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Religion News Association honors Erik Tryggestad for his coverage of the war in Ukraine

Contest judges praise The Christian Chronicle journalist’s ‘well-reported and compassionate stories.’

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NEW YORK — Winners of the 2023 Excellence in Religion Reporting Awards, presented by the Religion News Association, include journalists for the New York Times, National Public Radio … and The Christian Chronicle.

At a ceremony Monday night at the Columbia University School of Journalism, the RNA showcased top religion journalism across 13 categories spanning print, online and broadcast media as well as nonfiction books.

Erik Tryggestad, left, takes a selfie with Ukrainian preacher Alexander Rodichev outside the meeting place of the Church of Christ in Chernivtsi, Ukraine, in 2022.

Erik Tryggestad, left, takes a selfie with Ukrainian preacher Alexander Rodichev outside the meeting place of the Church of Christ in Chernivtsi, Ukraine, in 2022.

Erik Tryggestad, the Chronicle’s president and CEO as well as its lead international reporter, took the first-place prize for religion reporting at magazines and non-daily newspapers.

The RNA recognized Tryggestad for his coverage of the war in Ukraine, including these stories:

Members of the Church of Christ in the Kirovsky district of Donetsk

Members of the Church of Christ in the Kirovsky district of Donetsk sing during a worship service in 2003.

Billboards along the road leading into Ivan-Frankivsk bear messages of support for Ukraine’s military and citizens.

Billboards along the road leading into Ivan-Frankivsk, Ukraine, bear messages of support for Ukraine’s military and citizens. Erik Tryggestad and Audrey Jackson reported from the city in April 2022.

Aleksei Kalchuk hugs one of three Ukrainians baptized after a recent Sunday worship service in Sopot, Poland. Brandon Price delivered a message during the service. Church members translated his words into Polish and Russian for the attendees.

Aleksei Kalchuk hugs one of three Ukrainians baptized after a May 2022 Sunday worship service in Sopot, Poland. Kalchuk was one of 33 church members trapped in the meeting place of the Mariupol Church of Christ as Russian forces besieged the city in early 2022.

“This package of well-reported and compassionate stories not only provided an overview of the church’s history in an area long at odds with Russia,” contest judges said, “but also boots-on-the-ground coverage of the ongoing conflict.”

“This package of well-reported and compassionate stories not only provided an overview of the church’s history in an area long at odds with Russia, but also boots-on-the-ground coverage of the ongoing conflict.”

Tryggestad has reported from 88 countries and territories in his 22 years with the Chronicle.

“The RNA awards are the Pulitzer Prizes of religion journalism,” said Bobby Ross Jr., the Chronicle’s editor-in-chief. “It’s exciting to see Erik’s amazing journalism, which is so familiar to our loyal, dedicated readers, recognized with such a prestigious honor.”


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Ross also praised Audrey Jackson, the Chronicle’s associate editor whose photographs from Ukraine and neighboring countries accompanied Tryggestad’s stories. 

Ukrainians eat lunch in the fellowship hall of the Sopot Church of Christ in northern Poland. The church hired a chef to prepare meals for its guests.

Ukrainians eat lunch in the fellowship hall of the Sopot Church of Christ in northern Poland. The church hired a chef to prepare meals for its guests.

“Audrey is a phenomenal multimedia journalist,” Ross said of the 2021 graduate of Harding University in Searcy, Ark. “Between Erik’s words and her pictures, our readers were blessed to experience the opportunities and challenges of Christians in Ukraine in a remarkable way.”

Baptisms in the Black Sea : Alexander and Irina Piletsky were among the attendees at the church-planting Crimea conference. Alexander Piletsky preaches for a Church of Christ in Mariupol, Ukraine. The 120-member congregation is one of the largest in the country. | PHOTO BY ERIK TRYGGESTAD

Alexander and Irina Piletsky smile during a 2011 church-planting conference in Crimea. At the time, Alexander Piletsky was minister for a 120-member Church of Christ in Mariupol — one of the largest congregations in the country. Three years later, Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula and fighting began in eastern Ukraine. Alexander Peletsky was struck in the head — either by a bullet or shrapnel — during the siege of Mariupol and spent 51 days trapped in the church building. He and his wife are now living in Poland.

Tryggestad made his first trip to Ukraine — “to the beautiful city of Donetsk,” as he recalls — 20 years ago. 

That city, he laments, is “now in ruins after eight years of conflict.”

“I’m absolutely thrilled to receive this honor from experts who have long, storied careers in religion journalism. At the same time, I’m sad that this coverage resulted from the terrible conflict in Ukraine — a country that I’ve traveled to multiple times.”

“I’m absolutely thrilled to receive this honor from experts who have long, storied careers in religion journalism,” Tryggestad said of the RNA award. “At the same time, I’m sad that this coverage resulted from the terrible conflict in Ukraine — a country that I’ve traveled to multiple times. 

“When the first bombs dropped in February 2022, I immediately thought of the many Ukrainians I’ve known for two decades. Please continue to pray for them.”

Ministers Tim Luster, left, and Tim Pyles pray at a joint assembly of their Tulsa-area congregations.

Ministers Tim Luster, left, and Tim Pyles pray at a joint assembly of their Tulsa-area commemorating the 100-year anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre in Oklahoma. Bobby Ross Jr.’s coverage of the assembly in 2021 was part of a packaged recognized by the Religion News Association.

Among the other RNA winners: Ross, a past honoree for his Chronicle stories, earned first place in religion news analysis for freelance stories he wrote for The Associated Press. 

His portfolio included coverage of churches destroyed in a Kentucky tornado, a profile of the Southern Baptist Convention president and a piece on bison and Native American spirituality.

Filed under: awards International journalism awards News religion news Religion News Association religion reporting Top Stories

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