AFGHANISTAN – The International Lutheran Council (ILC) is encouraging prayer for the people of Afghanistan following the Taliban’s return to rule.
The recent withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan has been followed by the rapid collapse of the nation’s democratic government as the Taliban takes control of the country. There have been multiple reports of revenge killings. Many who wish to flee have been unable to do so.
There is widespread international concern that the freedoms of women, Christians, and other minority groups will be wiped out as the country reverts to the brutal form of government which characterized the Taliban’s previous rule of Afghanistan.
In light of these events, we encourage Christians around the world to remember the people of Afghanistan in prayer.
Prayer:Heavenly Father, you know the fear which has gripped the nation of Afghanistan. Grant peace to a troubled region. Lead those in power to respect the rights of the people. Protect those who are unable to protect themselves. And comfort the small community of Christians in the country who, like many others, are fearful for the future. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
UKRAINE – The situation in Ukraine continues to be tense, following the occupation of the Crimean peninsula by Russian military and pro-Russian militia. And things are only getting worse, according to Bishop Viktor Gräfenstein of the Synod of Evangelical Lutheran Churches of Ukraine (SELCU).
“The situation is deteriorating every day,” Bishop Gräfenstein reports in a March 4 letter. “Nobody knows what tomorrow will bring. One of our brothers from Odessa, who is currently serving in the armed forces, reported that all soldiers are armed and constantly in a state of readiness for war.”
“Of course the Crimean Peninsula is the primary focus,” the letter continues. “Crimea formerly belonged to Russia, but was transferred to Ukraine in the Soviet period. Now, while Ukraine grapples with the question of whether to line up with Russia or with the European Union (EU), Russia threatens Ukraine with war, especially if Ukraine goes with the EU. Most Crimean residents are Russians who wish to be part of Russia. So now Russia uses this sentiment to hold the Crimea back from the EU.”
SELCU has five congregations on the Crimean peninsula, but Bishop Gräfenstein notes that, while the situation is tense, the people are still safe. “Our brothers and sisters are not doing badly at this moment,” he writes. “People in general are rushing to stockpile groceries, and nearly all the store shelves are empty. Everyone is concerned that, if it comes to war, a famine will break out.”
Bishop Gräfenstein ends his letter with a request for prayer: “We pray that the Lord would give to the responsible leaders grace and wisdom to govern in peace,” he writes. “Thank you for your prayer support.”
We pray that the Lord would give to the responsible leaders grace and wisdom to govern in peace.
SELCU is a young church body, with thirteen congregations throughout Ukraine. It has strong ties to Lutheran Church–Canada (LCC) which has long supported its ministry, especially with theological education and missions. Late last week, Rev. Dr. Robert Bugbee (President of Lutheran Church–Canada and Vice-Chairman of the International Lutheran Council) called on the wider church to hold up Ukraine in prayer.
“We ask the Lord to comfort the sorrowing who have lost loved ones,” President Bugbee wrote. “We ask Him to meet the legitimate needs of the Ukrainian people, regardless of their preferred languages and political orientation. We implore him that the work of our mission partners in the Synod of Evangelical Lutheran Churches of Ukraine may not be disrupted by the trouble.”
“Above all,” he continued, “we ask God to give courage to our pastors and people there in the mist of turmoil to point their neighbours to Jesus Christ, the great Prince of Peace.”