September 30, 2014

Pastor Abducted During Church Service in East Ukraine

Seventh-day Adventist pastor is missing after being abducted by gunmen during a
communion service last Sabbath at a church in separatist-controlled eastern
Ukraine, local church leaders said.

men carrying machine guns and wearing camouflage burst into the church in the
city of Horlivka on Sept. 27 and seized Pastor Sergei Litovchenko, the
Ukrainian Union Conference said.

interrupted the worship service and forced the worshipers to disperse,” it said
in a statement. “They ordered Pastor Sergei Litovchenko
to close the church, forced him into a car, and drove away in an unknown

Pastor Sergei Litovchenko

incident occurred as the pastor was leading the congregation in a communion
service in the small, rectangular church located at 1 Ulitsa Horlovskoi
Divizii. Adventist churches around the world commemorated Jesus’ Last Supper on
Sept. 27 as is customary on the last Sabbath of each quarter.

Horlivka gunmen justified their actions by saying that "this is Orthodox land and there is no place for
various sects here," the conference statement

refused to say who they were and what right that had to disrupt the church’s
activities, replying bluntly to church members’ questions, “It’s none of your

The Ukrainian Union Conference was trying to establish the whereabouts of
the pastor.

“Where he is and
what has happened to him is unknown,” said Vassily Nichik, director of
the public affairs and religious liberty department of the West Russian Union
Conference, which borders eastern Ukraine.

“Please pray for him,” he said on his Facebook page.

The abduction is a troubling development for the Adventist Church
in eastern Ukraine, where clashes between pro-Russia separatists and Ukrainian government
forces have killed more than 3,500 people since April. Separatists,
who support the Orthodox faith and have spoken critically of Protestantism as a
sect, have detained several church members in the past but always released them

Seventh-day Adventists have been injured or killed in eastern Ukraine, where
the conflict de-escalated into an uneasy ceasefire on Sept. 5. Only one church
building has suffered major damage.

John Graz, director of the Adventist world church's public
affairs and religious liberty department, expressed deep concern over the kidnapping
and said he was puzzled over why anyone would target the pastor.

“Our church is officially recognized in Russia and Ukraine,
and we expect our members and pastors to be respected by the authorities on the
territory of eastern Ukraine,” Graz said Monday. “The Seventh-day Adventist
Church is not involved in politics, and we don’t understand why it should
be attacked.”

Contact Adventist Review news editor Andrew McChesney at [email protected].
Twitter: @ARMcChesney


Ukrainian Union Conference statement (in Russian)

Adventist Review, Sept. 22, 2014: "Adventists Help Reach Religious Agreement on East Ukraine"

Adventist Review, Sept. 9, 2014: "Ukraine’s Turmoil 'Will Not Affect' 13th Sabbath Offering"

Adventist Review, July 31, 2014: "Adventist Pastor Narrowly Escapes Fighting in Eastern Ukraine"

Adventist Review, July 27, 2014: "From Conflict-Hit Ukraine, Adventists Tell Stories of Hope"

Adventist Review, June 26, 2014: "Adventists Urged to Pray for Peace in Ukraine"