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BWA’s Lotz: Serbian Baptists suffering from war in Kosovo

ATLANTA (BP)–Baptists in Serbia are suffering for their faith in what the Serbian public perceives as a “Baptist war” in Kosovo, Baptist World Alliance General Secretary Denton Lotz said June 16.
“This war in Kosovo, by many in Serbia, was seen as a Baptist war,” Lotz said at a BWA-sponsored breakfast meeting in conjunction with the June 15-16 annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention. The BWA is a fellowship of 188 Baptist unions around the world.
Lotz said the bishops in the Serbian Orthodox church saw the war as a Baptist attack against the Orthodox church because U.S. President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore are members of Southern Baptist churches. As a result, Lotz said, Baptist churches in Serbia are being blamed by association for the bombings and destruction. Lotz did not report any deaths or injuries among Serbian Baptists but said their churches have been stoned and their ministries hampered.
The task now, Lotz said in a follow-up interview, is to build a relationship with the Orthodox without sacrificing Baptist beliefs.
“My main concern is that we need to affirm a positive relationship with Orthodoxy today,” Lotz said. “We want to affirm the Orthodox as our brothers and sisters in Christ, but we also want to say very firmly that we believe in religious freedom. We do not believe in a state church.”
Lotz said the BWA presently is among the religious groups assisting Albanian refugees in Macedonia and Albania.
BWA President Nilson Fanini reported on his recent trip to Russia during which he preached at the graduation ceremonies of the Baptist seminary in Moscow. The school graduated only 18 theology students, but Fanini said the school presently is teaching more than it can handle and students are sleeping eight to a room.
“Thousands and thousands of people are in the churches there now,” Fanini said. “We had more than 1,000 decisions in Moscow as well as in St. Petersberg. And again, they want us to go back to Moscow and St. Petersberg and Siberia to preach the gospel.”
Also during the meeting, Lotz gave an update on BWA work around the world:
— In Africa, he said 6 million new Christians are being added annually.
— China is now the home of 18 seminaries and more than 13,000 churches. Every five days there are nine new churches in China.
— In Nepal, there were only 150 Christians in the entire country in 1992. Today, there are 62 Baptist churches, 232 missions and 12,000 Christians, as well as a Bible training center in Katmandu.
— In Burma, there are 28 seminaries with 3,000 students and 1.2 million Baptists.
— The number of Baptists in Cuba has doubled in the last two years.
— In 1975, there were 17 Baptist churches in the Bangladesh Baptist Fellowship. Today, there are 400 Baptist churches there.
Alma Hunt, retired executive director of the Southern Baptist Woman’s Missionary Union, was on hand for this year’s meeting and addressed the mission of the BWA.
“[The BWA] truly makes us see beyond our own home, our own churches, our own states, our own country and our own culture to come to know, love and appreciate persons who are our brothers and sisters in the faith,” she said.

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