It seems that the situation changes every few minutes. There are not enough news sources or enough journalists on the ground to keep up with all this is happening in Ukraine right now. This is a time of great uncertainty and turmoil for those of us in Ukraine.
More than three months ago protests began in Ukraine. The students from our Christian student center were present at the first protest here in Lviv. Within a week, hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets to signal their dissatisfaction with the way their government was steering the country. One of our young people was present in Kyiv on the first night that protesters were beaten. He was wearing his press jacket, but was beaten and arrested anyway.
The protests swelled after the violence, and the administration refused to talk to opposition leaders. The government imposed stricter laws targeting the protesters. Small violent events led to the bloodshed of February 18-20. Our young people were on the front line, defending the freedom of their country. One was arrested by government police. Thankfully, all of our friends and students survived.
The ex-president fled the country, an interim government was chosen, and the long process of stabilizing the country began. Within a week, Russian forces swept into Crimea to "stabilize" the area.
Crimea's Soviet history is dark and challenging. The native Tatar population was rounded up and forced to migrate to another country. Ethnic Russians were sent by the Soviet government to repopulate the area. Many Tatars died during this time and their language was almost entirely destroyed. Since the late 80s, Tatars have been returning to Crimea and trying to revive their culture.
The facts and figures are complicated, but more than 50% of the population in Crimea is ethnically Russian. The Tatars make up less than 20% and ethnic Ukrainians a bit more than 20%. The Russian-financed political party that seized the Crimean government received less than 5% of the votes in the last two elections. It would be like the Libertarian candidate deciding he should be governor when the two major parties tied at 47% of the vote.
Whew. All of this is just to say that the politics are complicated. However, in nationwide polls, 90% of Ukrainians want nothing more than a unified Ukraine. The language gap between east and west is closing, as people openly express the fact that Ukraine is more than a language - Ukrainians are one people.
Putin's propaganda machine is powerful. All of us in the west who support moving towards the EU are labeled as Nazis, fascists, or terrorists. In Russia, more than 300 people were arrested for protesting against the war. It becomes even more complicated as other countries get involved and political histories from every decade are dug out of their graves.
I ask for everyone to be in prayer for Ukraine.
I don't know what tomorrow holds, but I know who holds tomorrow. We as Christians must stand and be counted for the truth - we must speak out and act for a better future. But we are never afraid of what might happen next.
We must pray for a peaceful outcome and for peace to reign.
For our students and young people, this is a very stressful and challenging time. More than 100 people died just a week ago in the fight for freedom and democracy, and on the heels of that tragedy - Putin sensed the weakness and began his war of retribution for toppling the candidate he supported. Please pray for Russians who are against the war to be brave and courageous enough to speak up.
Please pray for our student ministry as we do the best we can do comfort and aid the young people of Ukraine. We have many prayer nights, fellowship times, and conversations with students.
Please stay informed, stay in prayer, and stay in touch. If you would like to do something to help, take a picture of you and your church group dressed in blue and yellow - or holding a flag made of blue and yellow paper. Your support means a lot to our young people. We would love to see it.
As for me, I am doing alright. In Lviv, things are very safe. I have an emergency evacuation plan charted out just in case - but I don't see many likely scenarios in which I would be forced to use it. I have a tremendous sense of peace right now, and I know that in Lviv I am safe.
If you have any questions, feel free to email me and ask. I might not have time to get to all of the emails right away, but I will try my best. I am available to Skype with groups from time to time and to explain things and answer questions.