Mission Eurasia’s efforts to promote peace and religious freedom in Eurasia and raise awareness about challenges to religious freedom in the region led us to organize several strategic events centered around the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, DC at the beginning of February 2018. One of the key events that week was a roundtable discussion called Religion in the Shadow of the Kremlin: New Challenges Facing the Post-Soviet World. This roundtable discussion brought together key leaders in church, government, and society from Eurasia and the US to establish international partnerships and dialogue, analyze current challenges to religious freedom in Russia and territories of Ukraine that are occupied by pro-Russian separatists, and develop creative and effective solutions to the problems.
This event was organized by Mission Eurasia, and Sergey Rakhuba (President of Mission Eurasia), Dr. Michael Cherenkov (Executive Director of Mission Eurasia Field Ministries), and Viktor Kuzmenko (Short-Term Missions and Slavic Relations Manager) represented Mission Eurasia at the roundtable discussion.
Other distinguished participants included Dr. Andriy Yurash (Director of the Department of Religious and Ethnic Affairs in Ukraine), Lauren B. Homer (President of Law and Liberty Trust), Father Cyril Hovorun (Acting Director of Huffington Ecumenical Institute), Rev. Dr. Valeriy Antonuk (President of the Ukrainian Baptist Union), Dr. Viktor Ielensky (Member of Parliament of Ukraine), Dr. Liliia Hrynevych (Ukrainian politician and Minister of Education and Science of Ukraine), and Dr. Pavlo Ungurian (Member of Parliament of Ukraine). Dr. John Bernbaum, one of our esteemed partners at the BEAM Foundation, moderated the discussion.
Questions examined during the roundtable discussion included:
- What is the nature of the new religious and political situation in Russia? What is the real role of the Russian Orthodox Church in relation to the Russian government? What will happen to other Christian denominations and religious groups in Russia? What is the “Yarovaya law” and against whom are its strict regulations directed?
- How are the religious and political motives of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine connected? What can religious institutions in both countries do to end the war in eastern Ukraine?
- How can the international/global community and partnerships help civil society and religious communities facing limited freedom and/or open aggression? What forms of interaction are most effective?
- How can the social, educational, missionary initiatives of the church help to positively transform the post-Soviet countries of Eurasia?
To read and download the individual presentations from the roundtable discussion, please see the list of speakers below.
Speakers and Presentations:
Dr. Andriy Yurash, Director of the Department of Religious and Ethnic Affairs (Ministry of Culture of Ukraine), Professor of Religious Studies. Click to read Dr. Yurash’s presentation:
Dr. Viktor Ielensky, Member of Parliament of Ukraine, Sociologist of Religion, Professor. Click to read Dr. Ielensky’s presentation:
Rev. Dr. Cyril Hovorun, Acting Director of Huffington Ecumenical Institute, formerly Chair of External Relations of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Click to read Dr. Hovorun’s presentation:
Dr. Mykhailo (Michael) Cherenkov, Professor at Ukrainian Catholic University, Executive Field Director at Mission Eurasia. Click to read Dr. Cherenkov’s presentation:
Rev. Dr. Valeriy Antonyuk, President of the Ukrainian Baptist Union. Click to read Dr. Antonyuk’s presentation:
Sergey Rakhuba, President of Mission Eurasia. Click to read Sergey Rakhuba’s presentation:
Dr. John A. Bernbaum, President, BEAM (Business & Education as Mission), Inc. Click to read Dr. Bernbaum’s remarks:
Photos from the roundtable discussion:
- Praise God that Pastor Dmitry (David) Shestakov and his family, who we helped flee to Ukraine after David suffered severe persecution in Uzbekistan, were relocated to the United States on August 30! This is a wonderful answer to prayer, as we have been advocating on behalf of the Shestakov family since 2012.
- Please pray that God would use our 2016-2017 School Without Walls (SWW) program, which launches this month, to prepare even more young Christian leaders for effective ministry throughout Eurasia and Israel.
- Pray that God would be at work in the hearts of the children who attended this year’s summer Bible camps and will now be participating in several follow-up events.
- Pray for SWW leaders and students in Belarus as they prepare for several upcoming Next Generation Professional Leaders Initiative (NGPLI) conferences.
- Pray for our ministry team in Russia’s North Caucasus as they continue expanding SWW outreach efforts and church planting in this volatile region.
- Praise God for a team of young people from ShareWord Global, one of our ministry partners, who recently visited 12 of our summer Bible camps in Moldova, where they distributed New Testaments to 900 at-risk children!
- Please pray that our containers of humanitarian aid goods for Ukraine would clear customs quickly so we can continue bringing these goods to those in need.
- Pray for the leaders of Church Without Walls (CWW) in Pinsk, Belarus, as they are seeking new ways to serve in their community and grow their small group ministry.
- Pray that God would provide new opportunities for our ministry team in Vladikavkaz, Russia to partner with local schools and universities so they can reach out to young people through preventative lectures.
- Please pray for our SWW coordinator and several SWW students in Uzbekistan who were recently interrogated by local authorities. Pray that God would protect them and give them courage.
- Pray for CWW in Chisinau, Moldova as they continue developing and expanding their youth ministry through sports outreach, youth clubs, and training seminars at local middle schools.
- Praise God for a very successful summer Bible camp in Dagestan, Russia, where many children heard the gospel for the very first time!
- Pray for a new Living Israel church that was recently planted in Safed, Israel, where there are currently no other churches.
- Please pray for several upcoming evangelistic events, including picnics, movie nights, and prayer meetings, that Reconciliation Church in Bobruisk, Belarus will be hosting.
- Pray for our SWW students in Armenia as they prepare for several upcoming evangelistic concerts in various cities.
- Pray for healing for Konstantin, one of our ministry workers in Ukraine, who recently injured his shoulder.
- Praise God for our ministry center in Vladikavkaz, Russia, through which we are preparing SWW students to reach the lost throughout the North Caucasus!
- Please pray that God would continue His work in the hearts of the non-Christian teenagers who participated in a special summer Bible camp in Pinsk, Belarus so that they may come to know Christ.
- Pray for Aram, our SWW coordinator in Armenia, as he prepares young people at his church to lead their own youth ministry.
- Pray for safety for Erin and Rashid, our missionaries in Perm, Russia, as Rashid travels to Kiev, Ukraine for SWW meetings and Erin stays at home with their children.
- Please pray for SWW students at Reconciliation Church in Bobruisk, Belarus as they continue serving at a local boarding school for orphans.
- Praise God for new believers who were recently baptized at Spiritual Renewal Church in Russia’s North Caucasus!
- Continue praying for peace in Ukraine so that those who are hurting can start to heal and move forward.
- Irina, the wife of the CWW pastor in Pinsk, Belarus, is starting an English as a Second Language ministry, so please pray that God would grant her wisdom.
- Pray for courage and safety for our brothers and sisters in Russia as they continue sharing the gospel, despite new laws that limit religious freedom.
- Praise God for a specially designed New Testament in the Romanian and Russian languages that we are distributing in Moldova!
- Please continue praying for Sasha, a SWW student from Bobruisk, Belarus, as he is currently serving in the army.
- Pray for several upcoming events in Russia, including a pastors’ conference in Yekaterinburg, a NGPLI conference in Perm, and a NGPLI forum in St. Petersburg.
- Pray for wisdom as we continue sharing the gospel in the midst of escalating religious persecution in Central Asia.
- Please pray for Dmitry, our partner pastor in Tolyatti, Russia, as his church plans evangelistic events to expand God’s Kingdom in their city.
Anna is a passionate young Russian believer who was able to attend one of our recent Next Generation Professional Leaders Initiative forums. There, she was trained and equipped to boldly and confidently share her faith.
In fact, Anna’s faith is so strong that she dared to write a letter to President Putin, imploring him to reconsider the repressive Yarovaya laws. To quote from her letter:
I am a music teacher. I work with children and plan to receive my degree this year. No matter where I am, I plan to keep sharing my convictions and my faith! I believe that everyone who wishes to call themselves a Christian is required to share what God has done for them. And God has done and continues to do so many miracles in my life. Some members of my family suffered from terminal illnesses, and God healed them through prayer without any doctors! In fact, I believe that if you heard the story of my family, you would absolutely believe in God! I understand that you are the president and have great power. But I believe that the Lord would like me to share this quote from the Bible: “For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews [Christians] from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14). I believe that the prosperity of a nation is directly related to the well-being of its leader. That’s why I am praying that you will make a wise decision. You are in our prayers!
This is a powerful testament to the courage and conviction of the young Christian leaders in Eurasia.
Thank you for your generous support which makes it possible for us to continue investing in young Christians like Anna, training and equipping them to share Christ’s love in every sphere of their lives, within the church, in the community, in their workplace, and beyond.
- Please pray that God would be at work in the hearts of the children who attend our upcoming summer Bible camps in Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, and Russia.
- Praise God that many of our containers of humanitarian aid have cleared customs in Ukraine!
- Pray for a Christian concert that School Without Walls (SWW) students in Gyumri, Armenia are organizing at the beginning of June. They expect that many nonbelievers will attend this event.
