Baptists in western Ukraine prepare to open their homes and churches if brethren have to flee the eastern border.
Baptists in western Ukraine have made plans to shelter fellow believers in the case of a Russian invasion at the eastern border, a Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary graduate who now leads a Baptist seminary in Ukraine told Baptist Press.
“If Russia will invade, they will invade in eastern part and northern part, and a little bit of south,” said Yarsolav “Slavik” Pyzh, president of Ukrainian Baptist Theological Seminary (UBTS) in Lviv who holds a doctorate from Southwestern.
“Churches already agreed,” Pyzh said. “Those that are on the western part of Ukraine … told our brothers and sisters in other parts of Ukraine [that] if something happens we will open our homes and our churches to you.”
Russia persecutes religious minorities, including evangelical Protestants, through restrictions such as the 2016 Yarovaya Law criminalizing evangelism outside church walls. Russia considers any church beyond the government-influenced Russian Orthodox Church to be sectarian or a cult.
Pyzh believes Russian victory in Ukraine would more than likely lead to Ukraine being split into two countries, with western Ukraine remaining independent. Baptist churches that would fall to Russian rule as a consequence would likely transition to spread the gospel underground, Pyzh said, rather than abandon the faith.
“The church will go underground,” he said. “You have to understand that historically we had that experience before under the Soviet Union. So the church did not forget what does it mean to be persecuted, and I think that we will rearrange, reorganize, and still do what we always do, still preach the gospel.”
About 400 of the 1,300 students enrolled at UBTS are …