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Kiev Christians Pray amid Reports of Torture


KIEV, Ukraine -- Reports are surfacing that Ukraine's government forces may have kidnapped and tortured opposition activists.

At least three activists disappeared in recent weeks, with one turning up dead. Another, who was found outside Kiev, said he was severely beaten and cut with knives.

In the midst of the mayhem, Christians are praying around the clock for a peaceful resolution of the conflict.

Wearing vests that say, "Pray for Ukraine," Pastor Oleg Magdich and his friend have walked the streets around Kiev's Independence Square, the epicenter of the political crisis, numerous times.

"There's a mixture of hope and fear. People aren't sure about the future of our country," Oleg, a youth pastor at one of Kiev's large evangelical churches and coordinator of the prayer tent, told CBN News.

CBN News went along as they delivered hot tea to men guarding numerous checkpoints around the square. They met with pro- and anti-government demonstrators, including the police.

"The Church has to play a role in this crisis. We have to be salt and light," the pastor said.

The scene in the heart of downtown Kiev resembles a no man's land, with hundreds of Ukrainian soldiers, standing guard and ready to do battle.

On one side, there were dozens of burned-out buses, hundreds of tires, and barricades set up by opposition forces.

Now, more than two months after Ukraine started this crisis, the nation remains at a standstill.

Meanwhile, as politicians try to come up with some kind of resolution, Pastor Oleg has another solution: it's a spiritual one and it's centered in prayer.

Oleg erected the prayer tent in the heart of the protest zone more than two months ago when his countrymen took to the streets demanding changes in the government.

"Our main message is that God is the only answer, not politics, not violence," he said. "We have to rely on Him to see us through this crisis."

Since November, tens of thousands of anti-government protestors have flooded the capital city demanding the president's resignation.

Zenya Venidiktova, a college student and volunteer at the prayer tent, said the political uncertainty has left many disillusioned. She spends her time on the streets handing out copies of the New Testament and the Gospel of John.

"It's minus 23 degrees and cold out here, but the inconvenience is a small price to pay to share the Gospel with people searching," Venidiktova told CBN News.

An army of Christian volunteers, like Kiev resident and mother of two Marina Kerusenko, are praying and distributing free tea and food around the clock.

"Protestors have been on the streets in freezing conditions for months so when they come for a cup of tea I encourage them, saying 'God bless you. We are praying for you and our country. Don't give up,'" Kerusenko told CBN News.

Pastor Oleg said hundreds of Ukrainians have stopped by the tent and many have given their lives to Jesus Christ. Andrey Tolstokoriy was among those who came for prayer.

"I'm praying for God to bring righteous leaders to our government, people who can lead our country forward," he said.

Pastor Oleg said he plans to stay out on the streets of Kiev as long as it takes to bring peace to "our country."

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