LVIV, Ukraine—Jehovah’s Witnesses in Ukraine held a special meeting on February 14, 2015, designed to give pastoral support to more than 17,000 of their fellow worshippers living in the war-torn region of eastern Ukraine. The two-hour program was video streamed live from the branch office of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Lviv to eastern Ukraine and other locations throughout the country. The meeting was especially timely, since a deadly rocket attack on the port city of Mariupol on January 24, 2015, damaged 3 of the Witnesses’ homes and 58 of their apartments. One Witness was seriously wounded in the attack and another, who was only 16 years old, was killed.

Congregants gather at a Kingdom Hall in Makiyivka—in the war zone—to listen as the meeting is broadcast from the Ukraine branch.

In cooperation with the branch office in Russia, the Ukraine branch office arranged to record the entire program on video and stream it to Witnesses in Belarus and Russia. As a result, another 186,258 Belarusian and Russian Witnesses saw the program in addition to the 150,841 Ukrainian Witnesses, bringing the grand total to 337,099 viewers.

Gustav Berki, a spokesman for Jehovah’s Witnesses in Ukraine, explains: “The reports on our relief efforts in Ukraine were a great comfort to those in the war zone. It was also a great assurance to learn how the relief committee in Rostov-on-Don, Russia, is caring for our friends who are refugees.”

A spokesman for Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia, Yaroslav Sivulskiy, comments: “Jehovah’s Witnesses are well-known around the world for being peaceful and remaining neutral in political affairs. This meeting included discussions highlighting the Biblical basis for our neutrality. It helped underscore why, whether we are Russian, Ukrainian, or citizens of any other nation, we do not take sides in military conflicts.”

Two of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Horlivka, Donetsk region survived after a rocket hit their home while they were inside.

To date, the Ukraine branch office has set up 14 Disaster Relief Committees to care for those affected by the war. These committees have provided more than 149 tons of food and 21 tons of clothing to fellow believers and to non-Witnesses in the region. The committees have arranged housing for more than 7,600 refugees and have been able to repair or rebuild a number of damaged or destroyed homes and Kingdom Halls (places of worship). For example, in the city of Mariupol, merely two days after the attack, a Disaster Relief Committee was able to arrange for 160 volunteers to begin repair work on 34 damaged apartments.

A parking lot hit by rockets adjacent to a Kingdom Hall (not pictured) in Mariupol.

Mr. Berki further outlined how the relief initiatives supervised by the branch office in Ukraine provide for more than immediate physical and material needs. He states: “In addition to this special meeting, traveling ministers continue to visit the 136 communities of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the war zone. And, as is always the case in congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses around the world, local elders are making a concerted effort to provide comfort and spiritual encouragement to those under their care.”

Media Contact(s):

International: J. R. Brown, Office of Public Information, tel. +1 718 560 5000

Belarus: Pavel Yadlouski, tel. +375 17 292 93 78

Russia: Yaroslav Sivulskiy, tel. +7 812 702 2691

Ukraine: Gustav Berki, tel. +38 032 240 9323