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“Though the needs everywhere are just extraordinary, God’s people here are responding in generous and loving compassionate ways”.

Adrian Gardner, Director of Canadian Partnerships

Ukraine Crisis

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Partner Updates:

Situation Overview

  • The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) reports 5,121 civilian casualties, including 2,224 killed, as of 20 April. OHCHR believes that the actual figures are likely to be much higher, as data from the worst-hit areas are still being verified.

  • According to the UN’s refugee agency (UNHCR), more than 5 million people have fled Ukraine; the vast majority of these are women, children and the elderly. There are more than 2.8 million refugees in Poland alone, along with more than 763,000 in Romania, more than 476,000 in Hungary and more than 428,000 in Moldova.

  • Russian forces have now withdrawn from northern Ukraine and are focusing on a massive offensive in the eastern Donbas region.

Updates from Baptists in Ukraine

  • The escalation of the conflict in eastern Ukraine has made it more difficult to evacuate local people. Baptist volunteers have been risking their lives trying to take humanitarian aid into the region and bring people to safety. Christians from Cherkasy have recently helped 90 people to evacuate, but fear this may be their last trip for some weeks.

  • Ukrainian forces have retaken control of the north-eastern Sumy region, and daily life is slowly resuming. Dozens of volunteer teams from across Ukraine have been bringing aid into the region. Almost all the churches in the area have restarted their Sunday services.

  • The Chernihiv region has also been liberated from Russian forces, though many homes have been destroyed and there is still a threat of rocket fire. Churches are beginning to resume their services. “People here are in great need, both physical and spiritual,” says Volodymyr Vysotsky, head of the Chernihiv Baptist Association.

  • A church in the city of Irpin was badly damaged in a bombing raid as the occupying forces left. The congregation had bought the building a year before and had spent eight months converting it. Although this is a blow for them, the pastor remains optimistic. “We believe that the Lord will give us the opportunity to rebuild the church building and make it even more convenient to serve the Lord,” he says. “But most importantly, we pray for our people in Irpin and try to serve them, so that they will see that in the most difficult times, the Lord is near.”

  • The team of volunteers from Irpin Bible Church did not leave the city even while the war raged. Now that the Russian troops have left, they are working intensively in Irpin and nearby Bucha, delivering food to survivors and helping with the clean-up operation. They are even assisting sappers in the dangerous task of de-mining the area. The Coordination Centre of the Ukrainian Baptists asks for prayers for their strength and safety.

Baptist Response in Neighbouring Countries

  • Baptists continue to provide food, clothing, medicine, transport and pastoral care to people forced from their homes. The number of refugees entering neighbouring countries has significantly decreased since the first few weeks of the war. However, as Russia begins its re-asserted attacks in the east of Ukraine, the most desperate who were not able to flee earlier will be pushed out. Likely the second wave of refugees, many with significantly fewer resources than some of those fleeing earlier, will come further west and into neighbouring countries.

  • Slovakia — Churches across Slovakia faithfully continue to offer hospitality to Ukrainian refugees. The Slovak Baptist Union is contributing more than €1,300 each day towards refugees’ food needs. A number of churches have launched services in Ukrainian, and the Union has arranged for Christian resources in Ukrainian to be printed and distributed. The Baptist church in Košice has experienced the largest influx of refugees, but recently the flow of new arrivals has slowed. This has allowed the church to shift its focus to delivering humanitarian aid to Ukraine, where believers distribute it to people in the worst-hit areas.

  • Czechia — To date, the Czech Republic’s Baptist Union has raised approximately €44,300 for their Ukraine crisis fund. They have divided this into three parts: a donation to the Ukrainian Baptist Union for humanitarian aid in the country; help for churches and individuals they have direct contact with within Ukraine; and support for refugees who have arrived in Czechia. Within Ukraine, these funds have been used for food, hygiene, transport, medicines and medical equipment, and larger purchases such as a generator for a city church. Churches in the Czech Republic are providing refugees with food, accommodation and help with obtaining the documents they need. The Baptist Union has produced Christian literature in Ukrainian, including a translation of the New Testament. They are also supporting a mission worker among refugees in the city of Brno.

