As the horrific war in Ukraine continues to unfold, the United States and the world are faced with a litany of challenges and concerns to address amidst the conflict. In addition to the geopolitical concerns, there is an ongoing humanitarian crisis that demands the attention of our world leaders. President Biden and allies of the U.S. have already taken a number of steps to hold President Putin accountable for his actions and to prevent the spread of this aggression.
The United States has banned the importing of Russian oil, natural gas, and coal imports. Billions of dollars in humanitarian aid have already been sent to assist the war-torn region and support the brave Ukrainians defending their homeland. Additionally, the administration granted Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to Ukranians who are currently in the U.S.. This was an important way for the U.S. to stand in solidarity with the people of Ukraine by ensuring that our Ukrainian neighbors do not have to fear deportation but can stay and work here, at least until the end of the conflict.
On March 24, Biden announced that “the United States will welcome up to 100,000 Ukrainians and others fleeing Russia’s aggression,” and went on to state that “we’re focused on reuniting families and providing refuge to those in harm’s way.” The ERLC was grateful to see the U.S. and our allies take these important steps, and we recently sent a letter thanking the administration for these actions. In that letter, we also laid out three areas of particular concern for Southern Baptists that the Biden administration should consider and take proactive actions to address.
1. Supporting Ukrainian refugees in Europe and at home
Over 3.5 million people have already fled Ukraine and another 6.5 million are currently internally displaced within the country. It’s estimated that as many as 5 million refugees may eventually seek refuge outside of the country. Throughout Scripture, we are specifically commanded to care for refugees. While we commend Poland and other neighboring countries who have welcomed these vulnerable people in the face of this immediate crisis, we know that Western Europe and the U.S. will have a role to play as well.
Many resettlement organizations in the U.S. are still struggling to fully rebuild after several challenging years and have been further stretched thin by the heroic work of resettling Afghan parolees. It is vital that we support these nations that have taken in refugees and invest in rebuilding our refugee resettlement program to allow many to find refuge in the U.S. in a timely fashion.
2. Protecting religious freedom for religious minorities
The belief that religious freedom is essential for all people to be able to live out their faiths fully is central for Southern Baptists. We are deeply concerned that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will be detrimental to the religious freedom enjoyed by Christians and other religious groups in the country. The Ukrainian church is among the most vibrant in Europe and is the primary missionary-sending country for Eastern Europe and Central Asia.
While many of these believers have fled, many others have made the difficult decision to stay and minister to their neighbors in these difficult times. Reports of a Russian “kill list” include religious minorities, and there is strong reason to believe that those spared will face intense persecution and will be forced to practice their faith in secret. It is essential the the religious freedom of Christians and other religious minorities be kept at the forefront of any negotiations or strategies that might be considered.
3. Ensuring that intercountry adoption remains viable in Ukraine
These times of war and disruption often most severely harm those who are already vulnerable. Certainly, orphans in Ukraine fall into this category as they face imminent danger and diminishing resources. As Christians, we are specifically called to care for orphans around the world and view intercountry adoption as an important way of doing that.
It is essential that intercountry adoption remain open and viable for these vulnerable children and for families who have already begun this process and are awaiting to be united with their children. When Russia invaded Crimea in 2014, they suspended foreign adoptions, and there’s grave concern that they could do the same if this illegal invasion of Ukraine is successful.
In these tragic times, we diligently raise these concerns to those in power and advocate on behalf of the most vulnerable in Ukraine. We also bolster this advocacy with fervent prayer. Christians must continue to seek God and pray for peace in our world, wisdom for our leaders, and protection for the vulnerable.