And even within Ukraine itself, we've seen the response from the Ukrainian people being very inspiring, rallying together to pull resources and care for each other, to lean into their communities and rally around their church, and to help each other through this time. Welcome to Family Policy Matters, an engaging and informative weekly radio show and podcast produced by the North Carolina Family Policy Council. Hi, this is John Rustin, president of NC Family, and we're grateful to have you with us for this week's program. It's our prayer that you will be informed, encouraged, and inspired by what you hear on Family Policy Matters, and that you will feel better equipped to be a voice of persuasion for family values in your community, state, and nation. And now here is our host of Family Policy Matters, Tracey Devette Griggs. Thanks for joining us this week for Family Policy Matters.
As news from the war in Ukraine continues to travel around the world, opinions about what can and ought to be done are wide ranging. Arielle Del Turco joins us today to consider how Americans can pray and help, and the implications for international religious freedom. Del Turco is assistant director for the Center for Religious Liberty at the Family Research Council. Arielle Del Turco, welcome to Family Policy Matters.
Thank you for having me. If you would start, give us a historical background on how and why this even came to be. I think this is sort of the million dollar question. Why did Putin do this?
Taking a stab at some possible answers. We know Putin has an expansionist division for his country that he wants to expand not only his territory, but his country's power. But we see the excuse that Putin's using a lot is he's blaming NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, for expanding in Europe, and he's blaming Ukraine because Ukraine wants to join NATO for being a security threat. I think that's a little ridiculous because NATO is a defensive alliance.
It is not hostile. And Ukraine was really posing no threat at all to Russia. Ukraine is a much smaller, poorer country. So to see this aggression unleashed on Ukraine, I think, really surprised the world, even though Putin hinted that this might be a possibility and was building up troops for weeks.
It's still taking the world by surprise. But the one thing we can't miss here, and you already alluded to this in your intro, is that real innocent people are hurting. Russia is bombing residential areas. They're not always honoring agreements for humanitarian corridors. Around 100 children have died. Ukraine is not a threat to Russia, and nothing can justify not only Putin's invasion, but the way that his military is conducting it.
It's just so brutal. Talk about the religious landscape in the Ukraine and Russia, if you would. Russia is predominantly, the majority population is affiliated with the Russian Orthodox Church. And in Ukraine, it's similar that most people are Orthodox Christians. In Ukraine, however, there was a split off between that many of the Orthodox priests wanted to leave the Russian Church and fall under Ukrainian leadership.
And that kind of reflects some of the political difficulty. And it also points to some of the corruption that is occurring in Russia, where the church has gotten very cozy with the Russian government. And the Russian government has really used the church as a way to solidify its Russian identity. Obviously, churches were abused and harassed under the Soviet Union, under communism for decades. But now that Russia's emerged, they're almost using religion and abusing it in a different way, which is to force its beliefs. And so there are certainly religious undertones here.
I would not say it's the main reason that this is unfolding. But Ukraine, in addition to Orthodox Christians, they also have an evangelical minority and small Jewish and Muslim minorities. In Ukraine, we see really a lot of religious freedom. It's actually recognized as one of the former Soviet states that has the best record on religious freedom. In contrast, Russia is actually listed by the U.S. government as a country of particular concern on religious freedom. So that means it's one of the few worst countries on the world for religious freedom. It certainly has some potential effects on religious liberty, not just in that part of the world, but all over, right?
Internationally? Yeah, religious freedom is certainly at stake, especially for the people of Ukraine here. In 2014, Russia annexed Crimea, and they have control through proxies over the Dandas region. So these small areas of Ukraine already had some Russian influence. And what we saw in those regions was that religious minorities, including evangelicals, were harassed, they were arrested.
Certain evangelical literature was banned. So in these areas of Ukraine, where Russia is exerting control, we're seeing a lot of abuses there. So for the people of Ukraine, if Russia takes more territory in Ukraine, they can expect that same type of treatment. You did some writing on masculinity and what this war says about masculinity. And you wrote an article entitled Real Men Don't Bomb Women and Children. Why did you feel the need to write about that in the midst of all of this? Well, this is an interesting situation because Putin has actually, for decades, portrayed himself as a strong, stereotypically masculine figure.
He posed for photo shoots, riding shirtless on horseback and hunting and fishing, and doing these manly outdoorsy things. But when it comes down to it, the way he's acting is certainly not what we would expect out of biblical masculinity. He is bombing residential areas, he's harming children. He knows this over 3 million Ukrainian refugees have had to flee, and most of those refugees are women and children from Putin's attack. In contrast, we can look at leaders like the Ukrainian president, Volensky. Instead of attacking, he has really sacrificed himself.
He's determined to stay in the capital until the end, even though he knows that Putin is specifically targeting his life. But he's staying for the good of his people and for his country. And even broadly in Ukrainian society, we've seen a requirement where men in Ukraine are expected to stay and fight for their country, while women and children are allowed to leave. And this really recognizes some of the differences that the Bible notes about men and women, that it's right for men to sacrifice themselves for the safety and preservation of their families and for women and children by allowing them to leave.
