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Putin’s playbook

"Putin’s playbook" Continued...

Issue: "Believing in Iraq," May 17, 2014

But even in the ROC there are small signs of reform, say observers. Metropolitan Hilarion—the head of external relations for the Russian Orthodox Church—is “under a lot of heat from the conservative wing of the church” because he talks to evangelicals, says Bernbaum. 

Hilarion meets every few months with a men’s Bible study launched three years ago by Bernbaum’s ministry, the Russian-American Institute, that 25 business executives attend.

IN VOLATILE EASTERN UKRAINE, Sergey Kosyak, a pastor in Donetsk, said the prayer tent in his city commemorated its 50th day of prayer on April 23 by holding communion, and he sees these difficult times as an opportunity for God to work in the lives of the people.

“It was very unusual because different denominations have different theological views and order for Holy Communion, but after 50 days of standing together in prayer, dealing with threats, bad weather, and fear, we have learned to cherish each other,” Kosyak wrote on Facebook (his English is limited, but a friend translates the online updates).

Sergey Kosyak
Jonathan Alpeyrie
Sergey Kosyak
Kosyak told me he lives each day trusting God, and when he takes written prayers to pro-Russian separatists, he prays he won’t be beaten. So far he has escaped numerous dangerous situations unharmed. At a separatist checkpoint in Donetsk on April 23 he escaped the usual questioning heading into the former regional administration building: “I had learned that one of the separatist commanders was a former youth director of one of the major churches of our brotherhood.”

The two men greeted each other happily and Kosyak asked his old friend to consider God and return home. “I hope he heard me,” said Kosyak. Outside he encountered people passing out Christian literature to the separatists and praying prayers of repentance.   

Opportunities to show forgiveness and mercy may be the salve that heals the massive divisions plaguing both Ukraine and Russia, and the stories abound.

When pro-Russian separatists tore down the Ukrainian flag from the Donetsk prayer tent on April 14, a group of men tracked them down and beat them up. Two Christian leaders led the bruised and battered separatists back to the prayer tent, patched up their bloodied faces, and gave them copies of the New Testament.

“There are people on both sides of the fence who need God,” Kosyak wrote. “The church stands as an unbroken outpost, calling on the whole city to prayerfully humble ourselves before God.”

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