I’VE HARDLY HAD TIME TO WATCH THE NEWS let alone write w e e k l y w o r d s the past couple of weeks. This is the season for bumper-to-bumper YWAM conferences: firstly our Global Leadership Team meeting in Harpenden, north of London, when we commissioned Lynn Green and Iain Muir as our new international chairman and international director respectively; followed by the International Leadership Team of the University of the Nations, meeting in Amsterdam, which I attend as chairman of the Board of Regents. As I write this – on a rare free evening – I look out on the sparkling waters of the Amsterdam canals and the large 18th century sailing ship moored opposite De Poort, the YWAM training centre in a former seamen’s house on the foreshore. What a wonderful facility this five-storey building has been for us over the years.
The Olympic Games have come and gone without any feared terrorist disruption. Soon I will write about activities that went on behind the scenes. I’m still gathering the stories and reports, but I was in Athens just prior to the opening for the preparation of teams that had come from all over the world to participate in outreach events there. The atmosphere of the city was remarkably relaxed, and security equally remarkably absent (or out of sight). Two evenings before the Games opening, some 400 of us clambered up on Mars Hill to where Paul preached his famous Acts 17 sermon, and praised and prayed as the sun set in a magnificent pink sky; behind us the Acropolis lit up as the evening horizon darkened. We wondered if so many believers had ever gathered on that place to pray. A security blimp circled overhead but no authorities turned up to disperse our gathering. We hoped this would be a foretaste of things to come. More about that later.
Terrorist attacks however have shocked the world this past week – simultaneous explosions in two passenger planes in Russia, and the bloodbath in the school in North Ossetia have taken over 500 lives. John Hess, a YWAMer living in Poland, wrote me the following thoughts:
‘The events of the past two weeks in Russia (are) deeply disturbing and produce dismay and sorrow… It was almost appalling to me to hear (although one should have known it) that nearly everyone of these recent attacks could have been prevented by security but they had taken bribes which had allowed this to happen. And I, too, grieve with those who lost loved ones but also for Russia.
‘I read an excellent editorial in the ‘European Wall Street Journal’ on Aug 22 (one of the finest newspapers for getting the untold side of the story), by Mart Laar, former prime minister of Estonia. The title was ‘When Will Russia Say Sorry?’. He was addressing the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact in which Hitler and Stalin agreed to unleash terror on the peoples of Poland and the Baltics. He writes, “Germany has publicly apologized for the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and all of the destruction and terror that Nazi Germany has visited on the world. Perhaps this has not healed all of the wounds but it has healed a lot of them. And that matters not only for the victims of Nazism but for the Germans themselves…”
‘After a small catalogue of the fruits of the pact from the Russian side, he goes on and writes, “Russia refuses to say three simple words to the victims of the communists: We are sorry! Those words can help heal many wounds and remove existing mistrust. But an apology is not as important even for the victims of communism as it is for Russia itself. When a nation can not face up to its history, it will live like a human being suffering from a permanent neurosis. Nations that can not make peace with their past can not build a future. It looks increasingly as if this is one of the reasons why democracy is not thriving in Russia and why this great country has not developed as hoped after the fall of the Soviet Union. We all must encourage and support Russia to follow this difficult path.”
John concludes: ‘And I add my “amen” and I am certain Mr. Solzhenitsyn is thrilled that someone else is saying what he has said for years now.’
Till next week,