All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.
~ 2 Corinthians 5:18-19 (NIV)
The first of September is a memorial day for the people of Beslan in North Ossetia as they remember the awful events of September first 2004. More than one thousand children and adults were taken hostage in School Number One and two days later more than three hundred and thirty of them were killed in the violence.
Memorial services are held and memories of the nightmare overwhelm everyone in town. Beslan’s cemetery is unique; it has the youngest average age in the world (7-12 years old). The sight of so many graves of children deeply affects any visitor. One said, “People who do not live in Beslan have often forgotten the tragedy already, but as soon as you enter the city, you cannot escape the atmosphere of grief and deep mourning that is still enveloping the city.”
When the tragedy occurred at School Number One, almost every family in Beslan was affected. A peculiarity in Ossetia is that nearly everybody is related to one another, so the catastrophe has affected many people in a personal way. Even those who were watching television during the event suffered diseases, heart attacks and strokes.
Pastor Taimuraz Totiev and his wife Ria had their five children at school; only the eldest daughter, Madina, survived the attack. Their four other children, Larissa, Luba, Albina and Boris, were buried on September 7, 2004.
The pastor’s brother, Sergey Totiev, also had children at the school. Sergey and his wife Bela buried two of their children on the same day: Dzerassa (15) and Anna (9). Their son Azamat lost his sight in one of his eyes and is having surgery to save his other eye.
Both men are pastors of the Beslan Baptist Church. At the children’s funeral Sergey spoke of forgiveness and advised people not to seek revenge, but to serve as peacemakers. His exact words were: “Yes, we have an irreplaceable loss, but we cannot take revenge. As Christians, the Bible teaches us that we must forgive. Vengeance is in God’s hands.” According to a Christian worker in the area, a demonic plan was broken when those words were spoken!
Since that time they have been doing everything they can think of to minister to families of the victims. Other churches and ministries have also taken up the enormous task of counseling and helping the survivors and the bereaved. Others decided to reach out to Chechen people (nationality of the neighboring terrorists) and are finding ways to minister God’s love to them.
RESPONSE: Today I commit to being a messenger of God’s reconciliation through Christ—even to those who may cause harm to me or my family.
PRAYER: Pray for the church to be an instrument of reconciliation and restoration in this volatile area of Central Asia.