EBF Response to Russian Baptist Union Statement on Ukraine


Baptist Brothers and Sisters in Christ in Russia

Peace be with you!

Thank you for sending a copy of your Statement to ‘friends in Christ primarily in North America’, on the day of US Secretary of State, John Kerry’s visit to Kiev.  Of course these issues regarding a political stance towards Ukraine are also there for western European nations and the European Union, as the presence this week in Kiev and Moscow of the German Chancellor and the French President confirms.

You graciously invite us to respond to the Statement, and as President and General Secretary of the EBF we take this opportunity to do so.

We are sure that all in the European Baptist Federation would share with Russian Baptists the overwhelming strong desire for a peaceful, negotiated settlement to end the violence, bloodshed and driving out of people from their homes in Eastern Ukraine.  Together we believe in Christ who ‘came to bring peace’ (Ephesians Ch 2) between those who are estranged from one another.  

As Baptists we believe in a church that has the freedom to seek the mind of Christ without state interference or pressure.  It is important for us to create a space where we so far as is possible put aside our national loyalties and aspirations and ask the question as to what Christ would have us be and do in this situation.   Experience in many places shows that this is actually quite hard to achieve, especially in a time of conflict between nations. The leaders of the Russian and Ukrainian Baptists are to be commended that they have sought to do this on several occasions over the past year.  But there is no doubt that tensions remain arising from the different perspectives of many in the two Baptist Unions.

The Russian Baptists are understandably concerned about statements from the US government that seem to suggest US support for an escalation of the militarization of the conflict, and therefore they address their Statement ‘mainly’ to their friends in the US. We were hoping that the Russian Baptists would desire to also be a prophetic witness in this situation, especially with regards to the starting of the war and also in relation to the human drama that is taken place in Eastern Ukraine now. We all know that among those affected and suffering are also fellow Baptist brothers and sisters.

It is quite possible that we in the West do not fully appreciate the Russian perspective on events in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine, and we need to listen more carefully and learn more.  However, as Baptists brothers and sisters we also hear the concerns and cries coming from our Ukrainian Baptist family which is suffering so much together with their entire country and who are seeing their country partitioned and then devastated by a war they did not want and did not start.

It also pains us to see that this war is so easily and uncritically supported by Russia’s evangelicals  (see the recent Christianity Today article, ‘Why Russia’s Evangelicals Thank God for Putin’ ).

We understand that your statement suggests compromises may have to be made for a lasting peace but in any move towards reconciliation and peace, what looks like uncritical support for one side in this conflict has to be addressed. The EBF has received several expressions of concern about Press releases on behalf of the Russian Evangelical Alliance that do not seem to put forward a broadly balanced view, and which can even appear to inflame the situation further.

All Baptists want to join in and support the Russian Baptist call for a “negotiated settlement as the only way to peace”.  But for it to be credible it has to also address the wrongs and shortcomings of all the sides involved in this conflict. That is what the Gospel calls us to do in seeking that Truth that rises above our own narrow perspectives and loyalties, and which we believe can lead to a lasting reconciliation by God’s grace.

It would be an even more powerful witness to what is possible when we acknowledge Christ as Lord if Russian and Ukrainian Baptist leaders could issue a Joint Statement calling for peace, acknowledging their differences but seeking to see beyond them to find a way to encourage their two nations to find a way leave at peace with one another.

Is it too much to believe that this might yet be possible?

With brotherly greetings

Otniel Bunaciu                  EBF President
Tony Peck                        EBF General Secretar

6 February 2015

* * *

NOTE: The underlined passages in this message are my emphasis.


Author: DanutM

Anglican theologian. Former Director for Faith and Development Middle East and Eastern Europe Region of World Vision International

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