Reformed Christians and the war in Ukraine

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We’ve become used to the secular press, in its daily news about world events, totally ignoring that Christ is in full control. Christ’s church, however, remembers Jesus’ words to His disciples that “all authority has been given me in heaven and on earth”. And so we see Him at work from day to day in the unfolding of world history—also in the events there in Ukraine. And while neither Putin nor Zelenskyy acknowledge Christ’s sovereignty, or call their countries to repent and pray fervently for Christ’s grace (Amos 4, Rev. 9), the reformed Christians caught up in the war may find comfort in what we confess: Christ knows those who are His and they belong to Him in life and death, having been purchased by His precious blood. For those who belong to Christ, though they die, yet they will live with Him forever (Jn 11:25). That’s the great and only comfort also, and perhaps especially, in war.

Hence it’s good to read that there, in that war-torn Ukraine where most people are members of the very influential but spiritually poor Eastern Orthodox Church (with its heavy reliance on dumb images rather than the living Word),[i] there are a few reformed churches. I don’t know much about them apart from an article or two about them appearing in Clarion some years ago. Our former Dutch (GKV) sister churches assisted them (at least in the past) with the reformed faith and Rev RD Anderson at the time was also involved.

More recently it appears that De Gereformeerde Kerken (DGK), with which our FRCA synod deputies are in contact with a view to church unity, also have contact with some reformed churches in Ukraine and are supporting them financially. DGK member, D J Bolt, on his Dutch website Eeninwaarheid, has just published a “Joint declaration on the war against Ukraine” in which, in defence of the truth, Putin’s lies are exposed by representatives of reformed seminaries. There is also a separate letter shedding light on some present-day life experiences in south-western Ukraine. With his permission I pass on this declaration and letter (translated from Dutch):

Joint declaration on the war against Ukraine

The Christian church was founded by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. Created by the Word of God and guided by the Holy Spirit, the church confesses one Lord and Saviour Jesus, and receives from Him His Gospel and law. Therefore, as part of the church and under the lordship of Christ, we are called to speak the truth and expose the lie (Eph. 4:15; 4:25).

In the light of the massive attack by Russia on Ukraine, we consider it necessary to strongly condemn the open and unjustified attack aimed at destroying the existence of Ukraine as an independent nation. This aggression is based on blatant lies, spoken by the president of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, with the highest leadership of the country. We reject Putin’s mythical story about the so-called artificial creation of the Ukrainian state; it has nothing to do with historical reality.

We condemn Putin’s cynical lies about Ukraine’s so-called genocide of the population in the east of the country. Such lies serve only the satisfaction of Putin’s own geopolitical ambitions, and are clearly contrary to God’s revelation (Deut. 27:17; Prov. 22: 28).

We profess the real, unlimited power of God over all nations and continents (Ps. 24:1), as well as over all kings and rulers (Prov. 21:1). Therefore, nothing in all creation can hinder the fulfillment of God’s good and perfect will. Together with the first Christians, we therefore recognize that ‘Jesus is Lord’, and not the emperor.

We express our solidarity with the people of Ukraine. We share in the sorrow of those who have lost their loved ones. We pray that all the plans of the aggressor will be thwarted and shamed. We appeal to well-meaning people around the world to resist the lies and hatred of the aggressor. We call on everyone to call for an end to hostilities and to exert all possible influence on the Russian Federation in order to put an end to the unjustified aggression against Ukraine.

We ask you to pray for peace for the people of Ukraine and for courage and wisdom for the Christian churches so that they can continue to help those in need.

We pray for our governments and we place our hope in the King of kings and the Lord of lords, who is our refuge and fortress even in times of war (Ps. 46).

Evangelical Reformed Seminary of Ukraine, Baltic Reformed Theological Seminary (Riga, latvia), Evening Reformed Seminary (Almaty, Kazakhstan), Kiev Theological Seminary, Odessa Theological Seminary, Poltava Theological Seminary, Reformed Theological Seminary of Donetsk (temporarily located in Kiev), Reformed Theological Seminary Heidelberg (Germany), Seminary in Western Russia (name known to the other institutions), Seminary in Western Siberia, Russia (name known to the other institutions), Taurian Christian Institute (Kherson)

Letter from the members of the Evangelical Reformed Church

The joint pastors of the Evangéliumi Református Egyház (Evangelical Reformed Churches in Ukraine/Transcarpathia) wrote us the following.

10 march 2022

Dear brothers and sisters

The area encircled with red shows where the letter writers lived. The fighting is still some distance away but, as the letter shows, the war is moving closer and they are confronted with its effects.

We see people being left behind at this time, without support and help. Then we experience how wonderful it is to belong to God’s people and to find that we are not alone in this world with our misery, but that there are brothers and sisters who pray for us and help us in our difficulties.

Thank you very much for your prayers. Thank you for being able to count on you and for being open to our questions. The distance between us is great, but it is so nice that it is not an obstacle for you to help us. Every message, phone call or encouraging word means a lot to us. We are very grateful to God that we know you and also learn a lot from you.

Let’s tell you something about how people in Transcarpathia [also called Subcarpathia, djb] are currently living. Transcarpathia is part of western Ukraine, it is located a few hundred kilometers from the fighting [the municipalities are in the red circled area, djb]. But unfortunately, the difficulties of the war have already reached our area.

