Baptists helping to serve new Ukraine
A Baptist has been appointed as the interim President of Ukraine
In a fast moving situation at the weekend, Dr Oleksandr Turchynov was selected by the country’s Parliament to succeed the ousted President Viktor Yanukovych. He had already been appointed Speaker and deputy prime minister, and will remain as interim President until new elections are held later this year.
Dr Turchynov is a Baptist elder at the Word of Life Centre in Kiev, a member of the Baptist Union of Ukraine (the All-Ukrainian Union of Churches of Evangelical Christian Baptists).
A BBC profile said Dr Turchynov was considered the right-hand man of Yulia Tymoshenko, the former prime minister imprisoned by President Yanukovych but then dramatically released at the weekend. He was deputy Prime Minister in Ms Tymoshenko’s Government between 2007-2010.
It also described him as ‘a prolific writer of novels that deal with themes of corruption, the black economy and totalitarianism’.
In his first address he explained that elections would take place in May, whereupon he will immediately resign.
The first task, he said, was to ‘stop the confrontation, to regain control.… to ensure peace and tranquility, to prevent new victims, local rivalries and lynchings’. He has spent the week trying to form a unity Government.
Over the years he has met a number of Baptist leaders from organisations such as the European Baptist Federation and the Baptist World Alliance during their visits to the region. They include the Revd Tony Peck, EBF general secretary, who urged prayer for Dr Turchynov. He said, ‘We pray for him and his colleagues in these critical days as they face many challenges in seeking to steer Ukraine into the path of democracy, unity, and peaceful co-existence.’
At least 88 people have been killed in clashes between protesters and government forces over the last three months, the worst violence the country has witnessed since independence in 1991.
Pavel Unguryan, the International Missions Department Director with the Baptist Union of Ukraine and a member of Parliament said that ‘joy and sadness overfills our hearts as we celebrate the news of birth of a New Ukraine and grieve for the young men, students and husbands who died for this to happen.’
‘Hundreds of thousands of people burst out in ovation and cheers as they were listening to the reports about the progress from the Maydan’s stage’, he continued, though unfortunately many people now have ‘much anger and hatred for opponents’.
‘Many are determined just to revenge, burn and bring about injuries.’
The country needs to turn to Christ, he said.
‘What Ukraine needs is not just a change of people in authority but a change of the system and the relationship of the authorities to ordinary citizens. Ukraine needs love, mercy and forgiveness. Ukraine needs Christ!’
Mr Unguryan also praised the Christian community, which had been the light and the salt for both parties during the days of protests and confrontations.
‘The doctors, nurses, cooks, students and other Christian group have been helping whenever there was a need,’ Mr Unguryan said. ‘This situation caused the churches and even denominations get united in prayers and fasting for the peace and God’s intervention. People started crying out to God and even the TV media spoke about the role of the church and quoted Scriptures.’
A group from Hungarian Baptist Aid has also arrived in Ukraine to help the recovery.