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Loss of Baptist aid storehouse in Serbia stirs BWA leader’s missions


WASHINGTON (BP)–A Baptist church’s storage facility for humanitarian aid in Nis, Serbia, has been destroyed by a missile, Denton Lotz, general secretary of the Baptist World Alliance, reported in an April 8 statement on “The Missiological Implications of the Kosovo War for the Baptist Witness in Eastern Europe.”
In addition to the Baptist facility which contained Christian literature, food, clothing and furniture, in a city of 250,000-plus people 125 miles southeast of Belgrade, Lotz cited several other reports relating to Baptists in Eastern Europe since the United States and its NATO allies began bombing Yugoslavia in late March in an attempt to stop Serbian “ethnic cleansing” of ethnic Albanians from the province of Kosovo.
“As Baptist Christians worldwide,” Lotz said, “we need to remind ourselves of certain principles that will prevent us from becoming so involved in the drums of war that we become ineffective agents for Christ and His Kingdom.”
Lotz joined an “ecumenical appeal” by various religious leaders for a cessation of the bombing during the Easter season, but his April 8 statement made no specific call for a NATO cease fire.
The other reports cited by Lotz relating to Baptists in Eastern Europe:
— The Christian Evangelism Centre in the town of Backi Petrovac has been attacked and stoned by people “who have associated that organization with U.S. President Bill Clinton, who is a Baptist,” Lotz said, citing a report from a Baptist elder in Belgrade, Dane Vidovic. Lotz quoted Vidovic as further stating, “Some Yugoslav believers had predicted they would suffer consequences of their countrymen identifying them as having ties with the West.”
— “There have been television interviews with students from Russia who have stated very strongly, ‘Your NATO bombing will bring the communists back to power in our December elections. They will use NATO bombing to further their communist goals of reclaiming power,’” Lotz said.
— “An American missionary reports that Russian Baptists asked, ‘What gives the U.S. the right to bomb Serbia, a sovereign state? Do you think you also have the right to intervene in Chechnya also?”
“The Orthodox Church is particularly strong in Russia, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Serbia and Greece,” Lotz said. “Their religious and cultural history unites them over many centuries. These people see the war in Serbia and Kosovo as a religious war. The tragic slaughter of innocent people, the refugees, the evil dictatorship is all forgotten or not known. All that is known and impressed in the minds of these people is that their Slavic brothers and sisters are being attacked.”
Among the principles cited by Lotz:
— Jesus’ kingdom “is not of this world,” Lotz wrote. “Certainly this does not mean that we escape from the world as a sectarian movement and not become involved in societal issues. On the contrary, Christians must be involved in the life and death issues of one’s country. But ultimate allegiance must be above one’s country. Ultimate allegiance must be to Christ and His Kingdom.”
— “When culture triumphs over the Gospel, the Gospel of our Lord Jesus becomes a tool for nationalism and racist ideas. Therefore, we must constantly remind ourselves who and whose we are as Christians. It is not to our culture, with all its greatness or failings, that we point. But we must point to Christ,” Lotz said.
— “To communicate the Gospel of Christ in a foreign culture, one must necessarily be aware of the history, culture, religious sensitivities, and all that makes up a particular civilization, or worldview of a nation or tribe. … If a Christian witness does not take seriously the context of preaching the Gospel in a particular culture, then we should not be surprised if there is no response,” Lotz said.
— A Christian missionary, a witness to Christ, must be able to show the people to whom he is preaching that he is in solidarity with their pain and sorrow. … The incarnation is God’s solidarity with sinful humanity: “And the word became a human being!” (John 1:14) Therefore, we need to understand our brothers and sisters living in another culture. We need to be sensitive to their pain, even if we disagree with their government and their leadership.”
— Citing Psalm 11 to answer the question, “… how do we act during wartime?” Lotz said, “We must pray. We must confess our sins. We must do righteous deeds. It is for that reason that the BWA has called upon Baptists worldwide to pray for peace. We call upon each nation and culture to examine its actions and its soul. And finally we call upon our brothers and sisters in the war-torn area and in peaceful areas ‘to do righteous deeds.’”