- Pray for God to provide for the needs of Church Without Walls (CWW) in Pinsk, Belarus, as well as the personal needs of the congregation.
- Pray for our ministry workers in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan as they prepare for an upcoming Next Generation Professional Leaders Initiative (NGPLI) forum.
- Please pray for God to provide new ministry opportunities for Yevgeniy, one of our ministry partners at a local church in Vladivostok, Russia. He has a great passion for sharing the gospel with young people.
- Pray for an upcoming special summer Bible camp for children that will take place in Israel. This is a wonderful opportunity for us to share the gospel in the Holy Land.
- Pray for Reconciliation Church in Bobruisk, Belarus, as many members of their congregation are facing personal difficulties, and many new members still have doubts about Christianity.
- Praise God that we have shared God’s love with nearly 1.4 million needy people in Ukraine through our “I Care” Refugee Assistance Program!
- Please pray that God would bless our church-planting efforts in Russia’s Northern Caucasus, particularly in the Muslim republics of Chechnya, Dagestan, Ingushetia, and Kabardino-Balkaria.
- Pray that our SWW programs in Gyumri and Yerevan, Armenia would have fruitful attendance so even more young people will be prepared for ministry in their own communities.
- Praise God for an annual NGPLI youth conference that will take place in Kaluga, Russia on June 12-13! Please pray that the young Christian leaders who attend this conference would learn how to use their workplaces as opportunities for sharing the gospel.
- Pray for CWW in Pinsk, Belarus, as they are still experiencing difficulties with the official registration process.
- Pray for upcoming evangelistic events that many churches in Ukraine are planning for the summer, and that God would provide leaders who would step up and lead these events.
- Please continue praying for our brothers and sisters who are suffering for their faith in Central Asia, and for God to be at work through our Religious Freedom Initiative (RFI) as we advocate on their behalf.
- Pray for summer Bible camps that will take place in Russia’s volatile Northern Caucasus, as well as in Azerbaijan, where religious persecution of Christians is very common.
- Pray for SWW students in Georgia to be unified in Christ so that they can reach as many people as possible with the gospel.
- Pray for SWW students in Russia’s Perm region who are leading weekly classes on the basics of Christianity in the remote village of Nyrob. Pray that God would use them to speak into the hearts of the villagers.
- Please pray for Denys, our NGPLI director, and his wife, who was recently diagnosed with cancer. Pray that God would grant her peace, and that He would heal her, if that is His will.
- Pray for the leaders of Reconciliation Church in Bobruisk, Belarus as they teach their congregation about the importance of discipling, forgiving, and loving one another in and through Christ.
- Praise God for His provision of new leadership for Spiritual Renewal Church in Russia’s Northern Caucasus!
- Pray for Aram, our SWW coordinator in Armenia, who is experiencing burnout and would like energy to continue serving God.
- Pray for an upcoming NGPLI forum in St. Petersburg, Russia, as well as conferences in Krasnoyarsk and Perm.
- Please pray for our RFI, through which we are encouraging pastors in Central Asia, Russia, and Ukraine to pursue and promote reconciliation.
- Praise God that Operation Mobilization Russia is interested in partnering with us in the Northern Caucasus! Pray that God would use this partnership to help us reach even more young people with the gospel.
- Pray that God would provide new ministry opportunities for SWW students to share the gospel with young people at local schools in Vladikavkaz, Russia, as well as through their ministry efforts in the Primorsky region.
- Pray for the development of a new youth ministry at CWW in Pinsk, Belarus, and that God would provide strong leaders for this initiative.
- Pray that God would use two of our SWW leaders from Kalmykia, Russia to share the gospel with their neighbors, as they are studying in Moldova to become tae-kwon-do instructors.
- Please continue to pray for peace in Ukraine so that the millions of needy people in this nation can start to heal and rebuild their homeland.
- Pray for our ministry leaders as we prepare for our 2016-2017 SWW program, through which we will train and equip even more young leaders to transform their nations with the gospel.
The issue of religious freedom is deeply significant for Mission Eurasia’s strategy to help support the efforts of national churches in Eurasia. Our president, Sergey Rakhuba, recently returned from a trip to Oxford, England where he attended the Religious Liberty Partnership (RLP) Consultation on March 14–17. The RLP is a collaborative effort of Christian organizations focused on religious liberty in over 20 countries which includes advocacy, research, assistance, and awareness of religious persecution globally. Read more about the RLP here.
