It seems only recently that the tragedy in Beslan took place,– a tragedy which shook up the entire world and in which, because of terrorist actions, a multitude of innocent children were killed, and yet already the world has been shaken up anew by a natural disaster of unprecedented magnitude – the terrible Asian tsunami, many of whose victims were also children. In order to understand correctly the meaning of all that is happening, we – Orthodox Christians – must view these events not as political or scientific, but rather apocalyptic.
We bring to your attention a unique article on Beslan written by a priest in Russia, as well as an excerpt from a letter written to us by one of our young correspondents in Russia, who reflects in a sober manner on the true causes of that recent natural disaster – the tsunami.
In the aftermath of Beslan
Several months have passed already from the day of the tragedy in Beslan, and although for those who live far from Ossetia the sharpness of pain from the blow our souls have suffered has somewhat dulled, yet the event itself, which clergymen liken to the slaughter of the innocents in Bethlehem by Herod, forces us to stop and think. In the mass media, in the talks of politicians, military men, TV commentators, and the man in the street, we discover an entire spectrum of opinion on the causes, details, and consequences of what happened, – some opinions quite sincere and others clearly affected, making use of human sorrow in their own interests. At the same time, the spiritual – the highest – meaning of such a tragedy for an Orthodox Christian remains unclaimed, both by our post-Soviet society and by the civilized West.
We can offer our profound sympathy to the victims, being comforted in the depth of our hearts by the thought that so far this has not happened here and not to us. We can even pretend that this has nothing to do with us at all: thus, even during the days of official mourning, loud music was blaring from the discotheques and from many homes. We can even become embittered from fear and cowardice, and react in a manner which was heard on September 2nd in one of the stores: “We should simply detonate a bomb there over the entire Caucasus, and be done with this matter once and for all!” Thus the terror in Beslan not only led to the death of innocent school children and adults (and knowing the Caucasian sense of family and their emotionality, we can easily understand that the entire city “died”), but also clearly illuminated the extent to which the Russian soul has become ill, and in many cases even dead.
St. John of Kronstadt speaks of the fact – incomprehensible to unbelievers – that God “rouses” the sleeping world with famine, war, earthquakes, etc. This means that when people or even entire nations forget about their higher spiritual calling, only great disasters can possibly shake them up and impel them to change for the better. Carelessness and apathy are dangerous, and indifference to God and fellow men leads to a loss of the protection of grace, so that Satan, restrained until now, easily find adepts and attacks mankind. If one applies these words to Europe and America, which are by inertia regarded as the Christian part of the world, but which in their sated well-being have long ago replaced true faith with surrogates, sorcery, and an omnivorous life, then it is clear that without serious awakening to spiritual life they have nothing with which to counteract Satan who is bursting out of his enforced captivity.
In connection with terrorism it has now become fashionable to talk of the Islamic threat. But we must understand that Satanism, which openly and boldly presented itself in the American, Spanish, and Ossetian tragedies, is only dressing itself up in Islamic clothes. In other circumstances it could very well have used other forms; in current circumstances the suitable grounds for radicalism and hate were not even specifically selected menacing quotations from the Koran about the jihad and infidels, but the disastrous conditions, poverty, and savagery of many people in so-called third-world countries.
And we have our own misfortunes. Fifteen years ago many people in Russia spoke and wrote about repentance, but repentance – both as a universal and an internal process – did not take place. Due to terribly difficult material conditions, due to hunger and war, due to the breakup of our country, our souls have become hardened. Many people have become like wild animals, although even wild animals do not behave in such a manner. Terrible drunkenness in all its forms has afflicted first men, then women, and now even teenagers. If one looked through the newspapers in the two or three months preceding the recent terrorist acts, one would see a kaleidoscope of reports that have now become habitual to us, of how family members, both young and old, in hate and madness cripple and kill each other.
Boorishness, total pollution of our native environment, the triumph of anti-culture in music and literature, the pervasiveness of foul language, the propaganda of violence, the corruption of youth, the poetization of the criminal world – all of these have also become habitual. A declaration of freedom, on a par with disregard for the law and alienation from the concept of legality, have led to tyranny on the part of many who have even an iota of power; great wealth has intoxicated many people and has impelled them to shut themselves off from their fellow human beings.
The only positive result of the past years is the revival of faith, the incredible miracle of the restoration of many churches and sacred places, although a grace-filled parish life frequently has a hard time finding a niche among daily busyness, callousness, and superstition. Our churches, standing amid villages that have practically died out and reminding us of a different Russian life of long ago, are unique beacons of hope in the revival of real Russia. However, if the sad trend of the past years is not stopped, they will have to play another role – be the last haven of those who seek salvation from the surrounding nightmare.
