Moscow, August 16, 2016
The seventh international “For Life” festival of social technologies in defense of family values started in Moscow on August 15. Over 500 representatives of Church, public and state organizations from seventy-four regions of Russia, from Belarus, Ukraine, Lithuania, and Serbia were registered for participation in the festival. The forum’s participants are discussing matters related to overcoming the demographic crisis through the revival of the large family institution, the means of mobilizing funds for the realization of non-profit organizations’ projects and opportunities for international cooperation in defense of life before birth. Chairman of the Synodal Department for Charity, Bishop Panteleimon of Orekhovo-Zuyevo, met with the forum’s participants on the first day of its work, reports the website of the Synodal Department for Church Charity and Social Ministry.
A genuine life is possible only in Christ, the vicar of the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia noted as he opened the forum’s work. “Different people understand the word 'life' differently, but we should remember the words spoken by the Apostle Paul: ‘For me to live is Christ’ (Philippians 1:21),” Bishop Panteleimon of Orekhovo-Zuyevo said. “If we take life this way, if we understand that a true, genuine, joyful, eternal, victorious life is possible only in Christ, then our activities will have a firm basis and will have tangible results."
The task of a Church social worker is not only to stop the terrible wave of abortions but also to change the minds of people, the hierarch continued. “Our aim is to get close to Christ and to help others in achieving this. One’s soul transforms when a person unites with Christ. The primary purpose of human life is to follow Christ, and that is why we must witness to the Savior, the Truth."
In today’s world many people are tired of high-flown talks and do not believe in them anymore; instead, they believe in personal testimony—an example which can be followed, the archpastor stressed. “Saints used to change the world not by means of festivals, demonstrations, propaganda, or TV talks; they did it through the exploit of an inner struggle with the devil, through following Christ,” the chairman of the Synodal Department pointed out. “Without this inner fullness, our activity may remain just a racket, just a fuss which yields no results. It is important that all of us understand the following: if my heart is not with Christ, if Christ does not abide in my soul, if I do not share this life with my neighbors, if my children are not bred in the Christian tradition, if I do not pass on the ideals of a genuine family to my grandchildren, if I talk much of 'family values' without any deeds so my children do not wish to have more than one or two kids themselves, then I am lost, then I have gained nothing, then all my life has been wasted for nothing. If we stand for life, then we must through our own example and life witness to the things that we teach others"
One of the chief results of the “For Life” festival is practical help in social work, director of the Center for Protection of Motherhood and Family Values (of the Belarusian Orthodox Church), Priest Dimitry Gritsenko, noted: “Having enriched ourselves by other people’s experience, we bring these successful projects to our dioceses and parishes and implement these projects here."
One of the new church projects is the “Kolybelka” ("Cradle”) women’s aid center at the Church of the Protecting Veil of the Mother of God in the Pokrovka village of the Oktyabrsky district of Russia’s Primorsky (“Maritime”) territory. “Twenty-one pregnancies have been saved and eleven babies have been born over the twenty months of our work,” Alexandra Barashkova, psychologist of a pre-abortion consulting room of a regional hospital and “Kolybelka” staff worker, said.
According to the psychologist, they work with each woman who was dissuaded from abortion for the whole period of her pregnancy. “All of our future mothers are under our constant protection: we have been in contact with them by telephone permanently, and I am ready to come and communicate with them face-to-face at any moment. Priest Stephen Tsurkan, Rector of our Church of the Protection, gives them spiritual guidance."
At least three times a year, parishioners of the Church of the Protection arrange the following social actions: “A Basket of Mercy," “Greet Pascha with Good Works," and “Help Prepare a Child for School." All donations are distributed among the district’s villages, thus targeted support of mothers with children, families with many children and low-income families is rendered.
Alexandra Barashkova remembers all the women whose children’s lives were saved. “Natalia K., 33, was ten weeks pregnant, with a daughter aged twelve and a young husband who often lost his jobs,” she relates. “The woman tried not to appear afraid and said she wanted to have an abortion, but I saw and heard behind that bravado different, silent words: 'Help me! Do not leave me and I will give birth to this baby.' I led her to an ultrasound and told my colleague there: 'Let us show her the baby.' The baby, indeed, was seen very clearly on a big wall monitor. And suddenly he moved his hand, as if waving to his mom! Natalia burst into tears instantly, while I phoned her young husband and told him what had happened. And it was reassuring to me to hear his voice: 'What did you say? Is it really waving its hand? Then let her give birth to the baby!' With the help of God, Natalia happily gave birth to a baby boy on March 15, 2015."
“True, personalization of a baby means a lot to a pregnant woman in crisis, when in the course of communication with a specialist the baby appears before her not as 'an assembly of cells' inside her body, but as a baby, as a living creature,” said Olga Moroz, psychologist of the “In Defense of Life” Murmansk regional public organization, which was founded at the Murmansk Diocese’s social department. “In most cases, when a woman resorts to an abortion, she is ashamed of her own decision and gives reasons accepted by society: a difficult social situation or medical aspects. And only in the process of work with the woman does a specialist find out that the reason is completely different. It may be either the strong opposition of her family members or her inner unreadiness to become a mother. And sometimes it appears that career or closer relations with her partner are more preferable to a woman than motherhood."
The “In Defense of Life” organization has been active in Murmansk since 2010: there is a hot-line service, anti-abortion consultations are held, and distribution of clothes is organized. As of the beginning of June 2016, the organization managed to save the lives of 312 babies.
As part of the “For Life” festival, a number of competitive projects were launched, designed for the protection of human life before birth, the promotion of interests of families with children, the overcoming of the demographic crisis through an increase in the birth rate and of the number of prosperous large families. Winners of the competition were to be announced on August 16.