Opinion: Don’t Forget About Christian Victims of the Russia-Ukraine War

By Ericka Andersen
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The Western world has been admirably united in opposing Russia’s war in Ukraine. A new report, however, indicates that Christians may have more of a stake in the conflict than previously realized.

According to a study conducted by the Workshop for the Academic Study of Religion, at least 248 religious facilities have been destroyed and 20 religious leaders killed in the violence, with 15 more abducted. Notably, it is the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC), a branch of the Russian Orthodox Church Moscow Patriarchate, that has been most heavily targeted. 

Some reports say these numbers could be much higher. The study notes that certain religious facilities were “deliberately destroyed with machine guns or artillery,” and “we can reasonably claim that the religious buildings were special targets of some attacks.”

Given that a strong majority of Ukrainians say they trust church leadership, the Russian Army has a powerful incentive to destroy those in leadership who oppose the invasion — and to replace them with docile puppets. As noted by Maksym Vasin, executive director of the Institute for Religious Freedom: “The occupation authorities are trying to use religious leaders to legitimize their occupation administration and minimize the resistance of the local population.”

American Christian leaders have a duty to stand with our Ukrainian brethren facing threats, oppression, and discrimination. Just as we support Christians struggling in Muslim countries or in communist China, we must lend our voices and advocacy towards this group. 

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A street scene in Mariupol, Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine following an attack, dated October 2022. (Photo via Twitter)

We can start by working towards peace, which the Biden administration helped begin to facilitate by supporting sanctions and urging Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to move forward with peace talks. 

But we can and should also use our influence to force every Western government, NGO, and corporation to sacrifice for the larger mission of taking down a sinister, corrupt, and murderous Putin regime. 

Unfortunately, not everyone is a team player. Airbus — a recipient of U.S, taxpayer dollars — continues to oppose titanium sanctions against Russia. Titanium is a key part of Airbus’s materials and they currently source about 50% of it from Russia, even as the country destroys innocent civilians in Ukraine.

More than 1,000 companies have severed business with the oppressive government, but Airbus says its titanium needs today outweigh the harm of funding Russia’s aggression. “We think sanctioning titanium from Russia would be sanctioning ourselves,” Airbus Chief Executive Guillaume Faury has said

What this means for U.S. Christians is that while we dump exorbitant amounts of aid into Ukraine, we are also funding Ukraine’s oppressors — oppressors who appear to be targeting Christians. 

Unlike giants in other industries like Exxon and American Express, Airbus has been unwilling to sacrifice business for a higher cause. And their lack of sacrifice means that American and European Christians are having our money, hard work, and opposition to Russia undermined by a company we have long trusted with our national and multinational security. 

In addition to driving millions of Ukrainians from their homes, Russia has caused an untold number of deaths and now they are targeting religious institutions for their role in providing leadership and stabilization for the country. 

Western Christians have mobilized to save our brethren in China, Iran, and the Middle East. It’s time we did the same a little closer to home. 

This op-ed article, originally published at The Washington Stand, does not necessarily reflect the views of The Roys Report.

Ericka Andersen is a writer and author of the forthcoming book Reason to Return: Why Women Need the Church & the Church Needs Women.

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3 thoughts on “Opinion: Don’t Forget About Christian Victims of the Russia-Ukraine War”

  1. President Zelensky of Ukraine announced Draft Law 8821, which will make the Ukrainian Orthodox Church illegal throughout the country. The law, if passed, will also allow the Ukrainian government the ability to confiscate all church property and outlaw both public and private practice of the religion.

    1. That is an incredibly misleading assertion. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church being targeted was, until very recently, the official Ukrainian branch of the Russian Orthodox Church, ultimately under the control of Moscow’s Patriarch Kirill, a close ally of Putin and a vociferous defender of Putin’s illegal invasion that has destroyed so many innocent lives in Ukraine.

      Since the invasion, the church has since removed all references to its belonging to the Moscow Patriarchate, and I’m sure many of the priests and parishioners are appalled by Kirill behavior, but it’s naïve in the extreme not to believe there’s still support for Kirill and Putin among the priesthood, and several of them have been arrested for illegally supporting Russia’s war effort and funneling intelligence to Russian forces.

      Either way, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church only makes up 6% of Orthodox Christians in Ukraine, and the other 94% (i.e. the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, and others) are not being targeted at all by this or any other law that I know of.

      You have to remember, Ukraine is fighting for its very existence. If Putin gets his way, Ukraine will cease to exist as an independent nation. So we’re not talking peacetime oppression here. If there are priests in Ukraine doing Kirill and Putin’s bidding, they are, by definition, enemies of the state and committing treason, just as much as any operative working to undermine the Ukrainian war effort from within the country.

      1. What is misleading is the article using the UOC as an example of Russia attacking Christians, while the Ukraine is trying to outlaw the UOC. I point this out, then you claim the UOC is a Russian agent and Ukraine has the right to criminalize/prosecute/seize property/money from any Christian associated with the church.

        Per the article:

        “Notably, it is the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC), a branch of the Russian Orthodox Church Moscow Patriarchate, that has been most heavily targeted. ”

        Which is it? Are the UOC Christians being attacked by Russia? Or is the UOC (and the Christians associated with it) being outlawed/criminalized by Ukrainian leadership because it is supporting Russia?

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