Russia has Too Few Good Samaritans
M o s c o w – On 13 March at the Russian Protestants’ National Prayer Breakfast in Moscow’s Presidents’ Hotel, Yuri Sipko (Moskau), President of the Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists, lamented the dramatic lack of Good Samaritans in his country. He assured the 250 assembled businessmen, politicians, pastors and journalists, that following the downfall of communism, “our morals have never reached such a level that we would bend low to serve the suffering”. People in general were lacking two fundamental truths: to love God and others with all of their heart and mind.
At the seventh breakfast in the course of the past 12 years, a Russian-Orthodox priest spoke for the first time as an official emissary of his church. In general, Father Igor Vyzhanov (Moscow), Secretary of the Moscow Patriarchat’s department for external church relations, echoed the sentiments of the previous Protestant speakers. He stated, for ex., that the struggle for a “constructive conservativism” unites all Russian believers. He attributed the survival of interconfessional work during the recent phase of economic and political dissolution to “our unified loyalty to the same spiritual values”. A rabbi also spoke at the Breakfast; in another speech the Muslims were mentioned as partners in the struggle for the retention of moral values.
Sergei Ryahovski (Moscow), Bishop of the charismatic „United Russion Union of Christians of Evangelical Faith“ and a member of the political Fatherland’s Chamber, assured that this consensus must unite more than just the leading church representatives. Nowhere in the vastness of Russia may any pastor or cleric any longer “be humiliated” for upholding such values.
Baptist Pastor Vitali Vlasenko (Moscow), Board Chairman of the National Prayer Breakfast Foundation, reported on general developments: “We are making progress. Never have so many politicians and figures of public life been present. But the main issue is not, who comes to our event, but rather, whether society registers the Protestant voice. The people of Russia must hear about our concern, our activities and our love. They must understand that we also want to improve Russia. We are not foreigners – we are also a part of Russia’s churches.”
This breakfast is independent of the over 60 other National Prayer Breakfasts of the world and intends to remain a decidedly Protestant one. Yet the Breakfast is no longer the foundation’s sole activity. A commemoration of the Soviet victory over German fascism is an expression of the foundation’s desire to portray Russian Protestantism as patriotic and loyal. The first-ever Protestant commemoration of the 1945 victory took place at the Kremlin Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on May 9, 2006.
The spark is beginning to catch elsewhere. On 14 March a second regional Prayer Breakfast was held in Krasnoyarsk, Siberia; the very first Ukrainian Prayer Breakfast is scheduled for this coming November.
Dr. William Yoder
Department for External Church Relations, RUECB
Moscow, 20 March 2007
An official press release of the Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists. May be published freely. Release #6, 458 words.