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Ukrainian religious leaders share tales of persecution and resilience

A delegation of Ukrainian interfaith leaders, representing Christian, Jewish, and Muslim clergy, visited the United States with a plea to “hear our cry.” The deputy senior bishop of the Ukrainian Evangelical Church described the dire situation in Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine, where some pastors have been killed, and the church has been forced underground.

They thanked the U.S. for its support and highlighted Russian occupiers’ suppression of religious and other freedoms in Ukraine. The delegation aimed to show unity across religious lines and dispel concerns about a draft law that could impact one branch of Orthodox Christianity. They emphasized that religious freedom thrives in Ukraine, unlike in Russian-controlled areas.

The delegation also expressed concern about continued U.S. aid to Ukraine facing skepticism from some American conservatives. They hoped to engage in dialogue with fellow evangelicals in America to raise awareness about the ongoing crisis in their homeland.

The Associated Press reports:

Like other Christian, Jewish and Muslim clergy in a delegation of Ukrainian interfaith leaders visiting the United States this week, Bishop Ivan Rusyn has a succinct message: “Please, hear our cry.”

The deputy senior bishop of the Ukrainian Evangelical Church, a Protestant denomination, said that since the February 2022 Russian invasion, some of his church’s pastors have been killed, and its seminary has been attacked by missiles. In Russian-occupied areas, he said, the church has been forced underground.

“To make it short, it has been hell” in occupied areas, Rusyn said during a visit Monday by a delegation of the All Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations at the U.S. Institute of Peace.

“We are not speaking about social marginalization,” he said. “We are speaking about people being murdered because they have different faith.”

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