By Sergei Zavgorodny
Published December 1, 1994
What Do Russian Christians Think?
Translated by Roman Medvid
Of all the conflicts the Russian Federation has suffered for several years, the Chechen conflict will be recorded in the history as the most nonsensical and unreasonable. Even during the times of coups, when the blood of citizens was being shed on the streets of Moscow, we couldn’t feel more desperate loss of courage. We couldn’t accept the murders, but we could understand the reasons. Yet, now the crisis in Russia makes all searches for the reason futile and reckons statesmen guilty for the bloodshed in Chechnya. To make things still worse, there is no definite answer to the question: What is there to be done about it?
Democracy, towards which the country has been heading with many difficulties, was trampled down by Russian tanks on their way to Grozny, the capital of the breakaway republic. This paved way to the further development in the republic: entry of armored corpses into Grozny. Ridiculous as the war of the huge country against the tiny republic may seem, Russian troops have been defeated time after time, making cannon fodder of 18-year old newly-drafted citizens who could barely handle a machine gun.
The history of Russian-Chechen clashes, which is more than 100 years old, very tellingly demonstrates that a side in the conflict should come to its senses and finish it with wisdom. It’s clear that the present political self-willfulness is only possible in a country suffering a deep spiritual crisis. Isn’t the heart of the ruler in God’s hand? We have come to a moment when no cosmetics can conceal the long-felt problems; what is needed is surgery. We know that nothing happens by chance, so we should ponder about the spiritual reasons of the conflict.
For many centuries Christianity, has been accumulating the wisdom. Now that wisdom is needed so much, the Church allows itself to be thrown into quarrels, new splits and controversies. So Christians are also to be blamed for this instability. We shouldn’t present the war in Chechnya as the holy war between Christianity and Islam. We cannot put all the blame upon politicians and military commanders, though their actions were far from being wise. We as Christians must learn a lesson from this turmoil to prevent history from repeating itself.
Pavel Savelyev, Pastor of Dew Church, Moscow, Russia, and his wife Marina
First of all, we pray that the war comes to its close. We think the consequences will be painful for the whole country. We pray for Boris Yeltsin, that God would return his prudence to him. We pray for the soldiers being killed there, whom their mothers mourn. We pray that those who are alive could survive. Our attitude to these events is as follows: forcible methods, akin to those used there, will not lead to the victory over Islam, to the victory in general. It’s important to prevent the war from growing into the second Afghanistan.
We feel very sad that a president who was elected by the people, whom we respected and for whom we prayed, allowed himself to be provoked into this action. On the 1st of February, we declared a day of prayer and fasting for President Yeltsin. In our prayers, we are trying to stretch out our hand to help him, that the Lord will keep him safe.
Vadim Uruymagov, Pastor of Christian Bible Fellowship in Kiev, Ukraine
This conflict has a long history. The fact is that relations between Russian Cossacks [military units that used to make their constant settlements in the region near the Caucasus] and Chechens were characterized by mutual hostility back in the 19th century. So I dare say, this relationship has reached its peak and has this indecent war as its outlet.
We can hardly consider this only as the clash between the two spiritual strongholds, Christianity and Islam. This idea should not be a cover-up for political pursuits, and yet Christians must see the reasons behind the conflict as between demonic forces and the power of God through the Holy Spirit. If I am to characterize the people living in the region, I would say they are hardened to the Gospel. This is a very proud and stiff-necked nation with rude traditions.
I personally perceive the spiritual reason of the conflict as God’s move to tear down strongholds that have been forming for centuries not on the basis of God’s word, the Gospel. God did permit the conflict, I should say. Yet, the conflict has been prepared socially in the form of international enmity. Here we can see obvious outbursts of chauvinism by Chechens.
The fact is that there have been many conflicts between groups of different nationalities in the region. I’m an Osetian [a Caucasian nationality], and I know of various conflicts between Osetians and Ingush [another Caucasian nationality – neighbor to Chechens]. In the 1980s, there was a major clash, which took armed forces to calm down the passions. I believe now that since strict [Soviet] political power is removed from this land, old problems are surfacing. The chauvinist attitude is being fueled by political circles in the West. The weapons that Chechens are equipped with leave no doubt about that.
In the past, the Caucasus used to be the springboard for reaching the southern countries. I think that nowadays the Caucasus is the gateway to Muslim countries for a positive invasion, as it were. So, in the outcome of this battle of ideas, minds will determine much. Christian involvement in warfare must be through prevailing prayer for the region. Forcible and political methods are not those which must be adopted by Christians. Spiritual support is of paramount importance, since not only the destiny of Chechnya and Russian-Chechen relationships is being decided there, but the future of the Caucasian region and other countries, to which the Caucasus is the gate, is being determined.
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