Hundreds of thousands of people have fled Ukraine into neighbouring Romania, Poland and Hungary since the first missiles were launched from Russia last week.
According to Baptist World Aid Australia, the United Nations expects up to four million Ukrainians to be displaced, exacerbating the need for food emergency services and refuge.
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Baptist World Aid is one of a number of aid agencies that have launched an appeal to support the people of Ukraine. Their “Standing with Ukraine” appeal will provide support for food, hygiene items, medicine, generators, blankets, pillows, temporary shelter and other essentials for displaced people.
In a media statement, Baptist World Aid said that Baptist leaders across Ukraine had been preparing for a possible invasion from Russia, encouraging churches to stockpile resources in case of a military attack.
Acting as “centres of hope”, the statement said, “churches are offering fleeing families food, shelter, medical care and providing a place people can shower and wash their clothes, as well as spiritual encouragement in this frightening time.”
In a letter to supporters, the CEO of Baptist World Aid, Rev Melissa Lipsett, reflected on the season Christians are entering.
“Given this week also marks the beginning of the Lenten season and our collective move toward Easter, I can’t help but think of another group of terrified friends gathered in a locked room, despondent and hopeless for how the events of their life together had ended so abruptly and tragically. Until Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’ (John 20:19-20). Hope had been restored,” she wrote.
“The Risen Jesus still extends such peace and hope to us and through us. As he sent out his disciples, may we, too, respond with tangible grace to those suffering in Eastern Europe.”
“As he sent out his disciples, may we, too, respond with tangible grace to those suffering in Eastern Europe.” – Melissa Lipsett, CEO, Baptist World Aid
World Vision’s CEO, Daniel Wordsworth, expressed concern for children in the region as he boarded a flight to Romania, where the agency is preparing emergency support packages for traumatised and exhausted refugees.
“For these families and children, it is the start of a long, unbearable journey – once you cross that border, it’s very hard to return,” Mr Wordsworth said.
“Global bullies are shattering the lives of children who will now face long-term trauma from hearing bombs dropping around them, watching jets fly past their windows and having their families torn apart.”
Proceeds from World Vision’s Ukrainian Crisis Appeal will go towards providing children and their families who need a safe haven with protection and psychosocial support, including child-friendly spaces.
“Global bullies are shattering the lives of children” – Daniel Wordsworth, CEO, World Vision
Bible Society Australia has also launched an emergency appeal for the people of Ukraine, specifically providing Scriptures to churches that are bringing the comforting message of God’s love in the midst of dislocation, military assaults and community breakdown caused by the Russian invasion.
CEO, Grant Thomson, expressed admiration for his Bible Society Ukrainian colleagues who have remained so focussed and hope-filled in the midst of the military assaults.
“Anatoliy Raychynets, the deputy general secretary, is demonstrating remarkable courage in a very difficult situation,” Mr Thomson said. “He is tenacious in his desire to share the Gospel, knowing the message of eternal hope is so needed at a time such as this.”
The European Christian Mission has set up a fund to help their missionaries in Western Ukraine care for refugees from the East. The European Christian Mission website reminds its supporters of Paul’s words to the Galatians, “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” (Galatians 6:10)
The European Christian Mission is asking Christians to support their work in Ukraine in three ways:
- Prayer, financial support, and sharing their appeal with others.
- “More than anything, Ukraine needs our prayers. Our workers in the country minister to thousands of students, children, orphans and families through various programs in addition to supporting several church plants. They all need our prayers.”
- The European Christian Mission is preparing to help tens of thousands of refugees expected in Lviv, coming from the Eastern part of Ukraine and has established a Ukraine Crisis Fund.
“I want to encourage you all in that today as we raise up our prayers like a fragrant offering” – Prime Minister Scott Morrison
Speaking at a church service at St Andrew’s Ukrainian Church in the Sydney suburb of Lidcombe on Sunday, the Prime Minister also reinforced the importance of prayer for the people of Ukraine.
“…as Christians we know that no shells, no bullets, no tyrants can silence faith, can subjugate faith, can take from you the peace of your faith, and I want to encourage you all in that today as we raise up our prayers like a fragrant offering. Just like the incense let those prayers ascend to the heaven. And may mercy reign down. And may compassion reign down. It says in Corinthians that that these things, faith, hope and love the greatest of all of them, may they all endure as I know they will in your hearts.”
The Prime Minister said he had “no doubt” Australia would be taking numbers in addition to the country’s regular refugee program but could not confirm any details.
World Vision Australia is one of several international development and advocacy organisations encouraging the Australian Government to make that commitment a special intake of 20,000 Ukrainian refugees, plus an emergency funding package to provide life-saving humanitarian aid to the people of Ukraine urgently.
In a statement released yesterday, Micah Australia (a coalition of Christian organisations and churches) added to the chorus: “If Australia is going to help in any meaningful way in both Afghanistan and Ukraine, then Australia’s refugee and overseas aid programs must both be expanded.”
The statement noted that “despite the overwhelming need, the Australian Government cut its annual Refugee and Humanitarian Program in 2020 by 5,000 places to a capped program of just 13,750 places.” This is a historically low development cooperation budget.
Micah welcomed the PM’s assurances and encouraged the Australian Government to deliver on its “well-intentioned promises” in the upcoming budget.