Ukraine is in free fall. CNN has been replaying images of Independence Square shrouded in flames and smoke and ash with molotov cocktails and bricks piercing through the air. Strangers are keeping pressure on wounds, mothers are searching for their children, people are being jailed by the dozen. The police have turned completely savage, behaving- no doubt, at the pleasure of the Ukrainian government. And it is wrong and unjust and these are the moments I can hardly look up. I can feel my faith start to fray.
Ukraine is written into the fabric of my faith. My grandfather and others helped to create a missions organization that served this country in the aftermath of the Soviet Union, and I had the honor of traveling with them when I was just sixteen years old.
It was my first experience with poverty. And it was there that I saw how devastation doesn’t always hit like a Molotov cocktail. It can come slowly, inconspicuously.
I saw kids plagued with fetal alcohol syndrome, collateral damage of the Soviet Age, of a government that kept their people miserable, but too drunk too notice. I saw economic devastation and political oppression and the ghost of the Soviet Union pursuing their lives on a daily basis.
But there was also hope.
Part of the reason we were there was to support the development of a youth center, one established by a Ukrainian veteran who looked out on his community and saw several liquor stores serving ten-year-olds and not a single safe place for children. So he built it and the kids rushed in.
The community of Christians I met there walked with hearts of overcoming. They praised God in a reckless, radical, hit your knees in the morning kind of way. They beam with pride in their heritage, in their country, and in the gospel that was making a home in their small pockets of villages.
These ambassadors of goodness and effective change are what sustain my hope for Ukraine. They are the solution, they are the healing, they are the ones that are turning the tide of a thousand evils.
And now they are in danger.
The government has eliminated the freedom of speech and the right to protest and has started to push out NGOs nationwide. Twenty-five people were killed Tuesday and dozens more injured. If the past couple year of global turmoil have taught us anything, we know it will only worsen, the numbers will go higher. The powerful will do whatever it takes, kill indiscriminately, if it keeps their claim on the chair.
I understand the Christians who will watch the violence on the news, read the horror in the paper and throw up their hands in lament, crying, what could be done except to pray? And I say, yes, YES, we must pray. Pray and pray and pray some more.
But what I don’t want to get lost on us is the voice of the Ukrainian people who are outlining exactly why they have had enough. Enough of the injustice of cold war romantics and Russian thugs. Enough of economic oppression, of political oppression, of the theft of human rights.
We must listen to their voices- the voices of the oppressed- this is a non-negotiable in following Christ. Despite your position on pacifism or just-war, we are required to be informed, and that means learning about the abusive arm of Russia and why the political move that sparked this protest, the President’s rejection of the EU agreement and embrace of one with Russia, conjures up horrors that you and I will never imagine. Learn about the history. About the agony. About the promised future that has fallen apart.
A relative shared this video on Facebook and I knew I needed to share it here. Please take two minutes to watch it.
For a brief background on the situation, check out this article from NPR: