European Evangelical Alliance refutes disunity claims by Russian evangelical leader: path to peace 'is simple'

By Chris Eyte |
Burnt out Russian tank in Ukraine
A destroyed tank on April 28, 2022 in Zahaltsi, Ukraine. | Alexey Furman/Getty Images

The European Evangelical Alliance (EEA) has issued a statement refuting claims by a Russian evangelical leader who told Christian Daily International that the country he loved “is being attacked by the countries of the entire Western Christian world.” They also deny a division between evangelicals in the East and the West, and outlined what they consider to be the only way to lasting peace.

In an interview published on Monday, July 1, Rev. Vitaly Vlasenko, a Baptist minister in Moscow and General Secretary of the Russian Evangelical Alliance, spoke honestly about his struggles with the ongoing war and recurring feelings of helplessness and hopelessness.

“It is very difficult in this situation to be a faithful citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven and remain a decent citizen and patriot of your earthly Fatherland. It is very difficult to hear about the pain and see the suffering of people in a war zone and find the strength to maintain self-control not to go crazy,” he said.

“It is very difficult to speak words of consolation to the loved ones of the victims when everything is so ambiguous.” 

He then went on to speak about his desire to see a resolution of the conflict but bemoaned the prevalent language from the Western world, which seemed to include Christians, saying, “It is very difficult when, instead of calls for peace and negotiations to end the war, you hear about ‘the military defeat of your country on the battlefield.’”

“Are there really no sane people in the whole world who are capable of taking responsibility and finding a solution to this conflict?” he asked.

He expressed appreciation for the Christians around the world who “watch and spiritually care for us in Russia” despite any political and cultural or any other disagreements, during this “period of severe political confrontation with the world.” Yet, he also lamented what he described as an apparent continuation of the Great Schism of 1054, which divided the Church into East and West.

“Is it really that we, as evangelical Christians, cannot act as a united front, but stand on opposite sides of the political barricades?” he asked.

However, in response to the interview in Christian Daily International, the EEA issued a press release today (July 4) countering these claims and specifying their own position on what they believe it takes to accomplish peace in Ukraine.

“We do not acknowledge any division of evangelicals between East and West. Nor do we accept that Russia ‘is being attacked by the countries of the entire Western Christian world.’ No country is attacking Russia,” the statement said.

The EEA acknowledged Vlasenko’s anguish at the pain and suffering caused by the war in Ukraine.

The evangelical body that represents national Evangelical Alliances in 35 European countries - including the Russia Evangelical Alliance - stated that his feelings are shared by many evangelicals in Russia. They also took note of Vlasenko’s plea for the global community of evangelical Christians to do everything they can to stop the war. 

However, in their “response to his call”, the EEA said the way for peace between Ukraine and Russia “is simple.” 

“Russia must withdraw completely from Ukrainian territory that it invaded in 2014 and also from the land that it took in 2022,” the EEA said.

“Russia’s invasions and occupation and devastation are illegal. Russia had no provocation to invade.

“Ukraine as an autonomous state has the right to defend itself and choose its own future. There is nothing ambiguous about this war.”

The EEA said it holds a weekly prayer meeting for both countries, in which participants “pray for God’s shalom” in both countries. 

“We love both and we certainly love our evangelical brothers and sisters in both lands. But many countries are united in seeking to defend Ukraine and to prepare defensively in case Russia decides to invade another nation.

“We also pray weekly for peace with justice for Ukraine. Justice means Ukraine having its territory back and for Russia to pay fair reparations for the damage it has caused.

“Reconciliation is needed but peace with justice and truth must come first. Vitaly is right that the suffering is immense and that we must do all that we can to stop the war and prevent military escalation.

“So, we redouble our efforts to pray to see miraculous change in the situation which will bring about a just and lasting peace.”