Situation Overview

  • The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) reports 3,090 civilian casualties, including 1,189 killed, as of 29 March.

  • The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports that almost 10.5 million people have been forcibly displaced within Ukraine and neighbouring countries since 24 February. According to the UN’s refugee agency (UNHCR), more than 4.05 million people have fled Ukraine; the vast majority of these are women, children and the elderly. There are more than 2.3 million refugees in Poland alone, along with more than 616,000 in Romania, more than 388,000 in Moldova and more than 368,000 in Hungary.

Updates from Baptists in Ukraine

  • For several days, the city of Chernihiv in northern Ukraine has been cut off from the rest of the country. On March 23, Russian troops bombed a bridge in the city that was an important humanitarian corridor. Access to aid is difficult and it is impossible to leave the city. However, local Christians are finding alternative means of transport, such as boats, to take food into Chernihiv.

  • The city of Mariupol continues to experience a humanitarian catastrophe, with constant shelling and blocks to humanitarian aid. According to the city’s mayor, there are more than 100,000 civilians waiting to be evacuated. Bethany Baptist Church in the city was recently bombed.

  • Despite the brutal conflict, believers in Ukraine continue to meet together to pray, worship and read the Bible. Churches across the country are working together to provide accommodation, food, clothing, medicine and transport.

  • The shelves of most shops and supermarkets in Sumy, north-eastern Ukraine, are now empty. However, churches in other areas of Ukraine and abroad are sending food into the city every day, and local Christians help distribute it to those in need.

  • Baptist churches in the Cherkasy region are delivering food to badly hit areas. On the way back, drivers take people out of the war zone, and a team of volunteers help them to travel to other European countries.

  • A youth leader and evangelist from a church in Mykolaiv have started a ministry to local soldiers. Every morning he takes tea and small gifts to encourage troops at 15 checkpoints. The soldiers willingly agreed for him to pray with them and asked him to continue his visits.

  • There are currently 18,000 displaced children in the Chernivtsi region. Children from local Christian families are donating their toys to help them settle into their new surroundings.

  • One church in Rivne, western Ukraine, is finding multiple creative ways to serve those in need. One very practical ministry they have developed is a free car repair service. And they provide pastoral care to those they are supporting. The church’s pastor says, “People are open to the Word of God.”

  • The Coordination Centre of the Ukrainian Baptists says, “Such stories of pastors encourage [us] not to slow down in our common ministry. Their testimonies on the phone [are given] in a lively, cheerful voice, full of enthusiasm.”

Baptist Response in Neighbouring Countries

  • Across the Region — Baptists have the capacity to serve up to 51,000 beds per day for those who have been displaced because of the conflict. In addition to 45,000 beds per day in Ukraine itself, there are an estimated 4,000 beds available for Ukrainian refugees in Romania; 1,600 beds in Poland; and 700 beds in Moldova. Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Hungary and Moldova all continue to respond to the crisis on an incredible scale, providing food, clothing, medicine and transport.

  • Hungary — Hungarian Baptists continue to serve those who are displaced including Roma people who fled Ukraine. Many churches and other organizations turned Roma people away as they fled the border, but the Hungarian Baptists are serving those in need, regardless of background.

  • Romania — The Ruth Refugee Centre in Bucharest continues to offer Ukrainians safe, welcoming accommodation and help with their next steps. The organizers write, “When the Ruth Refugee Centre was established nearly a month ago, the vision was to provide a safe place for guests from Ukraine to sleep, launder their clothing, eat three meals a day, and receive support in resolving various problems with their embassy in Bucharest. After hosting guests for two weeks, it became apparent that for some families a quick transit was not an option. Over the past week and a half, the two apartments in the Ruth School have been renovated and furnished to host two or three families for longer periods of time. With these new facilities, our Ruth Refugee Centre can now host up to 65 guests per night!”

