- Posted March 8, 2014 by
Team iReport featured this story
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Revolution and Church
- Jareen, CNN iReport producer
On Feb 22, 2014 more than a million people standing on Maidan and streets leading to Maidan sang together National Anthem of Ukraine followed by praying together the Lord’s prayer. It is said that Ukraine might hold a record in Guinness World Records Book for the greatest number of people signing National Anthem together.
To me, a prayer lifted by a million Ukrainians in downtown of Kiev has much greater significance!
Prior to 1991 when Ukraine became independent most Ukrainians like other Soviets had been atheists. In years of independence many have claimed to return to Christian roots. The “return” was for the most part nominal. It meant following church traditions around Easter time and claiming that being Ukrainian automatically meant that you are a Christian vs. Muslim or Hindu. Christianity was seen as part of cultural national identity, not so much an issue of personal faith.
During the past three months many Ukrainians reevaluated their views of Christianity, church and God. Church became relevant and God became real.
On the night of Nov 30th when riot police attacked a small group of students protesting on Maidan Ukrainian Orthodox church (Mykhailovksy Cathedral) opened its doors to hide the beaten students from police. On Dec 11th a monk in that same church rang the bells all night long to wake up Kiev when riot police attempted another attack on protesters on Independence Square (Maidan). On Feb 18th that church became an improvised hospital for the wounded protesters. Church that used to be just a place of rituals became a part of real life, providing help when help was needed!
During the first “round table” with President Yanukovich talking to various representatives of Maidan and society the priests were not afraid to speak the truth to the President who didn’t want to hear the truth. When President Yanukovich claimed that protesters were violating new laws that were banning any protests and therefore riot police violence was justifiable, Patriarch Filaret reminded that Jesus Christ had been also accused by legitimate at that time Roman court and was led to violent death by so-called “legitimate” decision of that court.
Throughout the months of protests priests, pastors and lay Christians were present on Maidan, leading people in prayers, answering questions, serving food, taking care of wounded. On some days prayers were led from the stage every hour by priests and pastors of different confessions. There were prayer tents set up by Evangelical, Greek Orthodox and Catholic churches.
In January priests and pastors often stood between protesters and riot police to prevent violent clashes.
After the first casualties on Feb 18th, priests and pastors did their best to talk to every man who went to front lines, telling them about Christ and asking to repent, confess their sins, reconcile with God. The 100+ heroes who were killed on Feb 18-20th are called Heavenly Hundred.
They say during the war there are no atheists. When we are taken from our comfort zones and placed in the middle of life-threatening turmoil we realize that we are not in control after all as we always thought we were and we turn to God who is in control! I believe many Ukrainians felt a very real presence of God in the midst of the chaos.
The events of February 18-20th are compared by many people to David and Goliath story. When a handful of protesters were surrounded and attacked by thousands of armed riot police, the sad outcome was inevitable, but against all logic, for no apparent reason armed police turned around and ran, ahead of them ran President Yanukovich who just a day before seemed undefeatable.
Now Ukraine is in another “David and Goliath” stand off with Russia and many Ukrainians and Ukrainian churches are praying and fasting, asking God for protection and peace.
Interim president Alexander Turchinov says, that “In the midst of ongoing turmoil that has enormous global significance, God is mightily at work in Ukraine.”
When I get discouraged while reading yet one more realistic/pessimistic analysis about the outcome of our war with Russia, I have to remind myself of God’s promise in 2 Chronicles 7:14 “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
Seeing thousands of people prayering on Maidan and main squares of other cities in Ukraine I want to believe that my people did humble themselves and turned away from their wicked ways, and God will protect us and will heal our land!