By BosNewsLife News Center in Budapest with reporting by BosNewsLife's Stefan J. Bos
KIEV/BUDAPEST (BosNewsLife)-- Christians are among those needing "urgent help" this winter in war-torn eastern Ukraine as churches, homes, and businesses are in ruins, and more than 1.5 million people have been displaced, locals and aid workers say.
"Pastors are concerned as to how the vulnerable in their congregations will survive, including widows, children and the homeless," said Barnabas Fund, a Christian relief and advocacy group working in the area. "The state pension is meager – enough for either bread and water or fuel for heating, but not both."
It noted that as "in any war situation, prices have spiraled." The group said factories and mines have closed, leaving many jobless. Additionally, "Shelling, shooting, and general lawlessness continue", Barnabas Fund told BosNewsLife.
About 10,000 people have died and more than 1.7 million displaced since 2014 when fighting erupted between Russian-backed separatists and Ukrainian government forces, according to United Nations
Aid agencies claim that 4.4 million people have been directly affected by ongoing hostilities, while 3.8 million need urgent assistance.
The conflict began after Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, annexed Ukraine's Crimean peninsula in February 2014 sparking a rebellion in the country's industrial east.
Despite several internationally-backed ceasefire accords, fighting continues in the region which from November to February faces a harsh winter, "with average temperatures of -8 Celsius to -12 Celsius and sometimes dropping to -20 Celsius (-4 Fahrenheit)," Barnabas Fund said.
Barnabas Fund said it is working through local Baptist churches, to provide funds for food, fuel, rent and medical needs.
“I want to praise my Lord for His mercy sent [via] you and for your sacrificial hearts,” said Victoria in published remarks, after the group apparently helped her family with warm clothes and medicines last winter.
Natalia from Ukraine was quoted as saying: “Dear brothers and sisters in the Lord. I thank God very much and you for this help in the most difficult moment of my life.”
No family names were revealed apparently amid security concerns. Barnabas Fund said it has been urging supporters to help provide "extra life-saving aid" in Ukraine this Christmas season.