  • Across the EBF — Baptists in Spain, Portugal, the UK, Germany, Austria, Czechia, Bulgaria, Italy and many other contexts have given generously and are housing refugees with church families.

Situation Overview

  • The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) reports at least 2,571 civilian casualties, including 977 killed, as of 22 March. However, the actual figures are probably much higher, as there is limited access to verify them in the worst-hit areas.

  • The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) reports that more than 3.6 million people have fled Ukraine to neighbouring countries since 24 February. The vast majority of these people are women, children and the elderly. This figure includes more than 2.1 million refugees in Poland alone, along with more than 563,000 in Romania, more than 374,000 in Moldova and more than 330,000 in Hungary.

  • The BBC reported that there had been a missile strike outside of Lviv that has many concerned of conflict encroaching westward. The Ukrainian Baptist Union is currently based in Lviv.

  • The Conference of European Churches (CEC) issued a statement urging the international community to do “everything in their power to end the current war that is destroying lives and causing untold suffering.”

  • The European Freedom Network has reported that human trafficking is a huge concern at the borders with some cases of traffickers posing as pastors.

Updates from Baptists in Ukraine

  • The conflict continues to be most brutal in eastern Ukraine, where constant shelling has destroyed vast amounts of infrastructure. Many believers are driving regularly to Kharkiv, taking aid in and bringing back people fleeing the bombing.

  • Almost all of the Kherson region is under temporary Russian occupation; it is impossible to leave. Local churches continue to meet for worship and prayer, and to organize help for as many people as possible. They are providing meals, distributing bread and finding homes for those injured. Believers from one church are taking care of children from the regional orphanage.

  • Several towns in the Donetsk region are also under temporary occupation. The port city of Mariupol is under constant siege, and conditions are dire. Baptist ministers in this region are delivering humanitarian aid and using any possible opportunity to help people escape. Believers in one city are baking and distributing bread, helping to save people from starvation. Christians report that “people are searching for God in times of trouble.”

  • A number of towns in the Sumy region remain under occupation and have been heavily bombed. Churches are providing shelter during air raids, and in quieter times their members are visiting those who are elderly or ill. Christians have helped several hundred residents to evacuate.

  • Hundreds of churches across Ukraine are serving as centres of welcome and refuge for those fleeing. In the Cherkasy region, more than a thousand displaced people are housed safely in church buildings every night. In Lviv, one local church held a baby shower for three mothers-to-be who had fled the fighting, bringing hope in the midst of suffering.

Baptist Response in Neighbouring Countries

  • Romania — Churches and believers across the country are providing accommodation and a warm welcome for people fleeing Ukraine. They are working with local authorities to help long-term refugees find work, arrange schooling and integrate into society. Christians in Bucharest have set up the Ruth Refugee Centre, which has provided 106 Ukrainians with a safe place to sleep since the start of March. The centre has a fully equipped kitchen, a cafeteria, laundry facilities, a room for children’s activities, and access to computers so refugees can prepare their paperwork. Volunteers are on hand to provide whatever support is needed. One refugee commented, “I have never met people like you in my life.”

  • Other Neighbouring Countries — Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Moldova all continue to respond to the crisis on an incredible scale, housing refugees, transporting those in need and giving out food, clothing and medicine.

  • Croatia — Although the country does not share a border with Ukraine, the Baptist Union in Croatia has organized two shipments of aid to Ukraine and provided transport for refugees wishing to come to Croatia. They have set up three transit centres for refugees, and a number of believers have offered beds in their homes to those fleeing.

  • Lithuania — The Baptist Union in Lithuania is organizing a financial gift from its churches for EBF’s work in Ukraine. Some refugees have already arrived in the country, and more are expected. Lithuanian Baptists are exploring with local authorities how best to support them.