During the RLP Consultation, Sergey and our colleague Vitaliy Proshak presented Mission Eurasia’s 2016 religious freedom initiative report: Challenges to Freedom of Religion in Post-Soviet Central Asian States. Although this year marks 25 years since the dissolution of the USSR, the five Central Asian countries of the former Soviet Union (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan) have continued to operate under the same political and economic system that has propagated atheism and persecution of religious freedom for more than 70 years. Moreover, the majority of the current leaders in Central Asia are the same leaders who were in power during the height of the Soviet era.
This very day, Christians and pastors in these countries are facing growing threats to their freedom. Just this week we heard from one of our ministry partners in Uzbekistan who is being threated with prison for assisting Christian families whose homes were being illegally raided by police in search of Christian literature and DVDs.
We also recently became aware of a man in Kazakhstan who converted from Islam to Christianity and was arrested, convicted, and jailed after being accused of misinterpreting the Koran and the Bible and spreading discord among the indigenous Muslim people. His arrest is particularly disturbing since the Kazakhstan constitution technically guarantees freedom of belief. However, it appears that Kazakhstan is now breaking its own religious freedom laws.
These stories are part of a disturbing trend. Common challenges to religious freedom in the post-Soviet Central Asian states include:
- Lack of religious tolerance on the part of the population and decision-makers
- Strict state inspection and control over the activities of religious organizations
- Inaccurate representation of religious minorities in the media
- State-imposed censorship of religious literature and limitations on its storage and distribution
- Very limited protection of citizens’ rights to religious freedom
- Regulations limiting the freedom of “non-traditional religious groups” (particularly Protestant Christians), which limit access to religious education, reduce the role of missionaries and the rights of children to participate in religious practices, and prohibitions on unregistered religious communities
To read more, please click here to download the report.
As you consider the many challenges to religious freedom in Central Asia, please pray for the suffering of these believers—particularly in Uzbekistan where raids are taking place, pastors are being detained, Christian literature is being confiscated, and harsh laws are being imposed to restrict religious freedom, particularly that of evangelicals.
And please, give to support the efforts of Mission Eurasia to promote religious freedom and reconciliation throughout Eurasia and the former Soviet Union. Your gift today will go toward ministering to the families of pastors and other Christians who have been jailed or persecuted for their faith. Your contribution will allow us to continue strengthening, equipping, encouraging, and mobilizing Next Generation Christian leaders in Central Asia to stand up for religious freedom and share the transformative power of the gospel in their home countries—bringing a light into places covered in darkness.
When giving, please select “Religious Freedom Initiative” from the drop-down menu.
Dear Friends and Ministry Supporters,
As we have been reporting, the religious freedom situation in Central Asia continues to deteriorate. That is why I am writing today to ask for your urgent prayers for Yklas Kabduakasov, a 54-year-old new believer from the Central Asian country of Kazakhstan, who fearlessly shared the gospel with his family and friends after his conversion from Islam. Kazakhstan’s secret police arrested Kabduakasov on August 14 after they searched his home and confiscated his Christian books. The church where Kabduakasov worships in Kazakhstan was also searched the same day. On August 15 a court in the capital city of Astana ordered him to be held for two months in pre-trial detention for spreading “religious discord.” Kabduakasov now faces a criminal case with a possible 5-10 year prison sentence.
Christians in Kazakhstan believe that Kabduakasov was targeted for his conversion from Islam to Christianity and for sharing the gospel with other Muslims. They believe that the secret police are using these tactics of intimidation because they want to make an example of Kabduakasov, sending a message to all Kazakhs that they will face a similar fate if they also convert to Christianity.
As believers, we know that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12). That is why I am asking you to join me in prayer for Yklas Kabduakasov and for all of our Christian brothers and sisters who are suffering for their faith throughout the countries of Central Asia, Russia, Ukraine and all of Eurasia.
Please pray specifically for Yklas Kabduakasov that God would:
- Strengthen his faith and help him go through this trial.
- Comfort his family, especially his wife, who is in the last months of pregnancy.
- Soften the hearts of his persecutors, that they would drop the charges against him.
- Provide funds for his family, for legal fees, and for food during his time in detention.
Please also consider giving a gift to Mission Eurasia’s Religious Freedom Fund that is designed to support and strengthen the persecuted church throughout Eurasia. To give online, click here and select Religious Freedom Fund from the dropdown menu.
Thank you for your prayers and support for Yklas Kabduakasov and all persecuted believers throughout the countries of Eurasia who are suffering for their faith. I would also appreciate your prayers for Mission Eurasia, as we continue to develop our strategic Religious Freedom Initiative that is designed to train and equip emerging leaders for the persecuted church as well as inform and mobilize the global Christian community to advocate for the persecuted church throughout Eurasia.
Gratefully in Him,