JOINING FORCES: SCI Takes a MINUTE with Us

NATO has an obligation to the people of Ukraine. The United States has an obligation to the people of Ukraine. Not only them but to the people of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia

Dr. Ross L. Riggs

We have had the pleasure of sharing through two different outlets – one is a blog that we have titled, The Ministry Minute and the other is our private investigative services (SCI) website. This day we find these two ventures not at cross-purposes certainly but both having something important to share. The messages are complementary.

As most of you, who follow us regularly, know… Doc has just returned from Latvia. The leaders of ABWE/CEEMed were holding their regular bi-annual meeting and considering the contingency options should Russia send troops further into Ukraine and incite a war. While Doc was there, a unit from the U.S. Army’s 82 Airborne arrived in Poland and a short time later another unit from the same battalion arrived in Latvia. Their arrival was a counter-response to Russia’s 40,000 troops on Ukraine’s Eastern border with Russia, who, of course, is maintaining that their presence there is simply for maneuvers. However, some reporters in Ukraine have made the comments that outside the small towns in the East that are occupied, life is pretty much going on as normal. They say that as long as the fighting is not on their doorstep; the locals can ignore it. IGNORE IT?! When they hear the sound of gun fire and explosions, do they understand that there is someone very nearby putting their life on the line for the freedom of those who are ignoring it!

Those comments caused me to reflect on a historical piece that I had read some years back regarding the U.S. Civil War battles that took place just outside the downtown area of Washington D.C. When the battles were about to be fought, the local ‘upper-class’ would come out in their fringed topped surreys with their picnic lunches and make an afternoon of it. The photographers would set up to record the events and painters with easels and pallets were ready to paint both the scenes of the battle and the picnickers; everyone oblivious to the carnage, the human suffering and the purpose for which these brave soldiers were fighting.

In Ukraine, two different sides are both arguing that they are fighting for freedom. One side, however, the ones who call themselves “separatists” are doing so in a criminal fashion with their identity hidden and wearing masks. Just yesterday, they reportedly kidnapped an entire busload of observers and have killed an unarmed politician who, it is reported, showed signs of being tortured before being dumped in the river. I really believe that these men and women who hide their faces in balaclavas and wear uniforms without markings are cowards and have a puppeteer by the name of Putin in Moscow.

NATO has an obligation to the people of Ukraine. The United States has an obligation to the people of Ukraine. Not only them but to the people of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. I have heard people try to argue some fine point of NATO jurisdiction when none of that matters. First, what matters is that the people who have lived in the sovereign nation of Ukraine deserve to be free from the fear that at any moment troops will storm into their towns and their homes and put them in harm’s way. Whether the troops are wearing the insignia of the Russian Federation, black balaclavas designed to conceal their identity; or, for that matter, the insignia of their own country of Ukraine, the citizens have an inalienable right to be secure in their persons and property. It would be a strong step in the right direction if they also had a constitution that would guarantee this right.

The United States government must offer more than six hundred troops as a ‘show of force.’ Granted they are some of the very best trained infantry units on the face of the earth but, come on, 300 U.S. Troops in Poland, 300 U.S. Troops in Latvia and 40,000 Russian troops on the Russian border…Hello?

Please understand that I do not profess to be an objective reporter of the ‘appropriate truth.’ I will not report or repeat what might be a lie but, I also do not shirk from sharing my opinion through the ministry blog if there is information that is necessary for your safety as we discuss issues of national security. Now is one of those times. I will not try to be politically correct if that equates to skirting around the real truth in order to appease some group. Rather, if it is important to share what is happening with an issue that the media is not saying because of their bias; then, as I have the facts, to the best of my ability I will share them with you. I do it only in the case where I believe that getting such information out there is important to the cause of freedom. I have watched hour’s worth of Putin Propaganda through the Russian Television Network. RTI acts like a news outlet but they are more biased than even the worst that CNN has ever put forward. And people of the world are buying it. America is suffering because of it because we do not have an administration in Washington that says or does anything that would repudiate it. More than anything the actions and words from the administration seem to reinforce the trash that RTI is putting out in e broadcasts. Please note, even as I share these views here in this instance, I will not ‘preempt’ my Bible time for it. The principle point of the ministry blog is ministry.

