". . . and having done all . . . stand firm." Eph. 6:13


Ukrainian Evangelical Christians Facing Torture, Destruction of Churches in Russian-Occupied Areas

April 10, 2024

Christians in Ukraine have faced torture, the destruction of their churches and other horrors at the hands of Russian forces, according to multiple religious freedom advocates who have called on Republican leaders to take notice of their plight. 

In a letter to House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.), Dr. Richard Land, the former president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, joined several advocates in asking Johnson to remember the persecuted Christians when considering efforts to support Ukraine. 

According to the letter, the Russian government has harmed Christians by torturing them and forcibly removing pastors from their positions. They add that Russian soldiers have targeted retired Baptist pastors they believe are not “pro-Russia” and whom they suspect of being supportive of the West. Land, who is also executive editor of The Christian Post, and the other religious freedom advocates noted in the letter that no Baptist churches are left in the Ukrainian city of Melitopol. 

“We desire peace. But more than that, we desire a peace that is based on the principles of justice,” the letter states in part. “Our God is both perfectly just and the author of perfect peace.” 

“We appreciate your leadership, are praying for your wisdom and courage as you consider support for Ukraine,” the document concluded. 

Steven Moore, who has been on the ground in Ukraine since the beginning of the war to deliver aid, warned that the treatment of Christians at the hands of Russian forces is an underreported threat. 

Moore is the former chief of staff to former Republican Rep. Pete Roskam of Illinois and the founder of Ukraine Freedom Project, a nonprofit he founded after Russian President Vladimir Putin declared war on Ukraine in 2022. The organization has provided over $1 million in aid to the front lines, including medical supplies, food, generators, power banks and drones. 

During an interview with CP, Moore said he repeatedly encountered Ukrainian Christians who told him stories of their persecution at the hands of Russian forces. In the process of providing humanitarian aid in Ukraine, Moore eventually met a man named Victor, a Christian who once served as an evangelical pastor. 

“If you know anything about Evangelical Christians in Ukraine, it’s that they’re super open about their faith,” Moore said.

Victor told the nonprofit founder that he was held captive for over 20 days and tortured with electrical tasers during an armed conflict between Russia and Ukraine in 2014. He told Moore that during his torture, a Russian Orthodox priest attempted to cast out the demons that supposedly resided in him for being an Evangelical. 

Through his friendship with Victor, Moore began to meet other Christians who had faced persecution. Another of Moore’s friends, Mark Sergeyev, is the youth pastor of Melitopol Christian Church, which Russian forces shut down in 2022. In the same city, attendees of Grace Baptist Church were subjected to fingerprinting after Russian soldiers in full combat gear interrupted a worship service. 

Last summer, Moore told CP that he became focused on telling the stories of persecuted Christians in Russian-occupied territories to members of Congress and Republican opinion leaders. From September 2023 to January, Moore said he visited around 100 congressional offices in Washington, D.C., to discuss Russia’s treatment of Christians. 

“Republicans should know this. Evangelical Republicans should know this,” Moore said. “People who worship God the way that they do are being tortured and murdered for their faith.” 

According to the former chief of staff, many of the people he met with said the personal accounts were “revelatory information” to them, and many congressional staffers were even driven to tears. Moore told CP that Russia’s persecution of Christians is not being reported enough. 

One of the reasons Moore said many haven’t heard these stories is due to the tight control of information in Ukraine. The nonprofit founder also blamed pundits and social commentators like Tucker Carlson as another factor preventing people from learning about the plight of Christians in Russian-occupied territories. 

The former Fox News host has faced criticism and accusations of spreading “Russian propaganda” by suggesting that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is also persecuting Christians in Ukraine. Zelensky also declined Carlson’s request for an interview.

Moore contends that Ukraine is not persecuting Christians. 

“It’s untrue,” Moore said. “It’s a Russian narrative, and what those people are doing is covering up for the real truth that the Russians are suppressing hundreds of thousands of Evangelical Christians in occupied territories.” 

Many others, however, have condemned Ukraine’s crackdown on churches, including CP columnist Hedieh Mirahmadi, who warned against the persecution of priests and parishioners of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church after Ukraine’s domestic security agency [SBU] launched a counterintelligence operation against the UOC. 

Since the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Zelensky’s government has escalated its actions against UOC churches and leaders, including the arrest of 68 priests and Metropolitan Pavel.

In an op-ed published in National Review in January, Nina Shea, a human rights lawyer and director of the Center for Religious Freedom at the conservative Washington-based think-tank the Hudson Institute, asserted that Ukraine’s strategy to crack down on what it perceives as "weaponized" religious institutions might be extreme but is justified.

According to Moore, many Evangelical Christians say the ongoing Russian occupation is worse for them now than when they lived under the Soviet Union.

Samantha Kamman is a reporter for The Christian Post.

This article was originally published in The Christian Post.