The Primary Gift is Love
M o s c o w — A sense of unity and love between the Protestant believers of Kyrgyzstan was the overriding impression made on a Russian, three-man/woman reporter team during its three-day visit to that strife-torn country. “The true God unites;” the Protestants concluded. After their return to Moscow on 27 June, they reported: Despite all the destruction the citizens of southern Kyrgyzstan are presently forced to endure, “the primary gift that God has presented to his children in this situation is love.” Though the Baptist Union of Kyrgyzstan does not belong to international Baptist agencies such as the “Baptist World Alliance” (BWA), it naturally expressed great gratitude for the monetary gifts brought by the team of reporters. Their gift included funds from the BWA and European Baptist Federation as well as from the Baptist Unions of Germany and Russia.
After its visit in Osh and Jalal-Abad, the team reported that even though official channels only speak of 250 deaths, the number of injured runs into the thousands. Alone in the picturesque ancient city of Osh – legends claim that it was given its name by King Solomon – 1.500 houses were destroyed. Hospitals were overfilled; unsanitary water and food are causing near epidemics. Uzbeks, afraid to leave the tight boundaries of their own ethnic quarters, are forced to do without food and medication. Following the Muslim custom of burying their dead on the day of death, many Uzbeks were forced to inter relatives in their own backyards.
Protestants were also astonished and amazed by the amount of protection their Heavenly Father had given. None of the region’s 300-400 Protestants were reported killed or injured; not even one of their dwellings was seriously damaged. The team reported that on one street in Osh every house had been destroyed except one – the house of a Protestant family. As was to be seen on Moscow’s “Protestant” website, the attractive Protestant church building in Jalal-Abad suffered nothing more than a broken window.
The team was also full of praise for the 3.000-member Kyrgyz Union and its President, the Russian-German Genrikh (Heinrich) Foth, which “accurately and intelligently” distributed humanitarian aid. When funds arrived, church members would fan out into affected areas and ask precisely what was needed most. Only then were the needed goods purchased.
The team from Moscow was also shocked by the apparently almost instantaneous reversal in the behaviour of fellow human beings. They wrote: “One of the most senseless and horrible facts is that people have been killing others solely due to the fact that they had another ethnicity. And yet until yesterday these people had lived together peacefully as friendly neighbours.”
Team member Irina Mitrofanova, Director of Sunday School Work for the Russian Union of Evangelical-Christians Baptists, assured that she would very willingly return to Kazakhstan to distribute the funds promised by world Baptist circles, but not yet delivered by the end of June. I have seen how they do it in Kyrgyzstan and “am confident that all aid given will reach the needy”. Winter is also approaching and many issues still need to be solved in order for most to survive. As a born educator, Irina Mitrofanova is also concerned about the religious education and well-being of southern Kyrgyzstan’s many children.
William Yoder, Ph.D.
Moscow, 8 July 2010
Press service of the Russian Evangelical Alliance
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