CBM has approved sending additional funds to Ukraine as well as to Moldova. Here’s an update on the project activities:

Moldova: Moldova is one of the poorest countries in Europe and the refugee crisis has had a huge impact on its economy. Still, Moldavians came together to respond to the needs of Ukrainian refugees. The Moldova Baptist Union is receiving refugees from Ukraine and responding in numerous ways. They are providing emergency shelter for 1,600 refugees in churches and Baptist camps. These shelters provide space to sleep, meals, and personal hygiene supplies. The Moldova Baptist Union is also providing care at a medical clinic and offering transportation to those who wish to travel onwards from Moldova to another destination.

Ukraine: The Ukrainian Baptist Union is currently operating about 600 emergency shelters in Baptist churches all across the country. These shelters are spaces for internally displaced persons to stay for a few hours or a couple of nights before moving on to another part of the country, or out of Ukraine entirely. The shelters provide food, a place to sleep, and personal hygiene supplies. Some shelters are also able to offer access to showers as well as clothing and other basic necessities. As food access within Ukraine becomes increasingly difficult, the Baptist Union has established channels for transporting food into Ukraine and eligible people out of Ukraine. A logistical centre has been established and includes a warehouse for storing goods and food before transporting it to shelters around the country.

It’s exciting to see progress being made on the “House of Hope” south of Bucharest which will house up to 40 Ukrainian refugees long term. The mayor of the municipality has generously offered a local kindergarten for this use. In return, All4Aid will complete the renovation work and leave a legacy for improved education in the community going forward. A team of volunteers from Canada will help with this by laying floors and other work to get it ready to welcome people. Adrian Gardner, Director of Canadian Partnerships, says “It is inspiring to see innovative partnerships such as this as people offer what they have to meet the needs of people in need in Jesus’ name.”

March 16, 7:30 PM ET.

Construction began yesterday for another House of Peace refugee home. This commercial space has been donated by a local developer. The relief efforts of feeding and housing refugees continue in Romania and the countries surrounding Ukraine. Please continue to pray for peace. Adrian says “Though the needs everywhere are just extraordinary, God’s people here are responding in generous and loving compassionate ways”.

March 15, 2:30 PM ET.

Adrian Gardner, Director of Canadian Partnerships is now in Romania visiting our local church partners on the ground. They are responding to some of the immediate needs of the Ukrainian Refugees in their community. He met with Pastor Nixon at “House of Grace” which has been set up by one of the local churches. Tomorrow they will be receiving their first refugee arrivals.

More Updates:

AN UPDATE FROM OUR PARTNERS, THE EUROPEAN BAPTIST FEDERATION:
  • The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) reports at least 1,506 civilian casualties, including 549 killed as of 9 March.
  • OHCHR believes that the actual figures are considerably higher, especially in the government-controlled territory and especially in recent days, as the receipt of information from some locations where intense hostilities have been going on has been delayed and many reports are still pending corroboration.

  • The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) reports that more than 2.5 million people have fled Ukraine to neighbouring countries over the past 14 days, including more than 1.5 million people in Poland alone, along with over 225,000 in Hungary, nearly 176,000 in Slovakia and more than 84,000 in Romania.
The Baptist Response in Ukraine
  • In the port city of Mariupol, the Coordination Centre of the Ukrainian Baptists reports that 300 hundred people are taking shelter in the basement of Mariupol central church, with another 300 people in another city-centre church.

  • From Mariupol, one Baptist writes, “There are terrible ruins in our city, factories are on fire, stores are closed. Russian forces are destroying houses, apartment buildings and complexes, there are lots of tanks, they are ruining everything. You can’t get out of the city, they surrounded it with tanks. Many people lost their loved ones and relatives. There is no connection, no roads, the disaster is everywhere…”
  • In Lviv, Baptist volunteers have been helping to erect two mobile hospitals, where local Baptist pastors will be providing spiritual and psychological support to patients and staff, as well as offering training to others to provide such support.

