Why Russian separatists called an exorcist when they discovered a Ukrainian POW was an evangelical Christian

Why Russian separatists called an exorcist when they discovered a Ukrainian POW was an evangelical Christian
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Viktor Cherniiavskyi, Ukrainian FPV Kamikaze drone pilot and former POW.
Viktor Cherniiavskyi.

  • A Ukrainian soldier said he was tortured by Russian separatists and forced to undergo an exorcism.
  • Viktor Cherniiavskyi said he was targeted because he was an evangelical Christian.
  • Some on the US Christian right have ironically shown support for Russia.

A Ukrainian soldier said he was tortured by Russian separatists and forced to undergo an exorcism, partly because of his evangelical Christian faith.

Viktor Cherniiavskyi is now a first-person view (FPV) drone pilot, but he said he was a chaplain to evangelical Christians in the Ukrainian army in 2014 when Russia invaded the Crimean peninsula.

While serving as a volunteer in the city of Luhansk in eastern Ukraine, Cherniiavskyi said he was captured by Russian-aligned forces.

During his 25 days of captivity, Cherniiavskyi said he was held in a basement cell in a prison in Luhansk, where he said he was beaten with a baseball bat, had unloaded pistols shot at his head, and was repeatedly Tasered.

When his captors became aware of his evangelical faith, a Russian Orthodox priest from Moscow was called to carry out a form of exorcism on him, he told Business Insider.

“When the priest tried to cast demons out of me, he gave me two reasons: First, because of my ‘black eyes.’ Second, because I’m an evangelical Christian. Crossing his hands, he pushed me to kiss the crucifix,” Cherniiavskyi said.

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He added that the Kremlin had a particular hatred of Protestants and evangelical Christians and that Moscow saw anyone affiliated with US churches as “foreign agents.”

By contrast, some on the US Christian right have ironically shown support for Russia as they see Russian President Vladimir Putin’s country as an ally in a global culture war.

“Whose side is God on now?”

Christian evangelicals attend Sunday service at First Baptist North church in Spartanburg, South Carolina, 2016.
Christian evangelicals in South Carolina, in 2016.

Some Christian conservatives have embraced Russia’s staunchly traditionalist views on family, sexuality, and gender — to the extent that when Russia launched its invasion of Crimea in 2014, former presidential advisor and paleoconservative Pat Buchanan asked a simple question in a post on Townhall: “Whose side is God on now?”

Buchanan went on to highlight his admiration for the way Putin apparently upheld Christian values.

“In the culture war for the future of mankind, Putin is planting Russia’s flag firmly on the side of traditional Christianity,” he wrote.

US conservative evangelicals have forged symbolic bonds with the Russian Orthodox Church, drawn to Russia’s religious traditionalism and white nationalism, the Boston Review reported.

In spite of such links, the Kremlin has not reciprocated any fondness for US Christian denominations.

Evangelicals in Ukraine need help from the US

While many US conservative evangelicals have aligned themselves with Russia, Ukraine’s evangelical community needs US support, the Hill reports.

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Andriy Yermak, Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine, called for cooperation between evangelicals in the US and Ukraine this week.

Ukraine has Europe’s largest evangelical Christian community, wrote Yermak. About 800,000 to 1 million Ukrainian evangelicals attend Protestant churches on Sundays.

Yermak called Russia’s religious oppression at home and in Ukraine a “systematic assault.”

He argued that US evangelicals need to override the pro-Putin narrative among some conservative evangelicals and come to Ukraine’s defense.

Quoting Apostle Paul, Yermak called on US evangelicals to “extend goodwill to all, especially to fellow believers.”

Ukraine’s religious pluralism is under threat, experts say

A destroyed church dome in Ukraine
A destroyed church dome, Orikhiv, Zaporizhzhia region, southeastern Ukraine, March 20, 2024.

A report by the Atlantic Council said that Russia’s occupation of parts of Ukraine was threatening Ukraine’s religious pluralism.

Russia has banned certain religious groups, such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses, for example.

Earlier this year, a Russian court sentenced nine Jehovah’s Witnesses to substantial prison terms for “extremism,” adding to a series of jailings and interrogations of believers since the ban was introduced in 2017, Reuters reported.

Religious sites have also been targeted since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022, as Putin’s forces have sought to eradicate Ukrainian culture.

Some of the roughly 30,000 books in the library of the Protestant Tavriski Christian Institute in Kherson were looted and thrown in the trash, per local reports.

In a video testimony, Pastor Dmitry Bodyu of the Word of Life Church in Melitopol, occupied by Putin’s forces in the first weeks of the war, added, “The Russian military seized our church building. I was imprisoned and told that I would soon be killed. For local evangelical believers under Russian occupation, a deadly threat remains.”

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Bodyu told NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth that his Russian captors thought he was a spy, which is seemingly a common occurrence.

Rev. Mykhailo Brytsyn, pastor of the Grace Church of Evangelical Christians Melitopol, told a summit International Religious Freedom Summit in Washington DC in February: “Most priests and pastors like me have been threatened, intimidated, humiliated, detained, beaten and deported,” Pastor Brytsyn said per The Christian Post. “Some priests and believers are still in Russian prisons today. Some of them were killed.”

The Kyiv-based Institute for Religious Freedom (IRF) said that as of October 18, at least 660 religious sites had been damaged or looted during the invasion, adding that at least 206 of those sites were evangelical churches.

“In reality, Russian society, and the Kremlin, to be more precise, hates any type of Christian denomination, bar the Orthodox Church,” Cherniiavskyi said.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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