The vice president of an international Christian ministry is urging churches in the United States not to forget about the war in Ukraine, saying the needs remain great even though the American news media largely has moved on to domestic issues.
"These people don't have houses. They're still being killed. Right now, Russia is bombing anything standing," Dirk Smith, vice president of Eastern European Mission (EEM), told Christian Headlines. The 61-year-old non-profit organization publishes, prints and distributes Bibles and Bible-based materials in countries throughout Europe, including in Ukraine.
EEM is working with partners in Ukraine and the surrounding nations of Poland, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia and Moldova to meet the physical and spiritual needs of Ukrainian citizens. An estimated 12 million Ukrainians have fled their homes since Russia invaded in February.
Ukraine is one the most Christian nations in Europe, with 78 percent of the population identifying with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, 10 percent with the Roman Catholic Church and 2 percent calling themselves evangelical.
Russia and Ukraine formerly were part of the Soviet Union, which dissolved in 1991. Ukraine subsequently claimed its independence.
"I talked with a couple of our people in Ukraine yesterday, and the attack is now heavy in Odesa down on the Black Sea. … They desperately want to go home. But they can't," Smith told Christian Headlines.
The American news media, Smith said, has done a poor job of covering the crisis in recent months.
"Don't just get your news from our news media – in fact, turn that junk off," Smith said, emphasizing that sources directly from Ukraine are more reliable. "Dive into real sources – go to the Telegram [app] and other places where Ukrainians are talking about it, and you'll get from them. Educate yourself."
Smith requested prayer. Financial assistance, he added, also is needed. Russia invaded Ukraine just as EEM was launching its spring fundraising campaign to provide 800,000 children's Bibles in Eastern Europe, including in Ukraine.
Even amidst the ongoing war, Smith said, Ukrainians are requesting Bibles.
"As the needs that we're hearing for humanitarian aid are [met], the next thing that we get requested is for Bibles in their language," Smith said. "The Ukrainians are desperate, and it's causing a desire and a seeking among the nations surrounding them as well. We see it all the time. When this artificial foundation that I think I'm standing on, which is this earthly kingdom – when it fails me, no matter what it might be, I start looking for the right foundation. Jesus gives the analogy: What's your house built on? Is it built on the rock or the sand?
"The requests for Bibles just skyrocket."
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Scott Olson/Staff
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.