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Tbilisi, Georgia, Baptists assist Chechen refugees

WASHINGTON (BP)–Members of Central Baptist Church, Tbilisi, Georgia, have taken all the funds they collected for a much beloved Christmas celebration in the Baptist community and given it to help Chechen refugees who have fled the war between Chechen militants and Russia in the capital Grozny, according to a report by the Baptist World Alliance Dec. 20.

Baptist World Aid has joined with them to help feed the refugees, most of whom are Moslems, by providing an initial grant of $5,000 and also coordinating the response of other Baptist groups, BWA officials said. BWAid is also working with Hungarian Baptist Aid in its work among Chechen refugees in Ingushetia. Funds have been provided to ship food and clothes, and a container of new winter clothing is being sent in conjunction with Matthew 25 Ministries in Cincinnati, USA.

“The Moslem people of Chechnya should know that Christians in Georgia and beyond care about them,” said Malkhaz Songlashvili, Presiding Bishop of the 5,000 member Union of Evangelical Christian and Baptist Churches, and Merab Gaprindashvili, general secretary.

The Baptist leaders report there are more than 2000 refugees in the Pankisi valley in East Georgia who are starving because a poor harvest has left Chechens there with little food.

Heavy snow has trapped more than 400 refugees, mostly children, in the mountainous town of Shatili in North Georgia.

Urged to help by a member of the Tbilisi church, Songlashvili said the church decided, in spite of its own poverty, to respond. “Most of our people are poor,” he says, “but it is also clear that the poor can understand the poor better than anybody else, and we are determined to do our best to help them.”

Baptist churches are not only raising money to help. They are participating in the food distribution themselves “to make sure the aid reaches the needy.”

“What better way to celebrate Christmas than to give to the refugees of the world, whatever their religion, Muslim or Hindu, Buddhist or secular atheist, Christian or non-Christian,” said Denton Lotz, General Secretary of the BWA. “We are grateful for the model that the poverty stricken Baptists of the Republic of Georgia are giving to us.”

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  • Wendy Ryan