One Week In: What Christians Need to Know About the War in Ukraine

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One week ago, Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin authorized a military invasion against Ukraine. He tried to justify it based on false claims that Ukraine is committing “genocide” against Russian-backed separatist regions and that he needed to “de-nazify” the country. Since the invasion, it is estimated that over 1 million refugees from Ukraine have fled. So far, the port city of Kherson has completely fallen to Russian control, while the Russians continue to press on towards Kyiv from the north.


Quick Facts



The Background

Russian naval, air, and land military forces have launched an invasion of Ukraine, a neighboring European nation of 44 million people that until 1991 was under Soviet rule. Airports and military headquarters in Ukraine were struck first, including Boryspil International Airport in Kyiv, the nation’s capital. Russian military forces have landed in Ukraine’s large ports of Odessa and Mariupol as well. The Russian invasion came shortly after Russian President Vladimir Putin recognized two Russian-backed separatist regions of Eastern Ukraine, Donetsk and Luhansk, and began moving military forces into those regions to “maintain peace” there. The recognition of those separatist regions of Ukraine and the subsequent movement of the Russian military was seen as a likely prelude to war, undermining efforts by neighboring countries to avert war between the two nations.

The decision effectively shattered peace agreements made in 2015, which ended large-scale fighting. After recognizing the breakaway regions, Putin claimed they had “turned to Russia with a request for help” and that he was launching a “military operation to demilitarize and de-nazify Ukraine.” Within minutes after Putin’s address, aired late on February 24, Russian missiles began hitting targets in Ukraine. “Our actions are self-defense against threats,” Putin said, claiming that those living in the separatist regions had been subjected to “genocide,” a claim strongly denied by Ukraine, and also accusing the North American Treaty Organization conglomerate (NATO) of “supporting Ukrainian neo-Nazis.” Although Putin has insisted that he has no plans of occupying Ukraine, senior U.S. military officials now believe Russia wants to replace the current Ukrainian government with its own.

In response, Ukrainians have heeded President Volodymyr Zelensky’s call to “defend themselves,” who also imposed martial law. “Dear Ukrainian citizens, this morning Russia conducted strikes on our military infrastructure and our border guards. We’re introducing martial law on the whole territory of our country,” Zelensky said in a statement. Ukrainian military forces announced that they had eliminated dozens of Russian military personnel, including shooting down six Russian aircraft. Additionally, millions of Ukrainians have gridlocked highways as they attempt to free the country, and neighboring Eastern European nation Moldova has issued a “state of emergency” as they anticipate “tens of thousands” of refugees fleeing from the Russian invasion of their homes.


Where Things Stands Today

On Thursday, the Washington Post reported that “Ukraine and Russia say they have agreed to temporary local cease-fires to create ‘humanitarian corridors’ so civilians can be evacuated and food and medicine can be delivered.”

As mentioned, Ukraine has already lost quite a bit of ground to the Russians. Kherson has been taken, and the New York Times is reporting that “Russian troops have encircled the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol in the south and the bombardment has cut power, water, and heat to the people.”

It is estimated that one million people have fled the country so far. The United Nations predicted that 10 million Ukrainians could be displaced, which is almost one-quarter of the population.

Russian troops have been indiscriminately shelling civilian targets, inflicting heavy damage on residential areas.

While Kyiv has not been taken, there is a massive Russian convoy descending from the north, threatening the city.


America’s Response So Far

Polling suggests that only a small portion of Americans believe the United States should play a “major role” in the military conflict between Ukraine and Russia. Instead, economic sanctions against Russia have been issued by the U.S. and other NATO countries in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, hitting Nord Stream 2 AG, a company that built an $11 billion natural gas pipeline connecting Russia and Germany. China, however, has expressed opposition to the sanctions and criticized the U.S, suggesting that its “support for NATO’s expansion had left President Putin with few options.

As of Thursday, March 3, the U.S has issued multiple rounds of sanctions on Russia and Russian oligarchs. However, the Biden Administration has refused to sanction Russian oil.

