What can be said about connecting with our partners in Russia, the Christians in Ukraine who are suffering from the war, the refugees in Belarus who are being used as pawns in a political game, the authoritarian regimes that are rising to political power in Europe and elsewhere, and the fact that we’re fighting wars over access to fossil fuels that are also degrading our planet?
LOTS can be said, and lots was said – we learned so much at the Belarus, Ukraine, Russia Mission (BURM) Network conference October 6-8. We were honored to host the event in-person and virtually via our Facebook Livestream. There was a LOT of great information. Ellen Smith, our mission co-worker shared her recent newsletter telling us about how refugees in Belarus are at risk and details about her recent travels.
Our model for engagement has been “pairing” Russian and U.S. congregations. Since we cannot visit Russia now or in the near future, we learned that we’ll want to find other ways to engage. It is important to stay in contact with our Russian friends, but we’re told we need to be very generic in our communications. Messages that we’re thinking about them are wonderful but we can’t ask questions that could raise their visibility, so we need to hold them in prayer and make nothing more than small talk when we communicate with them.
Thinking about the reasons this war began and why it continues was a significant topic at the conference. We learned about the history of the region and how the borders have changed through the years. We learned about the political climate and how a poor economy can lead to the election of Fascists. See the article from Luciano Kovacs, Presbyterian World Mission area coordinator and speaker at our conference. We learned about how destructive our dependence on fossil fuels is. We fight wars over oil and as we burn it, we contribute to climate change, which is affecting agriculture in Ukraine. All these problems seem insurmountable but discussing them and understanding them helps us move toward change.
We hope you will be able to engage in this part of the world and learn and grow with us and be inspired by the Christian actions taking place there. Join the BURM Facebook page. It’s a private group so you must ask to join, but Ellen Smith, our mission co-worker posts stories, articles, and information on an ongoing basis. Read her recent post on Energy Transformations for Ukraine to Become a New Green Power-house of Europe.