From tiny Beslan, from the neighborly and for the most part Orthodox Ossetia a terrible child’s cry has reached our hopelessly lost society, which is particularly felt in crazed Moscow. This cry of murdered children is not so much a cry of “save us,” – for their souls, taken up into the Heavenly Kingdom by angels, are already saved, – as “come to your senses!” The venerable Siluan the Athonite, a great elder of recent times, writes: “The Holy Spirit teaches us to love all people, because EVERYONE IS TO BE PITIED.” So it is written, in capital letters, that the Lord Who loves us and the person who loves everyone in Christ always have compassion for those who are in trouble. We deeply commiserate with the Beslanites and the whole of Ossetia, with those who are losing their mind over the loss of all their relatives, and those whose children have been crippled. But no matter how hard it may be for the family members of the murdered children, they should know that the latter’s souls are with the Lord in heavenly joy, if only they would see this with eyes of strong faith across the entire terrible chasm of misfortune. But we also cannot but commiserate with the unfortunate children of Chechnya and Ingushetia, who are growing up in an atmosphere of all the horrors of a cruel and senseless war. Monsters in human form, who have given themselves up to darkness, and who have already been destroyed in this life by this darkness and will end up in hell after their death, they were once cute little children who merrily tramped to school on the festive day of September 1st. These brainwashed and zombied young people, who in exchange for the never known joy of youth have received the eternal torment of hell, are also to be profoundly pitied.
Beslan has said to us: we can no longer live like this. Let the children’s blood that was shed there be the terrible price that will sober up all of Russia and make it come to its senses. And from the faith which glorifies the resurrected Christ we will draw that enormous power of the spirit, prayer, and love by which the best minds and hearts are united, and which is the sole force capable of counteracting the terrible threat that is hanging over the world.
Protopriest Lev Shikhlyarov, rector of Our Lady of Kazan church
And here is what Sergey Ivko from the Orenburg province writes to us:
“… Recently I read an article on Haiti and its voodoo religion. The article talks about the black voodoo sorcerers who constantly do evil on Haiti. All Haitians so aspire to voodoo, to evil, that even the President of Haiti, Aristide, has acknowledged voodoo as being Haiti’s major religion, and now the voodoo priests and sorcerers play a prominent role in the presidential palace. The stench from sacrificial bonfires hangs over the whole of Haiti, the blood of animals flows like a stream, and the cemeteries have become the site of this cult’s most abominable orgies. However, some time after reading the article, I learned that Haiti was plagued by terrible typhoons and floods which brought great destruction and took many lives. Apparently these people had become so steeped in evil that the cup of God’s patience overflowed, and nature was used to punish them.
Afterwards I read about the Asian “dugpa.” The dugpa are the black magic sorcerers of Asia. There are now very many of them in Southeast Asia (just where the tsunami passed), and they are much more dangerous than the voodoo priests, because they are as ancient as the world, and they do evil not by manipulating objects or animals, but solely by using the power of thoughts, words, and sounds. In other words, in order to do evil, they have no need of anything physical, but simply the will to do it. Their power is horrendously strong. And who knows what abominations they may have committed if it were not for the tsunami. There were already over 150 thousand victims by the 31st, and larger numbers are being predicted. I think that after this tsunami the dugpa will quiet down somewhat. They know from which quarter the wind is blowing.
And now a question arises in my mind: how is it that people do not understand that all these natural disaster are nothing else but an analog of Sodom and Gomorrah? In ancient times the citizens of Sodom and Gomorrah became mired in sin and evil, for which they were punished. And now the Haitians and the Asians have also become mired in evil and have been similarly punished. The Lord shows people to what point evil can lead them. He reminds us of His power over everyone and everything. But people remain just as blind and deaf as before. Even though now there are systems for forecasting natural disasters, numerous meteorological satellites in space, numerous meteorological and geological stations on earth, – all these “wonders” of science were unable even to warn the many thousands of people vacationing on Asian beaches, let alone save these people. Even the most modern, most contemporary achievements of science and technology cannot save us from the wrath of God. Just as thousands of years ago people paid heavily for their sins, so they pay today. Nothing has changed in this regard. We walked, we walk, and we will continue to walk under God. However, despite all these signs, people continue to move away from the Lord more and more. They consider themselves managers of their own lives and fate. Madmen! – that is all one can say. The whole world is falling into a dark abyss. But we – Orthodox Christians – will continue to live on and be concerned with the salvation of our souls. We cannot let go. Our lot is to struggle. To struggle and defy all that is malevolent and abominable in the eyes of the Lord. May God help us!…”