With that said, it is important to go back to a point I made earlier about the obligation that the U.S. and NATO countries have to protect the people of Ukraine. In 1991 when the U.S. brokered a deal with Ukraine, Lithuania and Latvia to turn the nuclear weapons that were within their rights as sovereign nations to keep. These were nuclear weapons that had been deployed on their soil by the Union of the Soviet Socialist Republic. Then, when ‘the wall fell’ and the U.S.S.R. no longer existed as a legal entity, by international law each country had every right to keep or broker whatever deal they chose for the weapons. With the Hungary Accord, the promise of protection was created. The U.S. and NATO nations made a pact with each of these countries that the US and NATO would rise to their defense if Russia broke the accord and either used or threatened to use those weapons against them or if they failed to respect the sovereign borders of those nations. Russia can trump up all the bogus reasons they want about having to come to the defense of Russian speaking people (who are not citizens of Russia) claiming that the Ukrainian government is not protecting them adequately. It means nothing as far as giving any nation the right to invade another without international agreement of crimes against humanity. It would be like Mexican forces invading the U.S. because they alleged we were ill-treating the Spanish speaking population here in the U.S. Witnesses reported that when Russian troops initially entered Crimea they immediately began handing out documentation of Russian citizenship for whoever wanted it. This was to supposedly reinforce Russia’s new found ‘right’ to protect these ‘citizens.’ This argument is so incredulous it hardly bears repeating, in fact, one would worry that by even mentioning it would somehow give it more credence than it has; if any. What is that old blues song of the 70’s “Nothing from Nothing Leaves Nothing”?

The glaring principle here stands like the elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about. So at the risk of offending the elephant, allow me to talk about it. Russian troops have been occupying Crimea now for three weeks plus and where is NATO? The American Air Force General in charge of NATO has made some preliminary comments and indicates that there are options available but nothing further has come out of NATO. A quick visit to Kiev by the Vice President and then one by Secretary of State John Kerry, each with some rhetoric about sanctions and then they left. And the American President, where is he? He is taking a turn in Asia. The primary issue, we are told is that Russia hopes to disrupt the May elections in Ukraine. The interim-president of Ukraine is holding things together by some kind of a thread. The initial actions by the Ukraine military units to try to retake the eastern towns held by separatists was less than stellar. Might I suggest that President Obama allow his egg drop soup to drop and get back to the business of being a President in charge of a country with men and women under arms with an obligation to protect human beings, citizens under siege in a land we have sworn to protect?

When we reflect on the faith aspects of this issue, I can tell you that even as Jesus said we are to render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s, to pray for those in power in government and Paul wrote that we were to, as much as possible, live at peace with all men; we must also go to the second greatest commandment according to our Lord; Love thy neighbor as thyself. In this case, Ukrainians are our neighbors and we should be about the task of loving them. But, you argue, are not the Russians our neighbors as well? I would answer that all men are our neighbors and love does not shirk from the responsibility of tough love, of consequences for wrong actions, or protection of one neighbor over the aggression of another who is in the wrong. In our Pledge of Allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, the last line is “and to the Republic for which she stands, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” I understand the context of that being the citizens of America but I also can extrapolate it to the logical conclusion that all of mankind is our brotherhood we must not continue to isolate ourselves from the debate but actively engage, as Christians, as Americans, as human beings tied to every other human being as with were through Adam, the first Ada and Jesus Christ, the last Adam. I have much more to say, another day, about the atrocities against Christians on the African continent. For now, we pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ in Ukraine and in Russia. We pray for our American and NATO forces for their protection and their success and that a peaceful resolution can be obtained for the sake of all; one that respects all of the sovereign territory of Ukraine.

Godspeed.

Serbia ~ Kosovo: Oh What a Tangled Web

Dr. Ross L. Riggs                Riggs Ministry Minute     http://www.docriggs.com

The following article/posting is the opinion of the author and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of First Baptist Church of Louisville, the Association of Baptists for World Evangelism or the American Association of Christian Counselors.

Serbian President Boris Tadic

Intelligence sources indicate that current posturing by Serbia’s president, Boris Tadic concerning Serbia’s application for EU status may be more than a political folk dance. With much of the EU in a serious economic recession, including some in or teetering on the edge of bankruptcy, the wisdom of bringing in another financially fluctuating and politically challenging country is questioned. Perhaps the biggest question on each side of the equation is ‘Why?’

Why would the EU powers want to bring in a country that is divided racially (religiously) into two countries. The one being Kosovo, a country that Belgrade refuses to acknowledge its existence and is already a trouble spot for NATO Peacekeepers along the Kosovo northern border. Northern Kosovo is 90+ percent Muslim. Ethnic Serbs living in this area have clashed with NATO peacekeepers in and around the small city of Mitrovica. It was never expected that the Kosovo battle for independence would be easy. Although the handwriting is on the wall (or perhaps the bridge) in northern Kosovo, Serbs with an emboldened perseverance refuse to relinquish control even in the face of international directives to the opposite. It is, however, Tadic’s desire to join the EU that may be the carrot needed to pull those Serbs north across the river and help them put down roots there.

Experts believe that the EU is more concerned with two objectives regarding Serbia; more so than whether or not they actually get membership status. The first is to eliminate the threat of Serbia coming under Russian control. It is my consideration that they must tighten the EU’s southeastern control, particularly with Greece in default. Turkey is becoming more and more anti-western and the Bosphorus and Dardanelles Straits are extremely critical. Even landlocked Serbia will play a crucial role if she becomes aligned with Russia rather than the EU. Bulgaria may be considered pro-democracy now, but if Serbia and Turkey put the squeeze on, the pressure may be too much. Access from the Black Sea, the Marmara Sea and the Aegean will become an extremely valuable chess piece and with Iran’s pressure at the Strait of Hormuz between the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea the access to Russia’s underbelly will become a queen capturing move for whoever has it.

