We Extend the Hand of Friendship
Statement of the Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists on the war in Georgia
M o s c o w -- During the past 15 years, the Baptists of Russia and Georgia have grown distant from one another. After centuries of harmonious relationships between our two peoples, we grieve the fact that our friendship is dying. We Baptists are becoming strangers to one another. It is not an easy time for Russians. We respect and love the Christians of the Caucasus region and the West in general deeply. Yet we Russians are now being accused of aggression, and many of our sisters and brothers in the West do not see us believers as exceptions.
We are often at a loss as far as what to do and say. What is the real “truth” regarding the conflict between Georgia and Russia? We are very wary of the information war. Propaganda has plagued our peoples for a long time, but the war with words is becoming much more refined and professional. We now hear of “spin doctors” and the blurred borders between PR and advertising. PR-firms such as the Rendon Group from the USA (they have also been hired by Russian organisations) describe themselves as “information warriors” and “perception managers” feeding information to journalists. So we must be very slow to make broad judgments.
We believers must rise above the fray; rise above narrow, selfish political partisanship. Georgians feel invaded; Russians feel they are protecting and defending the weak and vulnerable Ossetian people. War crimes have been committed on both sides. Let us look deeper and denounce war for what it is: a satanic expression of hatred. War never truly solves anything and leads only to new wars. Wars only create losers. God is against the war in Georgia – and so we must also be. This war also has spiritual roots, and we must get to the bottom of this.
NATO expansion as well as the Russian reaction to it are dividing Europe. NATO and its rocketry are pressing forward into the once-Soviet sphere of influence. If NATO and Russia are at odds, then the expansion of NATO can only create fear and suspicion on the other side. The war in Georgia is one result of that fear.
We want to extend the hand of friendship to our sisters and brothers in Georgia. We invite them to meet with us and talk. This also holds true for the other nations and peoples who were once part of the Eastern bloc. We must talk about the past – not in general, but how we as believers became co-guilty of the sins committed by the Soviet government. We Russians are part of a troubled heritage in which we need to bring clarification.
But we must in the same breath also talk about the future. How can we who once lived in the Soviet sphere become a great force for peace? We by no means want to fall back into the ways and conditions of the Cold War – we Russians do not want to become isolated from the West again. Let us together become a mighty voice for peace and understanding. Together we evangelical Christians can help reverse the present trend which is leading us down the path of a renewed Cold War.
Rev. Vitaly Vlasenko, Department Director for External Church Relations
Rev. Yuri Sipko, President
Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists
Moscow, 28 August 2008
An official release of the Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists. May be published freely. Release #08-39, 525 words