By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife
KYIV, UKRAINE (BosNewsLife)–Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday, May 9, arrived in the Crimean Peninsula he annexed from Ukraine, after a Christian mission group said it would distribute hundreds of thousands of ‘Gospel of Luke’ Bible books in the region to help ease tensions amid fears of a new world war.
Russian Ministries (RM) told BosNewsLife it already printed 200,000 copies of the Gospel of Luke in the Ukrainian language and would print another 200,000 copies in the Russian language “for use in Russian-speaking, eastern portions of Ukraine.”
The announcement came amid reports that scores of people have died in recent days during clashes between pro-Russian separatists and supporters of Ukrainian unity in the country’s troubled east.
Among the victims are 48 casualties in the port city of Odessa and more than 20 people killed in the city of Slavyansk during a full-fledged military operation, Russian Ministries said.
The group stressed that it wanted to distribute the Bible books “in a special effort toward reconciliation and the restoration of peace in the nation.”
“These special editions of the Gospel of Luke also contain prayers for salvation, comfort for individuals and families, healing for the nation, and hope for peace,” added RM’s President Sergey Rakhuba. “Some speculate [the tensions] could spark World War III.”
Distributing the Bibles isn’t without risks, he cautioned.
“Recently our ‘School Without Walls’ [project] students [and] graduates took copies of Scripture to soldiers on the front lines of Ukraine, understanding that they could be the first ones to face eternity,” he added.
However, “We will continue to work with local evangelical churches to distribute the Word of God as widely as possible.” He said Bibles are also being distributed among Russian troops stationed near Ukraine’s borders.
Putin claimed this week he had begun withdrawing forces from the area, but the NATO military alliance countered that satellite images showed as many as 40,000 Russian troops remaining near Ukraine.
SHOW OF STRENGTH
And in a show of strength, Putin on Friday, May 9, watched tanks rumbling across Red Square in Moscow to commemorate the Soviet victory over the Nazis in World War II.
“It’s a day when we all especially keenly feel what it means to be faithful to the motherland and how important it is to be able to defend its interests,” Putin said at the Moscow parade. “It’s a holiday when the all-triumphant power of patriotism celebrates victory,” he said, before flying to Crimea for expected victory rallies.
Amid the tensions, RM said it was also working with churches to provide funds for food packs that believers are assembling and delivering to refugees who have fled Crimea, needy children in orphanages, as well as soldiers on the front lines.
“We are encouraged that both national believers and non-believers are contributing sacrificially to this need as well,” Rakhuba explained.
He said Russian Ministries was motivated by Bible verse 2 Chronicles 7:14 where God reportedly told Israel: “…if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”
(BosNewsLife (2004-2014) is the first truly independent news agency covering persecuted Christians. It has been ‘Breaking the News for Compassionate Professionals’ since May 2004).
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