, was having Sunday service when armed soldiers with masks walked in, PBS reports.

"They said, 'You have to stop this. You have to stop these meetings.' And he said, 'I'm a pastor. I cannot stop the will of the people.' And they said, 'If you will not stop, you're going to see the blood,'" Pastor Mark Sergeev of New Generation Church told the outlet of the encounter. 

Earlier that year, Russian soldiers all but destroyed Sergeev's church. According to the letter written to Johnson, fellow members of his church were "interrogated and tortured."

"As of this moment there is not a single Baptist church left in Melitopol," the letter explains. 

Both Sergeev and Brytsyn now led underground churches in private homes because of fear of angering the Russian regime. 

"They start to fingerprint everybody. They copied their I.D., make pictures, addresses," Brytsyn explained. "We were accused of being an extremist organization. We were accused of being German spies and then American spies."

As CBN News recently reported, the daily bombardment of Ukraine continues as the church there stands in the gap for its people and nation.

"Those people who decided to stay in this conflict zone are asking for help, and being here is extremely important," Pastor Andrii Skantsev told CBN News. "And to remain here is probably what it means to be a Christian, to show Jesus Christ." 

Meanwhile, Baptist leaders are asking for Johnson to step in to assist Ukrainian pastors. 

"We believe that God has put you in this position 'for such a time as this,'" the leaders wrote to the Speaker. 

"We desire peace. But more than that, we desire a peace that is based on the principles of justice," it continues. "Our God is both perfectly just and the author of perfect peace." 

"We appreciate your leadership, are praying for your wisdom and courage as you consider support for Ukraine," the document concluded. 
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About The Author


Talia Wise has served as a multi-media producer for, CBN Newswatch, The Prayer Link, and CBN News social media outlets. Prior to joining CBN News she worked for Fox Sports Florida producing and reporting. Talia earned a master’s degree in journalism from Regent University and a bachelor's degree from the University of Virginia.