Greg Strand is EFCA executive director of theology and credentialing, and he serves on the Board of Ministerial Standing as well as the Spiritual Heritage Committee. He and his family are members of Northfield (Minnesota) EFC.
The last few months have been noted by protests in the Ukraine over President Yanukovych’s decision to align more closely with Russia. Many of the younger Ukrainians took issue with this alliance as they preferred instead to align with the European Union. Yanukovych’s ouster by Parliament and the collapse of his regime were accompanied by violence in which approximately 90 people were killed.
Oleksandr Turchynov, a Baptist pastor and key opposing politician, became Acting President on February 23. It is reported that former president Yanukovych has been charged with murder, and a warrant has been issued by the new government for his arrest. Parliament has determined that national elections will be held in May.
During days of turmoil, friends often become enemies. Enemies hate enemies. The manifestation of sin in these days is ugly, resulting in death and scars that remain long after the overthrow of a regime and the ouster of a dictator. Often when there is a shift of power, those who were mistreated in the past return the behavior in kind. This only perpetuates the cycle of hatred and violence. What is necessary/required for the cycle to end is to extend forgiveness. This has been captured in the expression stated by the Ukrainian Evangelicals to “learn to love yesterday’s enemies.”
Valery Antonyuk, vice president of the All Ukrainian Union of Evangelical Churches, Baptist, made the following public statement, which is a guide for how we can pray for Christians, the church and the Ukrainian nation.
A Message of Reconciliation
During this time of fateful change in the life of the Ukrainian nation, the Church and each Christian individually cannot remain spectators on the sidelines of the battles and losses. The Church serves society and mourns together with it. We went through difficult days together with the nation – we served through prayer, evangelism, volunteers, medical help, clothing, and food. Today a time has come for a ministry of active reconciliation, which will help maintain unity in our country and nation.
We supported the nation's demand to put an end to the tyranny of the authorities and repressions by the police. Now it is important to restore justice and due process of law in the country, to form a government that has the people's trust, and provide fair presidential elections. We believe that those guilty of crimes against the people will be justly judged, and that peaceful citizens will be protected.
But on behalf of the Church we must say more, we must speak the whole truth; we must say that which is still hard to accept and fulfill; that, which is a precondition for a better future.
Therefore the Church calls the Ukrainian nation to more than just feelings of human justice – to Christian forgiveness, grace, and reconciliation. We pray to God for repentance for the guilty. However at the same time we ask victims to forgive those who are already repentant as well as those who are still lost. In order to unite the nation, in order to reconcile its various parts, its various social, cultural, and political groups, laws and justice are not enough. Without repentance, grace, forgiveness and reconciliation, the country will remain divided and in conflict. This is the precondition for a deep spiritual transformation of Ukraine.
The Bible says that there is, "a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace" (Ecc. 3:7-8). In accordance with these wise words, we declare today to be a time to mend, and not a time to tear the nation apart; a time to seek peace, and not a time to fan the flames of war; a time to learn to love yesterday's enemies, and not a time to continue to hate rivals and those who have hurt us.
We call on the Evangelical churches of Ukraine to serve to bring peace between people and healing to the wounds of war. We do not call black white and do not justify crimes or even mistakes. But we, as Christians, forgive, because we have been forgiven by God. He reconciled us to Himself, and gave us a message of reconciliation. This grace-giving Word to our whole nation should be heard from Lvov to Donetsk, from Kiev to Simferopol.
We also call upon the international Christian community asking for prayer and intercession for the Ukrainian nation and for help with peacemaking. We mourn for the victims, and thank God for His grace toward Ukraine, and pray for peace and spiritual revival in our nation.