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Published On: Mon, Oct 6th, 2014

Ukraine: Christians threatened with firing squads, Red Cross worker killed

Christians in Ukraine are claiming that rebels are targeting churches, threatening the use of firing squads and abducting pastors. The political struggle between the pro-Russian separatists and the Ukrainian government in Kiev
has created a sensitive situation despite the ceasefire.

photo by Guillaume Speurt from Vilnius, Lithuania via wikimedia commons

photo by Guillaume Speurt from Vilnius, Lithuania via wikimedia commons

The new reports include attacks on Donetsk airport, a key site in the conflict, and a Red Cross aid worker was killed by shelling in Donetsk.

Seventh Day Adventist minister Sergei Litovchenko was abducted by pro-Russian gunmen during a church service in Horlivka, in the Donetsk region. This is just one of many reports of infringements on religious practice within the rebel-controlled eastern regions.

The Institute for Religious Freedom (IRF), based in Kiev, has recorded numerous incidents of religious persecution that took place in June and July. In August, Human Rights Watch reported several cases of arbitrary detention and torture, which had been largely overlooked by the media. 

Word of Life Church in Donetsk had its building taken over by the rebels on August 13. Pastor Leonid Padun wrote on his blog the following day: “There are no words to express the pain and sorrow! For over twenty years we have invested [our] hearts, our finances into the church building, and now we are deprived of the opportunity to gather for prayer and worship to God.”

In September Padun wrote again to encourage his church: “I believe that these times of suffering will make us stronger in faith, refining us, changing our character, and making us more like Christ. […] God has so much good in store for the Church, for our city and our country!”

Clashes between pro-Russia separatists and Ukrainian government forces have killed more than 3,500 people since April. Separatists, who support the Orthodox faith and have spoken critically of Protestantism as a sect, have detained several church members in the past but always released them quickly.

Pastor Sergei Litovchenko

Pastor Sergei Litovchenko

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