Supposedly Defending Christian Civilization - Putin Savages Churches

Robert McConnell
August 22, 2022

Putin’s demonic war against Ukraine (and the west) is a comprehensive war – diplomatic, informational, military, and economic – and an integral part of each component is his intention to destroy the people of Ukraine and their unique culture. And part of Ukraine’s culture is religious.

Not that he shows the slightest inclination toward Christ’s teachings, religion is part of Putin’s war. He cannot stand anything other than the Russian Orthodox Church on the territory of the onetime Russian Empire.

When he launched his invasion of Ukraine Putin linked the ground war to a “spiritual” one.

From the beginning, Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church, Putin’s cassocked henchman, blessed the Russian troops (surely including the “little green men”) and proclaimed the war a metaphysical conflict between the faithful and the decadent West (note – against the West – not just Ukraine).  

As Putin’s thuggish military employed its scorched earth offensive, Moscow often characterizes the war as. among other things, defending Christian civilization. [It is astounding what God must put up with in His name.]

Whether Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Ukrainian Catholic Church, Roman Catholic Church, Protestant Churches, or evangelical churches, all such clergy and churches are targets. Destroying any religion other than those compliant with Russian Orthodox hierarchy is a fundamental part of Putin’s war and needs to be understood in the West.

Yesterday National Review published an article on a subset of Putin’s malevolent war on religions focusing on the destruction of Ukrainian Baptist Churches.

It is set out here and this aspect of the unprovoked and totally unnecessary and unjustified war deserves greater attention.


400 Ukrainian Baptist Churches Lost


August 21, 2022

Worshippers leave Sunday service at Sukovska Baptist church in Druzhkivka, Ukraine, June 19, 2022. Services were held in a small tent in the back of the church because the building was heavily damaged by a recent missile strike. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

About 400 of Ukraine’s 2,300 Baptist churches have been lost during the war with Russia, according to Yaroslav Pyzh, president of the Ukrainian Baptist Theological Seminary.

Pyzh told Baptist Press that the displacement of Ukrainian people as a result of the ongoing war has led to entire congregations ceasing to exist:

“Our main challenge in the future, when the war will be over, is to bridge the gap in leadership that we lost,” Pyzh said. “And sadly, the longer the war goes, the more the gap’s going to be. The church is not buildings. It’s people leaving that place and relocating to the United States, and with people relocating to Germany, or people relocating to other places. And with those people, pastors left too.”

Pyzh also said that as Western attention has been less focused on Ukraine, “donations are dropping down big time, not like we had two or three months ago. People are just tired of the war, but I see a tremendous decrease in donations.”

Ukraine has long been a hub for Evangelical Christianity in Eastern Europe, and the country had the largest Baptist population in continental Europe before the war, with over 100,000 believers. As I wrote in February, Russia’s war poses a direct threat to their religious freedom. Baptists in the Russian-occupied portions of eastern Ukraine have faced persecution since 2014 when Russia first invaded, with the Baptist Hymnal banned and the Ukrainian Baptist Union declared a terrorist group. One older Baptist pastor in Luhansk said the persecution was worse than what he experienced under the Soviet Union.

Vladimir Putin’s idea of “spiritual security,” which involves using the Russian Orthodox Church as a vehicle for national and cultural unity, does not have room for Baptists. The Russian government has long used its anti-terrorism and anti-evangelism laws to target Evangelical Christians. Ukraine, on the other hand, has had much more religious freedom since the fall of communism, which has allowed its Baptist population (which has been around since the 1800s) to grow and flourish.

Putin would be happy if the hundreds of congregations lost due to the war never return. Pyzh is focused on rebuilding, with Nehemiah as his guide. He told Baptist Press, “It’s not only rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. It’s rebuilding the nation of Israel, of worshiping God. . . . That’s the same thing here in Ukraine.”

The introductory comments are Mr. McConnell's and do not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation or the Foundation's Friends of Ukraine Network.

Bob McConnell

Coordinator, External Relations

U.S.-Ukraine Foundation’s Friends of Ukraine Network

Robert A. McConnell is a co-founder of the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation and Coordinator of External Relations for the Foundation’s Friends of Ukraine Network. He is Principal of R.A. McConnell and Associates. Previously, he has served as head of the Government Advocacy Practice at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, Vice President – Washington for CBS, Inc, and Assistant Attorney General in the Department of Justice during the Reagan Administration.