Violence, fear and determination continue to rise in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev. Since the first two reported deaths in the conflict last week, protesters are digging rather than giving up.
Pictures from the center of Kiev are reminiscent of the stage show Les Miserables—flags raised over barricades and young men standing undaunted in the face of superior power. As temperatures dropped and snow continued to fall, protesters took over Kiev’s main agricultural building to have a place to warm up when the fire barrels in the street were inaccessible to them.
IMB workers Brady and Millie Sample* live about eight miles from the center of the violence.
“It’s a real mess down there,” Brady Sample said. “Barricades every few feet with guards, tents everywhere … a media hub in the occupied government building. It’s very interesting.”
For the most part, the Samples are going about their lives quite normally, but the school their children attend closed temporarily so students would not have to travel on public transportation across the center of town.
Brady Sample works closely with the Ukrainian Baptist Union (UBU), the largest evangelical association of churches in the country, which is calling for members to pray for a peaceful solution to the conflict.
“They are not taking sides and not encouraging the protests,” he said. “They are praying for our country to turn to God.”
Though the conflict began when Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych refused to sign a free trade deal with the European Union (EU), and escalated when he did sign a financial aid package with Russia, the worst violence began when a law was put into effect criminalizing the protesters. What began as mostly peaceful dissension is turning into a call to arms as the people fear returning to the old ways of the Soviet Union.
According to Brady there is not just one issue being discussed anymore. A Ukrainian friend of his expressed what the friend feels is the general sentiment of the people, saying, “They put a new president in, and it is still going to be the same thing. The problem goes deeper than this administration.”
For that reason, the UBU is asking believers to fast and pray for the country to turn to God.
“Apart from God, I don’t see a peaceful solution,” Millie Sample said. “The government is not backing down, and the protesters are entrenched.”
Although two deaths were reported last week, Brady Sample said there have been many more, and an even greater number of serious injuries.
“Protesters have lost limbs, and many have been blinded by rubber bullets,” he said.
He also said police have been attacked by protesters who have dug up cobblestone streets and thrown the stones at them.
“It is very violent, and we are concerned about what will happen next,” Sample noted.
Many churches have set up tents in Freedom Square, about a half-mile from the center of the most recent violence, in order to pray for individuals, serve hot chocolate, hand out tracts and share the gospel.
Pray for Ukrainian believers as they seek to share Christ in the epicenter of the violence. Pray for God to bring a peaceful solution and to draw many Ukrainians to Himself. Pray for the Samples and IMB colleagues who are living and serving in Ukraine.
*Names changed for security reasons.