So that Russia Might Again be Strong
M o s c o w – In Moscow on 8 May, Russian Protestants for the first time ever commemorated the Soviet victory over German fascism. The commemoration at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in front of the Kremlin Wall was attended by 110 invited male and female veterans. At a banquet following the event, speakers pointed repeatedly to the vital pedagogical role of veterans for today’s endangered youth. Bishop Sergei Ryachovski (Moscow) from the Pentecostal “Russian Union of Churches of Evangelical Faith” criticised the state for neglecting the important role model function which veterans need to play. He stated while addressing the veterans: “I heartily beseech you to utilise the courage, strength and spirit with which you suffered and triumphed to help make Russia once again a strong and mighty country!” Vitali Vlasenko (Moscow), President of the „Council of Evangelical Christians in Russia“, added: “It is vital that this day remains a part of our lives in the same way that it also remains a part of the unforgettable history of Russia.”
In an ensuing conversation on 5 June, Vlasenko, who is also Chief Curator of Russia’s National Prayer Breakfast, conceded that the commemoration met with considerable resistance. “Many Protestants want only to evangelise and regard activities such as these as a hindrance. But we are also a part of Russian history! We are also a part of Russia’s meat and blood. We also suffered in the struggle to defend the fatherland. But unfortunately, the wave of Protestant emigration has damaged our reputation. We must again appeal for others to trust us. We are often the victims of discrimination in business and government. We will not make any compromises ever with the Gospel, but society must be aware of the fact that we can be trusted.” Following the initial commemoration, Alexei Smirnov (Dedovsk), pastor of an independent Baptist congregation, had noted that Christians helped defeat German fascism with their prayers. It was also said on that occasion that “we must state who we are”. The common love for the fatherland should also help strengthen the equality of all Christian confessions.
Not a few of the 110 aging guests were overwhelmed by the significance of the event. A medal-beladen Vladimir Koshin (Moscow), a Pentecostal pastor and former soldier, was chosen to help place the wreaths at the grave along with four church representatives. At the ensuing banquet he exclaimed: “I am thrilled that I of all people was accorded this honour. The Holy Spirit himself must have decided this!”
Dignitaries in the front row who helped along with Vlasenko, Ryachovski and Koshin to place the wreaths were the pastors Peter Mitskevich (Moscow) from the Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists and Igor Alisov (Moscow) from the Ingrian Lutheran Church. Major sponsors of the event included the National Prayer Breakfast, the “Consulting Council of Heads of the Protestant Churches of Russia” and individual businessmen. Vlasenko is certain this event will be repeated next year.
Dr. William Yoder
Moscow, 23 June 2006
Composed in collaboration with the Russian Evangelical Alliance, 490 words