Churches damaged as Georgia/Russia clash

By August 12, 2008

Georgia (MNN) — Violence continues between Russian and Georgia today. The violence began Friday, after Georgian forces pounded the capital of the breakaway province of South Ossetia and warned of "war" if Russia intervened.

That brought with it tanks, war planes, and soldiers as both sides tried to reclaim the disputed territory.

Senior Vice President of Russian Ministries Sergey Rakhuba says they have workers in the region, located in Vladikavkoz. "We have a ministry center that is reaching out to all those neighboring provinces, including South Ossetia. This is a huge catastrophe for so many people. About 2,000 people are killed. There are about 30,000 refugees."

The situation is complicated. The Republic of Georgia lays claim to the territory. However, the population of South Ossetia is predominately Russian.

Russian Ministries has been working with the needy in South Ossetia. The area director Gennady Terkun told Rakhuba, "There is no communication, but people who managed to escape told him that three evangelical churches that we're assisting were damaged there in Chinvali."

Rakhuba says the terrorist attack in nearby Beslan helped evangelical churches unify. That was evident this week. "They got together, and they were trying minister to the families of refugees that are pouring out of South Ossetia into North Ossetia and into other Russian provinces there," says Rakhuba.

He says not only will they be helping with the physical needs, but also their emotional and spiritual needs. "We are mobilizing Christian counselors, those who are trained and already have experience, especially after Beslan and Chechnya."

Rakhuba says these ethnic areas of North and South Ossetia and Ingushetia had been trapped in territorial disputes in the early 1990s, but they enjoyed peaceful times until a couple of years ago.

"It's a hard issue to resolve," said Rakhuba, "and it is now escalating into a political issue as South Ossetia declared its independence from both Georgia and Russia."

Rakhuba's main concern is for the well-being of the refugees and the minority who stayed behind in South Ossetia. "I am concerned that international aid might not be allowed to get to the region because of politics," said Rakhuba. "I also am praying that the authorities can come to a peaceful, diplomatic solution to this fighting."

Rakhuba is asking fellow Christians to pray "that God would give wisdom and guidance — how to deal with this crisis and how our national workers would find the resources and be available to all of these refugee families, but also to give for this ministry to reach out to family who lost everything."

In addition to its ongoing humanitarian assistance to this region, the Vladikavkaz ministry team is already planning additional aid, including medical assistance and food. Many families in South Ossetia have lost what little they had to begin with.

Also, in Beslan–a city well acquainted with violence and death–Russian Ministries' center is prepared to welcome and assist at least 30-35 refugee families.

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