Ukraine and Russian Baptist leaders meet
Baptist leaders from Ukraine and Russia state common ground and mutual support after meeting for the first time since the overthrow of the Ukrainian government in February.
Russian Baptist President Alexey Smirnov (left) and Ukraine counterpart Vyacheslav Nesteruk
Both the All-Ukrainian Union of Associations of Evangelical Christians-Baptists (AUUAECB) and the Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists (RUECB) expressed their support for a peaceful dialogue. In a joint statement they condemned all acts of violence, as well as appealling to 'all who are responsible for the future of our countries to hold firmly to the principles of freedom of conscience and confession.'
The talks took place at the Kiev Baptist headquarters, RUECB-President Alexey Smirnov addressed staff in a sermon followed by a festive dinner and the signing of the joint statement (translated below). The primary hosts were AUUAECB-President Vyacheslav Nesteruk and Vice-President Valery Antonyuk.
Back in Moscow on 9 April, Vitaly Vlasenko, the RUECB’s Director of External Church Relations, described the gathering as “fantastic”, and said the day’s events even included an “interesting” visit to Maidan Square. The 8th of April had been marked by cordiality; Vlasenko noted that 'everyone seemed happy to speak Russian'. He also reported that the two-man Russian delegation experienced no complications entering and exiting Ukraine via Kiev airport.
Elsewhere Tony Peck, General Secretary of the European Baptist Federation, commented that it was very good that the leaders of the two Unions had been able to meet. 'It shows that the Gospel we believe in transcends political differences between nations and unites us in an overall concern for peace and reconciliation in Christ. Ukraine still has some tough days ahead and we will continue to pray for its leaders and its people.'
"Blessed are the peacemakers . . . .“ Matthew 5:9
We representatives of the congregations of Evangelical Christians-Baptists in Russia and Ukraine have come together to express our common views on issues of major concern to people in our churches and countries. We thereby present a visible sign of support for the possibility of a peaceful dialogue between our churches and nations.
All of our congregations pray continually for peace between our peoples as well as for those who have suffered during the course of the recent political stand-off. We pray for the maintenance of lasting peace and understanding between the citizens of our countries independent of their national and confessional affiliations.
* We express our sincere willingness to pray and support deeds of fraternal dialogue and the promotion of peace in the Russian and Ukrainian societies.
* We appeal to all who are responsible for the future of our countries to hold firmly to the principles of freedom of conscience and confession as well as the non-interference of the state and political forces in the internal life of religious organisations.
* We condemn all acts of violence and brutality against persons as well as the resolution of political problems by military means.
* We appeal to all members of the various religious groups to contribute to the process of forgiveness and agreement between our peoples.
* We mourn those killed in mass clashes on both sides of the conflict, both among the public and combatants.
* We call on our brothers and sisters in the churches of Russia and Ukraine to pray for a peaceful resolution of the political confrontation between our two countries.
* We call on our peoples to make every effort to avoid any provocations, to retain in their hearts love for the neighbour, to respect his human dignity and religious beliefs.
* We are ready, regardless of our circumstances, to cooperate further in proclaiming the Gospel in our own countries and throughout the world.
President Vyacheslav Nesteruk
All-Ukrainian Union of Associations of Evangelical Christians-Baptists
President Aleksey Smirnov
Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists