Working together to address needs in Eastern Europe.

By November 8, 2006

Eastern Europe (MNN) — An estimated 1.5 million children roam the streets in Russia. There are more than half a million orphans. And the rate of HIV infections is rising more rapidly in Ukraine and Russia than anywhere in the world.

Russian Ministries’ Anita Deyneka says it’s dire news, but they’re taking steps to provide hope. “With this backdrop of the little ones, their future is at stake with the orphans and street children, and then even the younger ones are being infected with HIV and developing AIDS, but of course it’s more teenagers and young adults, and so we feel that it’s part of our strategy to evangelize and equip the next generation, because in a way the next generation are dying.”

Russian Ministries will be hosting two conferences to address those needs. ‘The Eastern European Summit for Children at Risk’ is being held November 10-14, and the ‘HIV and AIDS Forum of Good Practice and Networking’ will follow that November 15-17, 2006.

It’s a milestone event, and Deyneka says they’ve been an active part of making the conferences happen and getting people involved. There’s a motivating factor, says Deyneka, “Above all, the reason we’ve been behind and promoting and organizing these two conferences is we hope that we can do more together than any of us can do individually as organizations. So with the networking and partnerships, we hope that we can do something much more massive and meaningful to help these situations”

It’s a shadow over the children and youth, says Deyneka, “And if there are going to be young leaders in the future, even in a way, their survival is at stake. But what’s most important, and this is an overriding hope for us in these two conferences, as I mentioned, there will be some westerners, but mostly national participants. And our prayer is that it is the national church who will take the leadership here, who will be aware and energized and enabled to work in these areas which are so critical for their country.”

The HIV/AIDS Forum will be the first Christian gathering of its kind in Russia with representatives from the US, Western Europe, and the former Soviet Union participating. The goal of the three-day forum is to gather key Christian, social, and governmental organizations which are responding to the HIV/AIDS crisis in Russia and the former Soviet Union (CIS) in order to explore how they might share resources and experiences in programming and develop effective strategies of care, prevention and policy change.

Russia’s population is declining at the rate of a million to eight hundred thousand a year, and if something doesn’t change, HIV will ravage the already suffering country. “And so,” Deyneka says, “Every effort is needed, but it’s ultimately the Gospel and changed hearts, changed lives that can produce the kinds of values and make us see change. And so that’s our prayer and hope.”

Pray for the conferences going on this week and next week.

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