On one level and at best it has felt a bit like watching the Berlin Wall coming down, or Aung Sang becoming an MP in Myanma-Burma or Nelson Mandela being rehabilitated in South Africa and a country opening up. This is an evolving situation and it is far from over, but praise God that Parliament has unanimously turned to a Christian to be the interim President. Pray for Oleksandr Turchynov, who is a well-known Baptist pastor and opposition politician. Pray for wisdom for him and the ministerial team that are appointed today as they attempt to find a safe path to steer the nation forward, even as Russian tanks manoeuvre on their border and the country’s financial crisis deepens . . . For BBC web coverage of the situation, see here and here.
Ukraine is very much a country of two halves. There are virtually no evangelical Christians in the Crimea, for instance, and far fewer evangelical churches in the more heavily industrialised Eastern half. In Soviet days, half of all Russia’s Baptist and Pentecostals were to be found in western Ukraine, and the churches there have continued to grow. Despite the extreme difficulty in getting permission to build churches, or to obtain discipleship material, over 50 Christian agencies are heavily involved in the life of the nation, serving schools, prisons, summer camps and soup kitchens to bring people the word of the Lord. (The average wage is something in the region of a mere £1000 a year). In this large, largely flat country where many Christians have perished in the last century, it has been wonderful to see people praying openly in public. But discrimination against Christians still exists, and it is very important to pray for how this whole scenario develops.
Pray for political developments
Having been so badly treated in prison and at the mercy of her arch rival, Viktor Yanukovych, it was moving to see Yuliya Tymoshenko addressing the crowds from her wheelchair- but it is worth remembering that she proved so divisive a politician when she was Prime Minister that Ukraine lost most of the benefits of the Orange Revolution earlier this century. She is a definite possible to be the next President of the nation, but will her heart incline her to operate along partisan lines? How far that would be from Oleksandr Turchynov’s stated search for unification and healing of a nation riven between those who look to Russia and those who look in an entirely different direction: towards America and the EU.
How different the face of Europe is these days! It was symbolised for me this week by seeing the Polish Foreign Minister representing the EU – something that would have been utterly unthinkable not so many decades ago. EU policy has hardly distinguished itself, however, having promised the Ukraine funds and support that have not been forthcoming.
There have been strong rumours that the EU has made serious efforts (i.e. with money) to secure the support of Ukraninan politicians, because it wants to bring the nations’ huge oil fields and wheat fields under the European umbrella. We probably have far more to repent of than to be proud of. Europe has never really known what to do with the twenty odd nations that suddenly wanted to become part of Europe when the Berlin Wall came down. Meanwhile we can take it for granted that discussions in the Kremlin will be exceedingly heated. Economic riposte is more likely than military ones, but let’s stay in prayer that nothing untoward comes from those Russian military exercises . . .
The riot police from the elite Berkut [“Golden Eagle”] special forces unit, who have tortured many in recent weeks, are still around, albeit no longer immediately in Kiev. And then there are the Nationalists – most of whom were formally members of the ruling Communist Party. As surely as if it has been refreshing to see people praying for their country, this type of nationalism is another matter altogether. The country has risen against the corruption that is endemic at every level of the nation – but the fact remains that it has no natural affinity with either Brussels or Washington.
The world is now rather holding its breath to see how Russia responds. The expenses spent on the Winter Olympics ($34 billion) have been nothing short of megalomaniac. Even though Ukraine itself is rich in oil, Russia still holds the key to Ukraine’s gas supplies, not to mention financial loans.
May the Lord chart a way forward not only for the Ukraine but also for the political challenge (and massive potential bill!) that is likely to be involved in dealing with a state that is drifting at a time when Russia is peeved with it. Putin’s attempt to form an Economic Eurasian Union with the former members of the Soviet Union led him to offer generous terms to the Ukraine. The EU could find itself picking up a tab for tens of billions of dollars at a time when it has few spare financial reserves.
Many in Russia itself see this as a ‘mutiny’ and an insult – almost as if it were an attack on Russia itself. Historically and economically Russia is a great deal more in touch with Ukraine than the EU is. (Let’s not forget that the main reason why so many in eastern Ukraine support Russia is because Stalin moved huge numbers of Russians into the region as part of his ‘population exchange’ programme).
Let’s keep our eyes on the Lord, folks . . .
Lord, we join with the prayers of many in asking You to make this a time of spiritual opportunity in this crisis that has broken out on the bridge between East and West. We pray You will keep Ukraine from imploding by its own internal tensions, or from being manipulated by outside countries and bring many people to renewed faith in You. .
Take people far beyond superstition and prejudice deep into the heart of God. Grant anointing and insight in the churches to move beyond denominational traditions into the very flow and heart of God to be a living witness for You in the heart of the nation. In Jesus’ name, bless the Ukraine!