Column from Belarus: Priest preaches trust in rockets

14-04-2023

Christian Life

Zmicier Chviedaruk, CNE.news

An Orthodox priest visits an exhibition of weapons. Photo AFP, Sergei Gapon

13 years ago, I was serving in Belarusian military forces. At the time, I was a young man who had been drafted into the army from university studies.

It appeared to me that Belarusian army doesn’t look like a real defence force that can protect the country. It is probably made to seem like army but not to be a real one. The only jobs we were told to do were cleaning up, cooking, running, watching propaganda on TV and building railways for some Belarusian factories without salary or for just some food.

The actual Belarusian army has a clear Soviet heritage, and you may imagine that it has a strong atheistic foundation. Like during dark 70 years of Soviet regime you still have no religious freedom during your years of service. As a soldier, you are not allowed to visit a church if you are Reformed, Evangelical or even Catholic. You even have to fight for keeping Bible in your closet.

Once during my 18 months of service we were told that an Orthodox priest would come to the military base to give a speech. I was a little bit shocked that a head colonel and main ideologist (in every civil and military organisation in our country, there should be an ideologist) agreed to hold a religious speech in the most atheistic place. But it appeared from the beginning that priest only told us that Western heretics trust Jesus to have peace and joy in life. “We, Slavic people, should trust in Russian atomic rockets only!” – he said. What would you answer to that?

Living In The Valley Of Atomic Shadow

The speech seemed to be just a bad joke to me. Starting from 1996, just 5 years after gaining independence, Belarus was among first countries ever to refuse such a lethal and dangerous atomic weapon. Western countries agreed to defend Belarus and Ukraine in case if any country would try to invade them after such a peaceful decision.

Since 1964, the Soviet Union put their rockets in Belarus to intimidate Western Europeans and the NATO. These rockets could hit targets at 2000 km distance. The Soviets tried to protect themselves and get eternal coverage for doing whatever they want. They thought that rockets were their strength and the cornerstone of the regime.

After proclaiming independence in 1990, Belarus officially introduced legislation on the refusal of atomic weapons. Between 1994 and 1996 the project was completed. The memory of nuclear disaster was too painful for us after Chernobyl happened in 1986.

Zmicier Chviedaruk was born in Minsk, Belarus, in 1988.

Zmicier.jpg
Zmicier Chviedaruk

He is member of a Reformed baptist church in that city. But he studies with the neighbours in Kyiv, at the Evangelical-Reformed Seminary of Ukraine (ERSU).

Zmicier is married with Anna and together, they raise a cat. He has authored the book “Reformation at all costs” about the history of the Reformed Church in Belarus in the 16th century. He likes reading, and listening to old-school rock from 80-90’s and plays in amateur football team “Libertas”.

So, you probably cannot even imagine our reaction to Putin’s statement on March 26. The Russian tyrant said that from now Belarusians cannot defend themselves anymore. He stated that Western aggression is too dangerous for Belarus and made his puppet colleague Lukashenko (not the elected president) like the priest who held the speech during my military service, to agree on putting atomic rockets on our territory. From now on, instead of being offered peace and comfort, we became a target for Western world, again looking more like a Russian vassal than like an independent state with foreign troops in control. And it really seems that from now we are living not only in a prison under the open sky but in the valley of atomic shadow.

Jesus or Rockets?

The current situation with rockets is looking really dangerous for people of Belarus. It looks like Putin is trying to compensate for his failed Ukrainian ambitions here. Again, a small sinner with a heart of stone pretends to be God and to decide the fate of his and other nations.

The Holy Scripture reminds us of words of hope from Psalm 19 about powerful evil leaders that think they can do everything they want, having powerful weapons and armies. The Scripture points out that such evil characters will fall but that those, who put their trust in God will stand. “Now I know that the Lord saves his anointed; he will answer him from his holy heaven with the saving might of his right hand. Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God”.

The Holy Scripture teaches us to rely on Jesus, even in the darkest hour like this. Sometimes our sins and different ideologies or winds of teaching try to make us believe that we should find final hope and trust in something else but not God. For example, in Russian rockets. But we shouldn’t kneel before them. Instead, we ought to cry to God for His mercy.

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