The U.S. has also announced substantial military aid. According to Conversation, on February 26 “President Joe Biden announced an additional $350 million in U.S. weapons, on top of the U.S.-provided Stinger anti-aircraft weapons and Javelin missile systems being transferred, with U.S. authorization, from Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania to Ukraine. The U.S. has also reportedly redirected Mi-17 helicopters originally intended for Afghanistan.”

However, the Biden Administration seems unwilling to come down hard on Russian energy assets, refusing to ban Russian oil imports. And they refuse to take steps to increase American energy production and restore American energy independence, such as restarting the Keystone Pipeline or drilling on federal lands. Nile Gardiner, foreign policy analyst at The Heritage Foundation, tweeted that “Joe Biden’s refusal to sanction Russia’s energy sector is a staggering failure of leadership and an incredible act of appeasement as Russian tanks encircle Kyiv. What message does this send to the enemies of the free world, from Moscow to Beijing and Tehran?”


What Should Christians Do?

As the conflict continues to unfold, here are three things that Christians can do.

First, pray.

In Luke 18:1, Jesus tells his disciples a parable in order to teach them that “they ought always to pray and not lose heart.” So, Christians must first and foremost go to our sovereign God on behalf of the Ukrainian and Russian people and entreat Him to bring an end to this war (Psalm 115:3). Let us call on the highest authority, who sits on the eternal throne, asking for grace in the name of Jesus. Let us pray that God would bring an end to the invasion in Ukraine. You may be tempted to lose heart, but when you feel like that, that is the best time to pray.

Also, Christians should pray for vulnerable citizens of Ukraine who are being killed by Russian troops. Pray for their protection. Pray also for orphans in Ukraine seeking adoption. As the government is unsettled, those in the process of adoption are being interrupted, and potentially delayed for extended periods of time. Pray that God works in the hearts of surrounding nations to continue welcoming Ukrainian refugees. Pray that the global strategies to counter Putin apply maximum pressure on Russia to cease this evil and violent attack.

 Further, pray that God would change Putin’s heart. 1 Timothy 2:1-2 tells us that we should make “prayers…for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” So aggressively pray that God would change Putin’s heart, because He says he can: “The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes” (Proverbs 21:1).

We should also pray for the church in Ukraine. Pray they have the courage and wisdom to decide how and when to best meet under these circumstances. Finally, pray for the Ukrainian government and the strength of the Ukrainian people to endure.

Second, beware of media propaganda — especially wartime propaganda.

Right now, Ukraine is in the “fog of war.” Multiple reports regarding Ukrainian soldiers being killed at “Snake Island” and the “Ghost of Kyiv” have already been proven to be false. Christians serve the God of all truth, so we must be cautious to not get swept up in convenient or simplistic media narratives or propaganda. Be careful what you share on social media. Do your own research on everything. And don’t be surprised that the situation may be more complex and complicated than the mainstream media makes it sound.

Third, look for opportunities to share God’s truth with a hurting and watching world.

As the horrors of war unfold, they shatter the postmodern illusion of relative truth. As Dr. Al Mohler of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary recently explained on The Briefing:

“Entire structures of post-secular thinking involving such things as critical theory have been based upon the idea that any claim to truth is a barely disguised claim to power. It is oppressive. It is patriarchal. It represents hegemony. All those words are current in the academy, and we’re supposed to avoid them until all of a sudden someone says, “Hey, it’s wrong to invade another country.” Well, do you mean that as an attitude? Are you expressing an emotion? Or do you mean that it’s actually morally wrong?”

As Christians, we know that unjust wars are wrong because we serve a God of justice who made mankind in His image. As our non-Christian friends, neighbors, and coworkers confront the stark moral realities of the evils of war, we should be ready to offer the life-giving Gospel of Jesus Christ as the only alternative, the only hope for mankind in a sinful and war-torn world.


Conclusion

Thank you for reading our one-week summary of the situation in Ukraine. As the situation in Ukraine continues to develop, make sure to check back in at the Freedom Center for updates and commentary from a Christian perspective.