By BosNewsLife News Center with reporting by BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos
KYIV, UKRAINE (BosNewsLife)– Churches across Ukraine are praying for an end to the bloodshed in their country, after a Malaysian Airlines plane was shot down by a missile, killing all 298 passengers on board, Christian missionaries told BosNewsLife.
“We are weeping,” mission group Christian Aid Mission (CAM) quoted a local Christian as saying.
In a statement seen by BosNewsLife Monday, July 21, CAM said there was “disbelief and sadness over the loss of 298 innocent lives when a commercial airliner was shot down while flying over eastern Ukraine Thursday.”
Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 was traveling at an altitude of 33,000 feet when it was struck by what officials believe was a surface-to-air missile fired by pro-Russian militants. The plane crashed 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the Russian border in a separatist-controlled area near Donetsk.
“We need peace in Ukraine. We are a peaceful people,” a CAM representative said. “The church leaders I talked to are in tears over what happened to the plane. People from Europe, Asia, Australia, and America have died. This is crazy.”
Most of the victims came from the Netherlands, were flags have been flying at half mast, and churches held prayer services across the country.
Fighting has intensified this summer as pro-Russian militants battle Ukrainian government forces for control of the eastern half of the country. While the exact death toll is unknown, estimates vary from several hundred people to thousands since the start of the conflict in April, CAM said. “Many of the dead are civilians”.
CAM told BosNewsLife that “As the conflict rages, Ukrainian churches have stepped up efforts to minister to the hurting and to boldly share the message of salvation through Jesus Christ.”
Yet its affiliate in Ukraine, who was not identified for security reasons, acknowledged that “People are afraid.”
“They don’t know when they will breathe their last breath. We want to bring hope to people, especially during these uncertain times. Whatever happens, we want them to experience the peace that only Christ can give them.”
CAM said it has urged its supporters to pray for “grief-stricken families of the 298 individuals who were aboard flight MH17” as well as “for an end to the violence and that peace will be restored in Ukraine.”
Additionally prayers were asked “for encouragement for pastors and their congregations who are caught in the crossfire”.
Many non-Russian Orthodox Christians are reportedly among refugees fleeing volatile eastern Ukraine. Several churches are known to have been attacked by pro-Russian rebels, who took over several buildings.