The second objective is to show strength. With the faltering economies of certain EU countries, the Union needs to send a message to the membership and the world that it has not died but continues to live on. Tadic has tried to stay with a plan of modernization through the parliamentary democracy system but he has received an outcry of complaints from his own party for seemingly too light a hand on Kosovo and letting it slip away.  However, a growing economy, a blossoming middle class standard of living, and a much improved GDP have helped Tadic maintain control even when there are Kosovo concerns.

There are plans for Serbian parliamentary elections to be held in districts within Kosovo which will absolutely create more havoc between the two countries. It will also lessen Serbia’s chance of being able to enter the EU by 2020. The EU has made it clear that relations with the new country must be settled before the EU application process can go forward. As early as just a couple of months ago, Serbian delegates were boycotting meetings that included their Kosovar peers. There are some who believe that this will be the impasse that will forever keep Serbia from the EU. The scars are fresh and the underlying wounds remain tender.

In May of 2006, Tadic signed a law on religion that relegated evangelical churches to a position in which they were no longer understood to be Christian churches but rather “factions” which was a p.c. way to say cult. Forced to pay property taxes and no longer able to receive any recognition from the state; evangelical churches were beginning to be pushed toward illegal status. All of the movement toward a Serbian Orthodox state church will continue unless there is a definitive push toward a more broadly accepted definition of Christianity. In the last six years, the fundamental church has grown as individual believers share their faith. Recent large scale evangelical events have gone on unhindered by the state but not promoted or encouraged by the state, such as in a reduction in property taxes etc.

Tadic has been very reluctant to aggressively go after war criminals from the genocidal assaults on Muslims in the mid-1990’s in Bosnia-Herzegovina and under the rule of the dictatorship of Slobodan Milosevic. Some speculate that there are those high in the political body that prefer those in power spend less time seeking out the war criminals and more time increasing space between ethnic groups. The EU however will require that there be more than lip service given to locating and prosecuting those responsible for war time atrocities.

The western church must seek out and come alongside those evangelicals involved in church planting to help in whatever ways are currently possible. The only way in which such a partnership can expect to last long, beyond whatever the length of the current political regime, is to have an indigenous church planting movement not dependent on foreign funding or personnel. Regardless of the outreach that might be accomplished by some foreign ministry group with lots of personnel supported by plenty of funding; the post-event follow-up, the day to day church planting and personal evangelism and discipleship must be able to continue long after the foreigners have gone on to another land that needs to be conquered for Christ. Sadly, local ministries held together through prayer and the grit of an indigenous pastor who began the work with probably just his own family often sees these groups as a panacea to the hard fought daily battles for survival of the gospel story.

Then comes the western money, perhaps some notoriety, a feeling of doing something important and there he is… more funds than ever, churches in the west and elsewhere wait for word from him to how they can help next. Both, most likely, began with good intentions and a real desire to see someone saved, a church planted. But growing an indigenous church, particularly in places like the Balkans, requires individual relationships that are very slow to build. Sometimes relationship building can go on for years and even then no fruit. Sometimes there is a blossom and circumstances, perhaps the convert’s family puts on the pressure; the next thing you know, your new believer is gone. Even worse, he stays and hurls accusations against you and you are heartbroken. It is so much easier to put in a lot of money, do an “event” then spread the word to the west at how magnificent it was and go on to the next event. Maybe even circle back again in a few months or so and do another event.

Slow and steady, one heart at a time, one relationship at a time building trust and depending on the Holy Spirit to give the increase. Creating a ministry that, should the missionary or indigenous pastor die, be jailed, or be deported the work continues. You didn’t prop the whole work up with money from the west that if it goes, so does the ministry. Sure, you’re probably just meeting in a believer’s home, maybe even rotating so you don’t get caught and someone else jailed. No fancy robes are used and it is probably by bus or walking that you get from here to there. You cannot travel as fast or as far but somehow, in that circle that you can reach; the Holy Spirit begins to move among the people and they reach out, the circle gets bigger and bigger.

What a tangled mess, huh? The politicians and the trouble makers, the Christians in the East and in the West it all gets so tangled. What we really need is one person who really loves Christ who finds someone near them that needs to know Jesus. The Christian builds a friendship and the Holy Spirit intervenes, soon a new believer is born. Then, the cycle repeats itself. No use of NATO forces or huge outreach events. There are no pleas for more and more money but those in the difficult circumstances who have a little extra, start giving to those who need it. The little group of Christians finds that they are really blessed when they help each other out. No major funding drives or political intrigue. Simple, indigenous and Holy Spirit led. Just like the commercial for the little girl’s hair spray… ‘No More Tangles. ’ Does that mean we don’t plan and missionaries don’t go out, across cultures to help and learn, love and share? No, of course not, but it does mean we depend on the Spirit not the bank account. We tangle less and touch more. We share more and we sponsor less. We continue to love, pray, and trust.