Born during the Soviet Era, in the Western Ukrainian city of Rivne, Taras Dyatlik is no stranger to war and conflict, and yet he has devoted his life to leading peacemaking efforts in the region and across different church traditions. In response to regional conflicts and a deficit of peacemaking trainings, Taras helped lead a project called, “Seminary and Peacebuilding” to provide formal and non-formal training for sharing the Gospel through practical peacebuilding fieldwork and ministry.
Through this project, Christian leaders were equipped to advance peacebuilding efforts in Christian communities within Ukraine, Russia, Belarus and four countries of Central Asia.
“Blessed are the peacemakers” (Mathew 5:19).
The road to peace is long and arduous, and yet particular moments arise that point to God’s mysterious work of restoration. One such moment happened last year when Taras discipled a senior Ukrainian Special Forces officer on the frontlines of the war zone in Eastern Ukraine:
“Last Spring, during my one-week term in Eastern Ukraine for peacebuilding work at the war zone, I met and talked about the Gospel and reconciliation with one of the top officers of the Ukrainian Special Forces, who also served as a chaplain. I shared with him what happened on the Cross. That Jesus came not to kill us (His enemies), but the enmity and hostility between God and man as well as between men. In so doing, Jesus defeated evil and hell through reconciliation; and He did it on the Cross: the only place where man and God and men in conflict can meet for reconciliation. After the conversation, he left very angry with God and me. The following day he took me aside, looked into my eyes, and whispered: ‘Taras, I did not sleep the whole night. I kept thinking about what you shared about what Jesus did on the Cross. Finally, after being an Eastern Orthodox priest for many years, I got it. On Friday night, I am going back to my unit. I now know what to share with my soldiers about Jesus.'”
On February 24, 2022, Taras’ hard gained efforts for peace came to an abrupt halt as Russia invaded his homeland. Though he was out of the country at the time of the invasion, Taras quickly returned to care for his people. Taras writes,
“It was in a seminary in Moldova that I heard the sound of missiles flying toward Ukraine early morning on February 24th. When I went to the border, Ukrainians told me that I must not come back to Ukraine because I would not be able to leave as an army-aged man. But, I had no choice…I had to go back to my family, my people.”
Today, instead of equipping students for peacemaking, Taras is caring for the victims of war by coordinating with Overseas Council partner seminaries in the country and region to feed, clothe, shelter and transport refugees out of harms way.
As heartbreaking as these developments have been, Taras’ prayer is that the Gospel advances,
“Please pray for Ukrainian Christians, that we will serve and live as the community of hope in a full sense of this term; that during these terrible times we would invite more and more people to the relationships with God and His children, to the relationships of love, hope, encouragement, support; that our minds and characters would continue to transform into the character of Jesus Christ.”