Evangelical Broadcaster in Odessa Calls on Russian, Ukrainian Orthodox Churches to Unite for Christ

Velopilger, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Ahead of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine this week, a Christian broadcaster in the region called on the country’s churches to set aside differences to unite as one Body of Christ in the face of war.

Speaking with The Christian Post earlier this week, Daniel Johnson, who runs a broadcasting group that transmits radio across Russia in a time when the kremlin has cracked down on evangelical media, detailed the state of the Ukrainian church and his calls for unity.

“This is a great time for the church in Ukraine to be strong and be an example and witness for Christ … knowing that … God is in control … God is sovereign and … everything is according to His plan so we don’t worry about it,” he explained. “We go on the air explaining to Christians that this is their time, this is their time to be a witness for Christ, and it’s really a wonderful opportunity for the Church despite all the chaos that can be happening here.”

Johnson said that, contrary to what Russian President Vladimir Putin has claimed with his recognition of two separatist regions earlier this week, the Ukrainian people don’t want Russia in their country and that the church could be at risk if the more powerful country successfully assumes control.

“Tanks are rolling down from Russia, Russian Orthodox priests are blessing the tanks,” he said, describing a similar dynamic that the Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy cynically described of the Crimean War in the 17th century.

“The Ukrainian Orthodox priests are blessing the Ukrainian soldiers to fight against Russia, so it’s a tragic scene where two brother faiths, Russian and Ukrainian Orthodox, have completely sided on the national goals of their one country,” he continued.

“They are not acting like they are citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven, first and foremost, but rather, they represent nationalism. And that’s not who we are as Christians,” he continued, expressing much the same frustration that Tolstoy expressed in The Kingdom of God is Within You.

“Our ultimate loyalty is to Christ and His Kingdom rather than the nationality of the land we happen to find ourselves in. And that’s not something that the Orthodox Church is not able to accommodate. … It’s a tragedy that that does not happen.”

Johnson, who has been broadcasting in Russia since 1993 and lives in Odessa, Ukraine, not far from the disputed region of Crimea, said that the evangelical church is “working mainly to just put the word of God out there … to the general public and even to the Orthodox listeners who like to hear. We’re teaching them the word of God and saying, ‘Trust the Lord and your ultimate allegiance is to Jesus, not to the leadership of any one country that … you find yourself in.”

As for the political conflicts that have led to the crisis in Ukraine which largely center around the former Soviet nation’s desire to join NATO and the potential involvement of the United States, Johnson says that this is a local conflict that ultimately requires divine intercession.

“We need to be a force of prayer for peace between these nations and trust God to determine the outcome of the lives of the people both in Ukraine and Russia, because in many ways … it’s a brotherhood of nations. We need to be focused on praying that God intervenes and His will is done because … there’s no real military solution from the U.S. to the problem in Ukraine,” he said. “It’s either you stay out of it, or if you’re going to get in it, it will escalate to the point where it will be beyond people’s control and we’ve been through those scenarios before.”

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