RICHMOND, Va. (LBM)–“With the recent Russian invasion of Ukraine, we join all those in Eastern Europe in praying for peace,” said Paul Chitwood, president of the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. His comments were forwarded to the Baptist Message by Leslie Caldwell, a managing editor for the organization.
“We know that God is sovereign in all situations, and Scripture reminds us that He is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. We keep our focus on Him, asking for His protection of the innocent and trusting that His justice will prevail,” said Chitwood. “Pray with us that Jesus Christ would be glorified through the crisis in Eastern Europe, and that Southern Baptists would remain vigilant in meeting the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of those who are suffering.”
Caldwell stated that security concerns prevented any discussion about possible impacts on deployed missionaries and that Chitwood’s comments “are the only statement we can make at this time.”
There already was an existing humanitarian crisis in the Ukraine resulting from the 2014 invasion and ultimate absorption of the Crimean Peninsula of Ukraine (and it’s 2 million people) into the Russian Federation. The same year, Russia also engineered separatist movements in two eastern Ukraine regions (6.6 million population). So, prior to the present attacks, Ukraine had suffered 10,000 combatant deaths and 3,400 civilian fatalities, and already was dealing with 1.4 million internally displaced persons, according to an October 2021 Congressional Research Service report.
Now, the invasion that is underway threatens to displace another 5 million people, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, claimed during a general session of global representatives, Feb. 23.
“If Russia continues down this path, it could — according to our estimates — create a new refugee crisis, one of the largest facing the world today,” she said.
Meanwhile, the IMB has asked Baptists across the nation to pray for:
— strength, courage and perseverance for Ukrainians whose homes are threatened by imminent conflict;
— safe passages out of conflict zones for displaced populations;
— government officials to lead with wisdom in this tense time;
— an estimated 5 million people who will be displaced from their homes;
— the psychological, emotional and spiritual healing for Ukrainians;
— soldiers on both sides of this conflict to be safe from harm;
— local churches, relief workers and humanitarian aid organizations to care for what could be a massive wave of displaced peoples in Ukraine;
— the Disciples Church in L’viv, Ukraine, and its church plant in Bryukhovychi (many members are displaced from the east and had hoped this conflict from eight years ago was over);
— the Ukrainian Baptist Theological Seminary as it wrestles with how to assist its students in this time of crisis;
— Ukrainian believers as they seek to be a light in the darkness; and
— Ukrainians who have never heard the Gospel to have an opportunity to experience the hope of Jesus.