Pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine have forced a Christian university to evacuate its buildings and have taken over the campus.
“Donetsk has become the stronghold of the separatist bands of armed soldiers in the region,” Oleksii Melnychuk, president of Donetsk Christian University in Ukraine, wrote to the European Baptist Federation (EBF). “A group of approximately 2,000 armed soldiers entered the city of Donetsk and have occupied the dormitories of universities, schools and hotels.”
“On July 9, a group of armed individuals from the separatist pro-Russian group, named ‘Oplot,’ came to Donetsk Christian University (DCU) and demanded that we vacate the university’s student dormitory for their use. By the end of the day, they brought a written directive from their leader stating that they are taking possession of DCU buildings for temporary use, to be given back to DCU when the war ends,” he added.
“We have been advised that disagreement with their demands will be severely punished,” Melnychuk continued. “Although DCU leadership explained that the university is a religious organization and that its property should not be used for war purposes, the argument did not help.”
“Staff members and all students have been evacuated. The Ukrainian government issued special instructions on how to avoid provoking terrorists to kill or imprison people that our staff has tried to follow,” he said.
“The separatists promised to turn Donetsk into the second Stalingrad,” and have “unfortunately” succeeded in doing so, Taras Dyatlik, director of the Educational Development Department, said. “Thousands [of] people are leaving Donetsk every day because of the war.”
“All workers and faculty members had to flee from the campus leaving most of their belongings at Donetsk Christian University, which has one of the best Protestant theological libraries in the former Soviet Union,” he added.
In early July, leaders of the evangelical Protestant churches in Ukraine issued a joint statement condemning religious persecution by the separatists in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions and asking the international community for aid.
Representatives of the All-Ukrainian Union of Churches of Evangelical Christians-Baptists and the Brotherhood of Independent Churches and Missions of Evangelical Christians-Baptists of Ukraine signed the letter.
A version of this news article first appeared on the European Baptist Federation website and is used with permission. EthicsDaily.com staff contributed to this report.