  • Churches in every region are running as centres of refuge, serving those in transit as well as with overnight care. More than 600 churches are actively responding to the needs inside of those fleeing, including one small church in Yaltushkiv that feeds nearly 800 people every day.
  • Ukrainian Baptists have organized with the government to receive aid through humanitarian corridors, however, currently, there are issues at the Polish border causing a delay. The Baptists have a number of logistics centres ready to receive and distribute aid. Supplies are beginning to run out in shops, water is becoming harder to access in some cities. As some areas are lost, communication lines are cut to the rest of the country. The needs are direr in the eastern regions of the country. In response, the Coordination Centre of the Ukrainian Baptists is working from Lviv to establish aid distribution warehouses in Eastern and Central Ukraine.
The Baptist Response in neighbouring countries
  • Romania — The Romanian Baptist Union has mobilised churches for the capacity to take 4,000 refugees. Additionally, the union is coordinating responses with partner churches across the border, sending food and aid across the border. It has been snowing at the border into Suceava all week as more and more refugees cross into Romania, including hundreds of stranded Indian students. All refugees are being fed as soon as they arrive and are then offered free transport and accommodation.

  • Bulgaria — Bulgaria does not share a direct border with Ukraine. However, the Baptist Union in Bulgaria has established a network to collect Ukrainian refugees from the Romanian and Moldovan borders to help ease the pressure on their neighbours. So far in the capital Sofia, there are around 25 women and children who have been relocated, with dozens more located throughout the rest of the country. The Union anticipates that many more will come into the country should the war in Odessa intensify.
  • Georgia — As well as financial and aid contributions, the Evangelical Baptist Church of Georgia has offered accommodation for about 100 people in our retreat centre in Manglisi, which is located about 50 km away from Tbilisi.

This includes only the latest updates but does not exclude other country responses. Please see past reports for how other Baptist Unions are responding. If your union is responding to the crisis, please let us know so that we can include your response in future updates.

Due to safety and logistical reasons, the Baptist office has been moved from Kyiv. The team gathers for daily worship and coordinating meetings. Ukraine has deployed martial law, so it is difficult to get in both goods and money. Ukrainians have been able to negotiate “green channels” for bringing in aid, the first truck will test out this route tomorrow. The team on the ground in Ukraine is working very hard and is feeling tired, but continues to serve faithfully.

Movement out of Kyiv is now more difficult as is movement around Eastern Ukraine in general. Churches in the West are welcoming those fleeing conflict and helping women and children to cross the border. Many of those who are staying in Ukraine are now living with other Christians in the West. A Ukrainian pastor shared the following: “During this war, God is making miracles in Ukraine. Prayer is God’s shield over Ukraine. We are still standing only because God is taking care of us”. There are even weddings and baptisms still happening during this time.

In Poland, there are strong structures in place to offer help to refugees. Last night there were 400 refugees in a local Baptist church, children playing games and playing piano and experiencing lots of love. They have opened up another summer camp to about 40 refugees. The local seminary is also housing 40-50 refugees. There’s a growing number of churches (20-30) that are receiving refugees.

In Slovakia, each Baptist church has dedicated a person to respond and report to a national coordinator who can help organize supplies and the movement of refugees. So far, 70,000 refugees have come into the country, with many people resting for a time at the churches before moving on to a final destination.

The refugee migration has started with 6-7 km lines of people heading towards the Polish border. Both the Polish and Hungarian borders are currently open for Ukrainians to leave, and for goods to go enter Ukraine.

The situation on the ground is rapidly evolving, but our implementing partner, the All-Ukrainian of Associations of Evangelical Christian-Baptists has robust plans in place to respond and a lot of capacity to care for internally displaced persons. Polish and Hungarian Baptists are already organized to house refugees and bring goods into Ukraine.

We continue to speak with our partners who have been providing aid and shelter. One Ukrainian pastor, Pastor Igor, thanked all those praying for peace, adding: “Almost from the very beginning we have received prayers and support during this terrible time.”