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Police Raid - Photo: Forum 18 www.forum18.org
Police raid at the
Krasnodon Baptist Church.
Photo: Forum 18

As of 2014, the Luhansk region of eastern Ukraine has been under the control of rebels. Since then, the self-declared government imposed oppressive religious restrictions. Last year, an order was made that no religious groups may hold services of any kind without registration. Subsequent to the deadline of October 2018, no Protestant church of any kind was granted registration. (See this report for more details.)

Now, a year later, the ban remains in effect, and those who do not heed the restrictions have been taken to court. At least six court cases in 2019 have ensued, including that of Pastor Vladimir Rytikov of the Krasnodon Baptist Church. This June, he was sentenced to 20 hours of community service for leading unregistered worship. His appeal was rejected on October 21st. Others have faced fines, though some of them have avoided further forms of punishment.

Many church buildings now sit empty. While these church communities officially own their buildings, they no longer can legally use them. At least one church has begun using Skype to provide broadcasts for congregants. Members of other churches have been meeting in homes, but they are carefully limiting these gatherings to no more than four people at a time.

Along with restrictions on public worship, foreign religious leaders have been banned from visiting the territory. As a result of being denied contact with fellow believers, many individuals are feeling isolated.

Uphold the Christians in Luhansk by praying for them to be granted the freedom to meet peacefully together in worship. Ask the Lord to work in the hearts of the governing officials within this region, impressing upon these leaders the importance of honouring their Creator and respecting the rights of all citizens. In the meantime, may the isolated church members receive needed encouragement and fellowship by meeting together in small groups.

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