The fall of the Iron Curtain opened Eastern Europe and Central Asia to unprecedented access to the good news – opportunities for evangelism, church planting, re-establishing a Christian infrastructure, many partnering networks, theological education and Bible translation and distribution. Churches more than doubled in number and in size, and those identifying themselves as non-religious or atheist dropped by more than half from pre-1991.
Challenge for Prayer
Russia is a proud nation with a great legacy, but it remains a mystery and a contradiction. Some see a bleak future, others a resurgent Russia. Some regard the last decade or two as an economic disaster; others see growth and strength. For centuries, it was systematically plundered by those who held sway, from the Tsars to the Communists to the oligarchs. Most Russians still see a grim outlook. For the nostalgic older generation, the stability of life under the Communists is preferred; for the younger generation, modern life offers little real hope. Pray especially for the following long-term cultural issues:
a)Demographics reveal a civilization caught in a deadly decline. Russia’s population drops by over 500,000 each year. Such a rapid numerical decline spells certain doom for populations unable to reverse the trend. Russia’s birthrate is among the lowest in the world; even generous incentives to produce children are not effective. Conversely, Russia’s abortion rate remains one of the world’s highest. Figures indicate more abortions than live births, with an alarmingly high number also resulting in the mother’s death.
b)Health issues are spiralling to crisis level. Health care is inefficient, underfunded and costly, making it inaccessible to many – just when it is most urgently needed:
iThe alcoholism rate in Russia is one of the world’s highest. Increased incidences of disease, homicide and suicide can in large part be attributed to the low prices and wide availability of cheap, illegal and often poisonous vodka; Russia sells over 2 billion litres each year.
iiDrug addiction controls the lives of as many as 2.5 million people. The government claimed at one point that 8% of teens used drugs daily. The increased prevalence of hard drugs has led to mafia involvement and control. Ministry to drug addicts is a fruitful area for Christians – and a necessary one.
iiiRussia has Europe’s highest and fastest-rising rate of HIV/AIDS. This, combined with tuberculosis, raises mortality rates and drastically reduces life expectancy. HIV claims mostly young people, further robbing Russia of its future.
c)Russian nationalism and its outworkings. Strong nationalistic sentiment has existed for centuries, from religious Orthodox Russia to the Soviet era to the modern day. But complex 21st Century trends seem to be leading to irrevocable troubles.
iRacist nationalism is increasing. Nazi-style expressions are growing more popular among Russian Slavs as an expression of identity and “patriotism”. This has led to more powerful, far-right political groups, but also to thuggery against visible minorities and immigrants. Such racist attacks increased by 30% in 2008 alone, forcing the president to take measures to address this issue.
iiNationalism in foreign policy and Russification internally, reasserted under Putin’s leadership, often led to belligerence, particularly in Chechnya and other Caucasus regions. Pray for good relations with foreign powers and with minority republics within the Russian Federations.
d)Minority groups from within the former Soviet Union face exploitation and rejection by the very ones who colonized them through Russian imperialism and then Communism. Millions of Central Asian immigrants work in Russian cities, most of them undocumented and uncounted in census figures. The great irony is that without these workers, the Russian economy would violently contract; and without massive-scale immigration in the future, Russia may become a pale shadow of its former self.
There are two things I know for sure:
I am a great sinner and Christ is a great Saviour! I am a follower of Jesus Christ. Apart from Christ, I am nothing.
He has blessed me beyond measure with a godly wife Jennifer. Together, we have three beautiful children. One son, and two daughters.
My love is the Truth - both written and Incarnate. To God alone be the glory - Soli Deo Gloria.