Prayers are continuing for Ukraine as more than 500 Ukrainian churches and religious sites have been destroyed or damaged by Russia since its invasion nearly one year ago, according to Christianity Today. The Institute for Religious Freedom (IRF) reports that the Russian military has threatened brutal attacks and retaliation on Ukrainians who practice religion outside of the Russian Orthodox Church. Attacks include damage to churches and religious buildings, and the torture of church leaders.
At least 170 evangelical sites including 75 Pentecostal churches, 49 Baptist churches, 24 Seventh-day Adventist churches, and 22 “other” evangelical churches have been destroyed in Ukraine at the hands of the Russian military. At least 143 buildings belonging to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, and 34 belonging to the newer independent Orthodox Church of Ukraine, have also been damaged or destroyed.
The destruction is a result of the immense shelling of Ukrainian cities, but is also a result of targeted attacks. “The IRF report documents targeted shelling, missile attacks, vandalism, and looting of religious buildings as well as the torture and killing of religious leaders and believers of many faiths. In many cases, members of destroyed churches also found that Russian forces burned all of their Ukrainian-language Bibles, books, and tracts.”
The IRF has uncovered some of the devastation facing churches. Valentyn Siniy, rector of the Kherson-based Tavriski Christian Institute, said that Russia has accused evangelical Christians in Ukraine of being “American spies” and “enemies of the Russian Orthodox people.” Siniy reported that one Russian officer told an employee of the IRF, “evangelical believers like you should be completely destroyed … a simple shooting will be too easy for you. You need to be buried alive.” The threat was heard in another instance on a phone conversation as well.
The executive director of the IRF, Maksym Vasin, shared that he hopes the evidence collected by his organization will “encourage international bodies such as the International Criminal Court to investigate and charge Russian authorities not just with the war crime of attacking religious sites but also with crimes against humanity and genocide.”