Former Soviet nations monitor Ukraine crisis

Riot police face off with protestors in Kiev’s “Maidan” or Independence Square. (Image, caption courtesy SGA)

Riot police face off with protestors in Kiev’s
Maidan or Independence Square.
(Image, caption courtesy SGA)

Central Asia (MNN) — There’s a lot on the line as leaders from the U.S., European Union, Russia, and Ukraine meet today in Geneva. They’re looking for ways to de-escalate Ukraine’s five-month-old crisis without using force.

Joel Griffith with Slavic Gospel Association says the catastrophe’s outcome is of special interest to the 15 former Soviet nations in Central Asia.

“Churches in all of the countries have been watching what happens on a day-by-day basis,” he states. “Central Asia is a matter of significant concern because of the crackdown on the churches in those regions. We’ve seen raids take place…literature confiscated; it’s really a sad situation.”

Because of economic ties to Russia, most leaders in Central Asia are keeping quiet on the controversial annexation of Crimea and the Ukraine crisis in general. Home to the most ethnic Russians in the former Soviet republics, Kazakhstan is straddling both sides of the fence.

Of all the Central Asian nations, Kazakhstan hosts the most ethnic Russians.

Of all the Central Asian nations, Kazakhstan hosts the most ethnic Russians.

President Nazarbayev expressed understanding for Putin’s stance on Crimea but defended Kazakhstan’s independence in the next breath. Griffith notes, “Of the Central Asian countries, Kazakhstan is the largest in terms of size, but probably one of the most important countries to Russia. Russia has wanted to create an economic bloc called the Eurasian Economic Union, and Kazakhstan is certainly a part of that.”

Where the Ukraine crisis goes from here also factors into SGA’s summer camp ministry. If Russia expands its reach into the former Soviet countries of Central Asia, this ministry could face even more restrictions.

“We would ask that these summer camps be bathed in prayer,” Griffith requests. “Pray for the workers, the preparations, and above all, pray for the children.”

From June to August, SGA’s annual week-long summer camps draw hundreds of Russian-speaking children together in Ukraine, Belarus, Russia, and the former Soviet nations of Central Asia. Camp counselors from local churches share the Gospel with kids by building relationships and interacting in camp activities.

“The impact of these camps can be very profound, and it’s just a blessing to hear some of the testimonies,” notes Griffith.

Many children are encouraged when they learn that they have a Heavenly Father who cares for them, and they are eager to have a relationship with Him through Christ. Griffith says their partners see this most in orphan children.

To help kids grow in their knowledge of Christ, SGA provides each camper with a Russian-language New Testament. For $41USD, you can help one child learn of Christ’s love.

SGA and their in-country partners are planning to hold their annual Summer Camps while they still can. Pray that Russia will not extend its reach into Central Asia. Pray that these camps can be held without interference.