Orthodox America

  The Cry of the New Martyrs -  Charity Never Fails

      The Soviet government ban on the Church's right to conduct charitable work was lifted as a result of new laws on religion brought into effect during last year's Millennium. As Keston reports:

      ..Izvestia has recently carried several positive items about Orthodox work in hospitals, old peoples' homes and invalids' homes...

      In Ufa, a priest called upon his parishioners to help in hospitals and both they and members of the Evangelical-Christian Baptist church responded. According to a letter to Izvestia (March 29): "It is no secret that we do not have enough medical workers. For example, in the republican childrens’ hospital...there are 30 or more children for every nurse."

      The Tselinograd commissioner of the Council for Religious Affairs has welcomed believers' help as they, like social organizations, "are struggling, not without success, with drunkenness, drug addiction, alcoholism and crime"...

      Moscow News (No. 18) has published a comment on the subject by Moscow Archpriest Nikolai Vedernikov. He says that charitable activity was always "an inherent aspect" of the Church's work, but it had until recently been prevented from helping people. Christians now give their help without pay "fulfilling Christ's commandment to love thy neighbor". The work is not easy: "Tending patients on a regular basis is quite a challenge; it demands sacrificing one's time and it interrupts one's daily routine. 

Consequently, one must be devoted... This work needs to be well organized."

      Another comment on the demanding nature of the work comes in an interview in Izvestia (April 29) with Metropolitan Vladimir of Rostov. He points out that the Church has lost the habit of charitable work: "We still have to educate people in the spirit of mercy. A few believers, coming into contact with living reality, with the difficult--and because of that even more necessary --service to mankind, could not endure it and left."

      Keston College comments that there are now frequent positive references to Church involvement in charitable work by both Church and State spokesmen. However, the only concrete reports so far of Church charitable work are with the seriously ill in hospitals, the mentally ill, old people and invalids. These are all people who may be thought unlikely ever again to play an active role in society and it may be for this reason that the State is prepared to countenance their coming under the influence of religious believers. It is true that there have been references in general terms to the need for charitable work with orphans and with casualties from Afghanistan, many of whom are young conscripts, but as yet there have been no specific reports of believers actually engaged in work with either group. It is clear, from comments quoted above and elsewhere, that believers' contribution is welcome largely because they help to make up for the huge deficiency in state medical personnel (KNS 5/25/89)