That means …

Many refugees

Among all those people who flee, there are also problems. For example, the sale of alcohol had to be banned in some places because alcohol consumption led to serious problems. So much so that people who have remained in the villages were sometimes afraid to take to the streets.

Food and medicine

Shelves of food in larger stores are emptying, especially those that were filled with products from eastern Ukraine. In the villages things are going a bit better for the time being, but the prices of basic food have risen considerably. In most shops, food is only available in limited quantities, e.g. 1 kg of rice, 1 kg of sugar. In fact, most types of flour and rice are not or hardly available anymore. Many shops are also closed as the Ukrainian hryvna loses much of its value and they do not want to work at a loss. Many medicines are only available at much higher prices or no longer available at all.

Military service

Many people have left Transcarpathia, especially families whose husbands, fathers and sons can be drafted into the military. An exception to this applies to families with at least three children [under 18 years of age, djb].

Many young people have fled because they do not want war, and also because of fear and uncertainty. They know that the war situation can mean that any exemption from conscription can be withdrawn. Moreover, most people don’t have what’s needed to be in the military; they have never carried weapons or had military training.

Often the streets are empty; people stay at home as much as possible because armed police patrol the roads and arrest men and force them into military service. The danger of this drives many into hiding.

Homes

Many people struggle with how to proceed. Those who have fled abroad worry about whether leaving their home, their fields, yes everything behind, was the right decision. On the other hand, everyone who stays at home is afraid that something will suddenly happen and that their children are not safe at home. And, of course, a large proportion of the elderly do not want to leave behind everything they have worked for all their lives.

The houses that have been left empty are often guarded by those who have not left, for example by neighbours who did not leave. But you hear more and more about burglars breaking into the houses and stealing things. It is also appalling that, according to the latest figures, hundreds of thousands of new refugees are expected and that empty houses can be confiscated under martial law. So that, too, makes people anxious – how and when can they return to their homes?

Food

There is no famine in Transcarpathia yet. Many people have small reserves, although, of course, not everyone. However, if the war lasts weeks, or months, we expect difficult times. Some jobs have already been lost and more and more people are getting lower and lower salaries.

Many members of our congregation make a living from agriculture, but due to a lack of men and professionals, they are now afraid or unable to begin spring-time work in many places. That causes even more financial problems, and they too can run out of income. Since many can only grow food for themselves, this will later lead to food shortages elsewhere. For the interior of Ukraine and Eastern Ukraine, this is even more true. It can cause major problems in the long run. For ‘he who does not sow, shall not reap’…

Fuel

Fuel can only be purchased to a limited extent for various reasons as Ukraine also sources fuel from Russia and White-Russia.

Border traffic

For those (e.g. women) who can still cross the border into Hungary, the waiting time has now dropped to 10 to 12 hours. At the beginning of the war the waiting time was still up to two days.
Unfortunately, staying in the West is tempting for many; indeed, many are no longer planning to return home to Ukraine.

The Hungarian population in Ukraine is also shrinking. And even when the war is over, many who fled from here will not be able to return for a long time because they will have lost their homes. That will change the composition of the local population and also their attitude towards each other. That also causes fear.

Aid

People’s biggest problem right now is uncertainty, fear.

Yet we also notice a lot of love from others. And we want to try to help the refugees who arrive here. In many villages, refugees from eastern Ukraine are housed in schools and kindergartens. We try to help in our own way. Some help with cooking, others give shelter for a few days; also, there are those who help find shelter, while still others provide food or financial help to people in need.

Brothers and sisters try to stay in touch with each other, if possible online, and to encourage others by praying with them.

No matter how difficult the situation is, it is so good to experience that we have a God who does not leave us alone in our misery, and even makes us feel His closeness in this situation more strongly. The things we took for granted become more valuable: home, security, peace. And other things become less important, such as the material things that are nice to have, but that we can lose at any moment.

We strive to use the donations we have received from you in a good way and thereby help those who need it. That applies especially to members of the church, but also to many outsiders who have difficulty living their daily lives, even before the war. We usually give financial aid to church members, while we make food parcels for outsiders. We also try to support the sick with medicines.

The donations of brothers and sisters and the congregations are of great value. The pastors and elders coordinate the distribution of your donations and the financial assistance of other agencies, as well as their distribution to the needy.

Our churches are constantly praying that God will protect His people. We are grateful that He is helping. Satan wants to shake that faith. How good it is then to be strengthened by the Word, by your prayers, your encouragement that God is the solid Rock to whom we can turn for help and protection.

With a brotherly embrace, on behalf of the members of the Evangelical Reformed Church: 

Gyula Kopasz, Attila Pál, Gyula Sütő, Zoltán Tóth

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Eeninwaarheid concludes:

This letter gives us an impression of the situation in which the brothers and sisters and others find themselves. What worries and uncertainty! The horrors such as are experienced in eastern Ukraine and around Kiev are still many kilometres away, but the hot breath of war is already sweeping over their lives as the fighting gets closer.

What a privilege it is that we can help them even if it is at a distance and (for the time being) only with finances.

How good it is to see that they seek their strength and protection in the Lord, and that He is their solid Rock! Therein we feel so connected to them!

 

[i] Rev R D Anderson, “Not by dumb images”, Una Sancta, Vol. 60 No 12, 20 April 2013, pp. 286/7.