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Selective grief on Donbass

The first anniversary of the shootdown of the Malaysian airliner over Donbass on 17 July led to a surge of commentaries. On his Facebook page, Mikhail Cherenkov showed a series of photos of victims of the tragedy with the Ukrainian caption: “If there were no Putin, we would still be alive.” Cherenkov could not have had this in mind when he spoke of a new, responsible contribution of Ukrainian Protestants to the political arena.

Many questions remain unanswered regarding flight MH-17. Where are the tapes and the dispatcher from the Kiev flight control tower on that day? Where are the high-quality US satellite pictures? After the shootdown of the Siberian airliner by Ukrainian forces over the Black Sea on 4 October 2001, the US side quickly produced satellite evidence showing that a rocket had downed the aircraft. (See „Wikipedia“.) Why has the Dutch-led international investigation committee on MH-17 guaranteed the Ukrainian side – one of the suspects – a veto right on its findings? The Russians – another suspected party - are not permitted to be on the committee. See for ex:”. How can one assume Russian guilt long before any kind of official verdict is out? Why was “everything” so easy back in 2001?

If one also includes the 290 dead stemming from the downing of an Iranian airliner by the USS Vincennes in the Persian Gulf on 3 July 1988, one arrives at a death total of 666 for the three incidents. Unforgettable is also the shootdown of a Korean Jumbo by the Soviet air force on 1 September 1983 with 269 victims. According to “Wikipedia”. as many as 40 civilian aircraft have been downed by armies and terrorists since 1940. All of these victims are deserving of our grief and our prayers. Selective grief does major damage to the Christian witness among those of other political persuasion.

Now is a time of need, revival and unity. That was the primary sentiment present at a gathering of 20 Baptist pastors from Russia’s Rostov district with 20 more from the Ukrainian regions of Donetsk and Lugansk in the Russian border city of Novoshakhtinsk on 11 July. Much as in Ukraine proper, duress has brought the Christian denominations of Donbass closer together. In one instance, the quick action of Orthodox neighbours in Lugansk prevented the confiscation of a Baptist chapel by separatist forces. Humanitarian aid is the motor of understanding between those of differing theological and political persuasions. Another report done by Pentecostals appeals for pastors to return to Donbass and shepherd their forsaken flocks.

Without wanting to whitewash the Russian side, Odessa’s Alexander Boychenko penned a positive note on Twitter on 27 July: “Sad but true: Dishonesty, betrayal and slander . . . are blooming within the ranks of Ukraine’s Evangelical Christian-Baptist brotherhood. I know, for I have experienced it myself. . . . But I believe that the love of Christ will win out in this situation. The triumph of evil can only be temporary. In the end, love always reigns victorious.” Boychenko, a long-time pastor within Ukraine’s Baptist Union, switched to a newly-formed Evangelical-Christian congregation in 2011.

William Yoder, Ph.D.

Smolensk, 18 August 2015

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