Russia and UkraineMarch 18, 2014
A couple of recent statements from Christian leaders in Ukraine and Russia show some positive voices in the midst of continuing conflict. First, the Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists issued a statement last week from Vitaly K. Vlasenko, who leads the group's Division of External Relations. In the statement he rejects the notion that one must "join one side or another" and "reject and turn away from those who are on the other side."* He argued that "historical events and "'genetic' and 'national' memory" cannot "erase the result of the death of Christ on the cross." He added:
Our job as Christians - to shine the love of Christ and His forgiveness, especially when all the earthly rules it is absolutely impossible.Vlasenko offered a prophetic witness for Christians by placing Christians as not bound by nationalistic boundaries. Hopefully Baptists and others can avoid the nationalistic divisions facing Orthodox Christians.
On the other side of the man-made border, the leaders of the evangelical Protestant churches in Ukraine issued a statement last week calling on their churches to pray "for peace, unity, integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine."* Although the statement briefly condemns "the military aggression of the Russian Federation," the Ukrainian faith leaders also used their statement to "encourage all people, regardless of creed and religion, to strengthen the prayers to God for restoring peace and cease provocations, fratricide and escalating conflict in Crimea and other regions of Ukraine." The reference to "fratricide" nicely reminds Ukrainians that Russians are their brothers and sisters. Viewing those in another nation in that lens - instead of as an enemy - significantly changes how one acts toward the others. Among the nine Ukrainian leaders who signed the short statement were Vyacheslav Nesteruk, chairman of the All-Ukrainian Union of Churches of Evangelical Christians-Baptists (for more on Ukrainian Baptists during the political changes, see earlier post). Hopefully, Christian leaders in both nations can lead the way in discouraging conflict and promoting peace.
* NOTE: Quotations from these statements were taken from the Google Translate version (since I do not read Russian or Ukrainian). Although not perfect, the translations provide the basic ideas of the statements.