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United Methodists respond to invasion of Ukraine (UM News)

Feb. 24, 2022

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine brought calls for prayer and statements of deep concern from United Methodists, as well as a first-hand account from a denomination member in harm’s way.

“We were awakened from deep morning sleep by the sound of explosions and many phone calls from friends,” said the Rev. Oleg Starodubets, a district superintendent who messaged UM News from Kyiv on Feb. 24. “People took their beloved and tried to leave the cities.”

Starodubets said United Methodists in Ukraine are opening churches as shelters. He asked for prayers for peace and a Russian withdrawal from Ukraine.

Soon after the invasion began, Nordic-Baltic Area Bishop Christian Alsted issued a pastoral letter about the reality suddenly gripping his continent.

“There is war in Europe. Russia has invaded Ukraine, which is a free independent democracy,” Alsted wrote. “War and violence are evil and always entail considerable human costs. The Christian message points to the path of reconciliation and never to war and violence, as a solution to conflicts.”

Alsted also called for prayers for Eurasia Area Bishop Eduard Khegay, who oversees the denomination’s churches in both Russia and Ukraine and is based in Moscow. After the invasion began, Khegay shared on Facebook his distress at the invasion. The post says in part:

“I am ashamed of my country and hurt for the loss of human lives. This is a disgrace. How many corpses of war should appear in Russia and Ukraine in order for this nightmare to end?”

In 2017, Khegay hosted a peace dialogue for United Methodists from Russia and Ukraine, held in Lithuania.

Reaction came as well from United Methodist Women.

“United Methodist Women is watching this Russian aggression against Ukraine in horror and in fervent prayer,” the group said in a statement. “We have worked for years with women’s peace networks in Eastern Europe and we stand in solidarity with the Ukrainian women and people against this unjustified invasion and war.”