So I think there's a lot of good examples here in this situation about what masculinity should and should not look like. You're listening to Family Policy Matters, a weekly radio show and podcast of the North Carolina Family Policy Council. This is just one of the many ways NC Family works to educate and inform citizens across North Carolina about policy issues that impact North Carolina families. Our vision is to create a state and nation where God is honored, religious freedom flourishes, families thrive, and life is cherished. For more information about NC Family and how you can help us to achieve this incredible vision for our state and nation, visit our website at ncfamily.org. Again, that's ncfamily.org. And be sure to sign up to receive our email updates, action alerts, and of course, our flagship publication, Family North Carolina Magazine.
We'd also love for you to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. So obviously, we should be praying for peace, but what are some other priorities? Well, I always encourage people, and this goes for all situations around the world that seem a little too large. And we can wonder what we should be praying in these situations. It's just to put yourself in that situation. If you're living your life in Ukraine right now, what would you need prayer for?
And I think that would be certainly physical safety. It would be that God would comfort them in the midst of this. It's certainly a very terrifying time. And also that God would be guiding these individuals. Ukraine has so many believers who have to make decisions on what they're going to do, and if their family's going to separate, if their family's going to leave, if the mom's going to take up a gun and fight along with her husband.
These are very real and scary decisions that people have to make under intense time pressure. So we can be praying for that. We can also be praying for world leaders. While the invasion was Putin's fault alone, world leaders all have the responsibility of how they're going to respond. And they need to be doing this quickly, and we're seeing a lot of consequences for hesitation or for their actions already.
So we need to be praying for that. And we can also even pray, and this is a prayer that might not feel as good for some people, but for a change of heart for Putin, and that he would stop this invasion and just turn around and have a total change of heart and repent. Humanitarian aid is something we've been hearing a lot about. Are there certain organizations that you could recommend if people would like to assist in that way? Well, one organization I think has been really stellar is Samaritan's Purse. They are running toward the situation even into Ukraine and setting up field hospitals and assisting people there in addition to helping people at the border.
So that is a great place to start. And I know there's other Christian organizations like Operation Blessing going to the Polish border to help out, but I really think Samaritan's Purse is a great place to start. Let's talk about some of Ukraine's neighbors. Some have stepped up in dramatic ways to serve the families and individuals who have become refugees due to this war.
Talk a little bit about that. Yeah, I think especially in Poland, we've seen a really good example of a country being extremely generous, taking in, as I said, around 3 million refugees. That's about the size of their capital Warsaw. That's a huge amount of people.
And most of them are women and children who are defenseless and need a lot of help. So that has been really inspiring to see and just see the Polish people rally around Ukrainians, their neighbors. We've also seen even German citizens opening their homes up to Ukrainian refugees.
So just across Europe, there are really stellar examples of what it looks like to help your neighbor. And even within Ukraine itself, we've seen the response from the Ukrainian people being very inspiring, rallying together to pull resources and care for each other, to lean into their communities and rally around their church, and to help each other through this time. You know, we've seen in the Bible instances where the church came under pressure and had to scatter and the Word of God was actually taken to the far reaches. Do you see any potential for the Christians in Ukraine to influence the many countries around them that are taking them in?
Oh, absolutely. And even in Ukraine, churches have been on the front lines of responding to the crisis. And I think at times of crisis, people are looking for answers, not only why is this happening, but what is the meaning of life? So I think in Ukraine, we're seeing people turn towards churches and turn towards God. We've heard reports of that. But also, yeah, these Ukrainian believers will have an opportunity to share as they spend some time, hopefully temporarily, and they can go back to their homes, but as they spend time throughout Western Europe, which is a much more secular environment, that'll be a really interesting opportunity to share the gospel. Yeah, well, the world is certainly watching.
So we're just about out of time this week. Before we go, Ariel Del Turco, talk about where our listeners can go to follow your response there at FRC on the war in Ukraine. Yes, you can follow some of our international religious freedom efforts at FRC.org slash IRF. And you actually are the assistant director of the Center for Religious Liberty at FRC. Is that a new organization within FRC? It is not, but our efforts on international religious freedom are fairly new, but we're expanding every day and excited to engage on this issue. Right. So you've been concentrating more on religious liberty issues in our country, but now you're looking around the world, huh?
Absolutely. Ariel Del Turco with the Center for Religious Liberty at the Family Research Council. Thank you so much for being with us today on Family Policy Matters.
You've been listening to Family Policy Matters. We hope you enjoyed the program and plan to tune in again next week. To listen to this show online and to learn more about NC Family's work to inform, encourage, and inspire families across North Carolina, go to our website at ncfamily.org. That's ncfamily.org. Thanks again for listening and may God bless you and your family.
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