KYIV/BUDAPEST (BosNewsLife)– Ukrainian Christians continued to pray around the clock in a special prayer tent at the capital Kyiv’s Independence Square where as many as 200,000 people rallied Sunday, December 15, against the government and for European Union integration.
Missionaries told BosNewsLife that the prayer initiative is part of a wider Christian effort to “share the Gospel” in this volatile former Soviet nation.
“In the midst of violence and instability, Christians continue to show up at the protests daily, praying 24/7 in a prayer tent on the square, distributing Scriptures and talking to people, providing food and warm clothing to those in need,” said Russian Ministries, a major mission group in the former Soviet Union.
It comes amid Christian concern about tensions in the capital where several people were injured after a police crackdown on Ukrainians who have been bracing freezing temperatures for several weeks.
“After promising a few hours before not to use force against the protesters, at 1am on Wednesday, December 11, Ukrainian authorities again sent riot police to forcibly disperse the protesters,” Russian Ministries said.
“This time the protesters were more prepared, and they managed to maintain control of the central square of Kyiv for nine hours until the police retreated in the morning.”
Several demonstrators were reportedly injured in the clashes. Over the weekend, a Ukrainian court freed nine detained demonstrators.
Yet, “The Ukrainian government remains firm in refusing to give in to the protesters’ demands, which include the president’s resignation, however the momentum of the protests continue to grow,” Russian Ministries noted.
Its representatives and pastors have written an open letter to churches urging them to care for the victims of recent police violence against demonstrators.
Churches “should not call people to political action, much less violence, but should instead call people to responsible personal choices,” wrote Michael Cherenkov, vice president of Russian Ministries’ partner group, the Association for Spiritual Renewal (ASR), and other officials. The letter said churches should be “and to caring for the victims of violence and those falsely accused, to helping those in need, and to praying for peace, justice, and the well-being of the entire nation.”
The Christian leaders said they were convinced that churches should use “spiritual and moral arguments and means to regulate the present situation for the good of the Ukrainian nation.” They added that “We call everyone to actively pray for the Ukrainian nation, to help and protect, to make peace and share the Gospel in these difficult times.”
U.S. Senator John McCain, who also met religious leaders, told some 200,000 EU supporters in Kyiv Sunday, December 15, that he supports their desire for democracy and European integration. He took to the stage, while nearby thousands attended rival, pro-government, rallies.
The protests came as the European Union announced it had suspended talks with Ukraine on EU integration.
However, “The free world is with you, America is with you, I am with you”, McCain told en enthusiastic crowd. He earlier told reporters that he has no doubt as to where Ukraine belongs. “We believe that the future of the Ukraine lies in Europe,” he said.
“We’ve met with government officials and with members of the opposition…. We want a peaceful resolution which can be achieved through dialogue and at the same time make sure that every effort is made to make sure that Ukraine is aligned with Europe. That is, I think, the important goal here,” the veteran politician added.
His calls for peace are backed by churches, including Catholic leaders.
The Permanent Synod of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church made clear it was “profoundly disturbed” by a recent police crackdown on demonstrators.
Yet, President Viktor Yanukovych has refused to meet key demands from the opposition to sign the European Union Association Agreement. With thousands braving freezing temperatures, the European Union’s enlargement commissioner Stefan Füle said Sunday on the Twitter website that he had suspended talks with Ukraine on EU integration.
At separate rallies, thousands also made clear they support Yanukovych’s decision to seek closer ties with Russia.
That worries young protesters. “We were with Russia the whole last century, and now we know that this is not the best variant, you know,” a young man said.
Yet pro-EU demonstrators don’t give up hope. “We should realize our ideas. We understand that we stand here till the end. And this end must be that we win,” another protester said, referring to Ukraine’s EU future.
For now, prayers, and protests, continue to reverberate throughout Kyiv’s independence square.
Russian Ministries told BosNewsLife it had urged Christians around the world to “please join us in supporting Ukrainian believers and the Ukrainian nation in prayer for a peaceful and non-violent resolution to the present situation.”
Additionally, the group said, prayers were needed for “a just government for Ukraine that works in the best interests of the Ukrainian people” and for “believers as they seek to serve their fellow citizens and share the Good News [about Jesus Christ] with them.”