By Lucinda Borkett-Jones, Christian Today
Reports of rebels threatening churches with firing squads, storming church services and holding pastors hostage are just some of the stories that have emerged from rebel-held regions of eastern Ukraine in recent months.
The threat to Ukraine’s evangelical churches is a lesser-known aspect of the ongoing political struggle between the pro-Russian separatists and the Ukrainian government in Kiev. A fragile ceasefire was agreed on September 5, though this week the rebels have resumed attacks on Donetsk airport, a key site in the conflict, and yesterday a Red Cross aid worker was killed by shelling in Donetsk.
On Saturday, Seventh Day Adventist minister Sergei Litovchenko was abducted by pro-Russian gunmen during a church service in Horlivka, in the Donetsk region. This is just one of many reports of infringements on religious practice within the rebel-controlled eastern regions – areas now known as the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and the Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR).
The , based in Kiev, has recorded numerous incidents of religious persecution that took place in June and July. In August, Human Rights Watch reported several cases of arbitrary detention and torture, which had been largely overlooked by the media.