The Ice Has Been Broken
First official Hungarian Baptist visit to Russia in 20 years takes place
M o s c o w -- “We were very moved, the ice has been broken.” That was the conclusion of Ákos Bukovszky (Szombathely), Assistant for External Affairs at the Baptist Union of Hungary, following an impromptu meeting in the Moscow seminary of the Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists (RUECB) on 17 March. During that meeting, RUECB-President Yuri Sipko (Moscow) had fully unexpectedly requested forgiveness from Hungarian Baptists for the Soviet military intervention in Hungary.
At the request of the two guests, the scene was repeated the following day to allow it to be filmed for Hungarian state television. In the replay, Sipko stated in part: “I recall in 1956 when Russian tanks entered Budapest and the national longing for freedom was quashed by force. You suffered for 50 years under the pressures of a totalitarian regime. I on behalf of the Russian Baptists sincerely ask the Hungarian brothers and Baptists for forgiveness. Before God we can testify of our love for each other. We serve the nations of both Russia and Hungary and we have unity in Jesus Christ, his blood and his hope. Thank you for your love and patience with Russia.”
Dr. Bukovszky, a retired chemical engineer, had stated earlier in the visit that the issue of blood both separated and united Russian and Hungarian believers. “The blood of the Hungarian martyrs of 1956 separates our two peoples. Yet it is the blood of Jesus Christ that binds us together.” At the close of the visit on the 19th he added: “I must keep reminding myself that I am a child of God first and a Hungarian second. I have been reinforced in my conviction that I stand closer to a Russian or Rumanian Christian than to a non-believing Hungarian. Our reception in Moscow has been really tremendous and that is the message which I will be taking back to my church.”
Kálmán Mészáros (Budapest), President of the Baptist Union of Hungary, stated at the seminary meeting on the 17th that official Russian-Hungarian relations had been “too tight for comfort” during the Soviet era. That was followed by 20 years of silence – the last official visit of Hungarian Baptists to Russia taking place in 1988. The new climate will now allow Hungarian and Russian Baptists to find a form of partnership comfortable and agreeable to both sides.
Russian hosts bestowed praise on their Hungarian guests. The guests were repeatedly thanked for Hungarian efforts to smuggle Bibles to the Soviet Union during the Cold War. In fact, Ákos Bukovszky´s father-in-law had lost his position as a pastor after it was found out that he had been stuffing the mailboxes of Soviet army officers stationed in Hungary with Bibles. Many thanks were extended to the well-known “Hungarian Baptist Aid” organisation for its efforts to aid the survivors of the Beslan massacre in 2004.
Dr. Mészáros stated in closing: “We are going home with a completely new vision. We thought Russia was far behind us. But now we see that in a number of things they are indeed ahead of us.” These include Russian efforts to reach the upcoming generation as well as government circles. The two guests also intend to inform Hungary’s 11.500 Baptists on the merits of prayer breakfasts and evangelistic bicycle tours.
Mészáros and Bukovszky had come to Russia at the invitation of its National Prayer Breakfast movement, which held its annual event in Moscow on 18 March. In the name of the Breakfast, the RUECB´s Department for External Church Relations had invited all but the smallest Baptist Unions of Europe – a total of 50 unions and individuals – to attend the Breakfast. The results were strongly reminiscent of the spurned host of a great banquet in Luke 14: the two Hungarians were the only ones who came. “We really made up in quality for the lack of quantity,” remarked Baptist pastor Vitaly Vlasenko, Board Chairman of the National Prayer Breakfast Foundation. “We will not be forgetting this visit very soon and we have hopes for cooperation in the future.”
Dr. William Yoder
Department for External Church Relations, RUECB
Moscow, 22 March 2008
A release of the Department for External Church Relations of the Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists. It is
informational in character and does not express a sole, official position of RUECB-leadership. May be published freely. Release #08-12, 670 words.