Russia Persecutes Protestants in Occupied Ukraine as Part of War on America and Religious Freedom

Russia's persecution of Protestants in occupied Ukraine, part of a larger war against America and religious freedom, with far-reaching implications for global security and human rights.

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Salman Akhtar
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Russia Persecutes Protestants in Occupied Ukraine as Part of War on America and Religious Freedom

Russia Persecutes Protestants in Occupied Ukraine as Part of War on America and Religious Freedom

On April 21, 2024, reports surfaced of Russia's systemic persecution of Protestants, particularly Baptists, in occupied Ukraine. Over 30 cases of religious clergy have been killed or kidnapped, with 109 known cases of interrogations, expulsions, imprisonments, and arrests, and 600 houses of worship destroyed. This is part of the Kremlin's larger war against America and religious freedom.

Evangelicals and Baptists were disproportionately targeted, with 34% of reported persecution events and 48% in the Zaporizhzhia region. The Russian authorities perceived Protestants as agents of America and sought to repress, control, and suppress religious groups outside of the Kremlin-controlled Russian Orthodox Church. This persecution involved intimidation, expropriation, forced conversion, and even murder of Protestant clergy and congregations.

The article describes the case of Azat Azatyan, a Baptist who was severely tortured by Russian forces, including being beaten, shocked with electricity, and interrogated about his faith. "Azat's story is representative of Russia's systemic persecution of Protestants in occupied Ukraine," the report states.

The Russian invasion and occupation have contributed to the assessment that Russia ranks among the world's greatest religious persecutors, egregiously and systematically persecuting a wide array of Christian churches except the Ukrainian Orthodox Church Moscow Patriarchate, which Putin co-opts. Credible reports indicate that in occupied regions, Russian authorities have banned all Greek Catholic churches, Caritas, and the Knights of Columbus, as well as stripped Protestants, Jehovah's Witnesses, and the Orthodox Church of Ukraine of the right to hold services or register their places of worship.

Why this matters: Russia's persecution of Protestants in occupied Ukraine is part of a larger war against America and religious freedom, with far-reaching implications for global security and human rights. The targeting of religious minorities by an occupying power raises serious concerns about the erosion of fundamental freedoms and the need for international intervention.

Some on the US Christian right have ironically shown support for Russia, seeing it as an ally in a global culture war, despite the Kremlin's hatred of Protestants and evangelical Christians. Ukraine's evangelical community is calling for cooperation with US evangelicals to overcome the pro-Putin narrative and defend against Russia's religious oppression. The persecution of Protestants in occupied Ukraine serves as a sobering reminder of the ongoing struggle for religious freedom and the need for solidarity among faith communities in the face of oppression.

Key Takeaways

  • Russia systematically persecutes Protestants, especially Baptists, in occupied Ukraine.
  • Over 30 clergy killed/kidnapped, 109 interrogations/expulsions, 600 churches destroyed.
  • Protestants targeted as "agents of America", repressed outside Kremlin-controlled Orthodox Church.
  • Russia ranks among world's greatest religious persecutors, banning many Christian groups.
  • Ukraine's evangelicals call for US cooperation to counter Russia's religious oppression.