Churches reaching out in Russia/Georgia conflict

By August 15, 2008

Russia (MNN) — The Russia/Georgia conflict continues to fester, threatening relationships that go beyond the region. Europe, China and the United States are already getting involved. However, the rhetoric may be causing even more damage.

Russia's foreign minister declared Thursday that the world "can forget about" Georgia's territorial integrity. Russia has targeted military infrastructure and equipment — including radars and patrol boats at a Black Sea naval base and oil hub.

The White House, meanwhile, says it would ignore the comment. "Our position on Georgia's territorial integrity is not going to change no matter what anybody says," White House press secretary Dana Perino said Thursday. "And so I would consider that to be bluster from the foreign minister of Russia. We will ignore it."

As the saber rattling continues, thousands of people are suffering. Slavic Gospel Association says evangelical churches in the region are ready to help.

SGA's Joel Griffith has been in contact with pastors in North Ossetia. They're reporting, "The hostilities between the Georgian and Russian armies have already resulted in several thousand civilians being killed and an estimated 100,000 people having lost their homes. Refugee families from South Ossetia have flooded north across the Russian border."

The refugees are going into the southern Russian regions of Kabardino-Balkaria, Rostov, Stavropol, and Krasnodar. Griffith says, "In all of these regions, we have SGA-sponsored church planters and partner UECB (Union of Evangelical Christians Baptists) churches."

According to Griffith, these churches are being proactive. "All of the UECB churches in North Ossetia are sending people to visit the suffering injured in the area hospitals. They are trying to help the refugees with food and clothing. And you can be sure that they are seizing every opportunity to share the Gospel with them."

He says the churches say the refugees are coming in with heartbreaking stories. "They've been talking about bombings, people crushed by tanks, and others being burned alive." Many of them are coming from the city of Tskhinvali (skin-vuh-lee), where reportedly not one house is still standing.

Temporary shelters have been set up in government buildings, but many of the families of Beslan — people who are well acquainted with grief — have taken refugees into their homes. However, Griffith says, "They provide all of the food and necessities that these displaced people need. A great deal of help is needed, especially for the purchase of food and everything for children, baby foods, and hygiene items."

That's where you can help. SGA is raising money to equip the local church to provide for the needs of refugees. The funding provided, however, will do more than help physically. "We're also able to give Christians literature — Russian language Bibles, especially some literature that's specifically targeted to grieving families."

SGA is asking for prayer in this crisis situation, in addition to financial contributions to help the churches with their relief efforts. Click here to give financially.

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