ST GEORGE, SUBJECT OF OUR LAST WEEKLY WORD, KEPT POPPING UP ALL WEEK HERE DOWN UNDER IN AUSTRALIA. – despite being about as far away as you can get from the birthplace of the real George, Turkey. Streets and suburbs are named after him here. The coat-of-arms of Perth City is-you guessed-based on the familiar red cross on a white shield. Bank buildings display the saint’s name in big white letters on a red background, adorned with a huge green fire-spewing dragon’s head! In Sydney, I learned, there was even a rugby team called the Dragons whose home ground was in the suburb of St George’s.
Funny how myths take on a life of their own! The real George, as we wrote last week, was a fourth century soldier who dared to stand up against tyranny, tearing up edicts against the church issued by the pagan emperor Diocletian. For his efforts, George was beheaded by order of the emperor. Interestingly, I didn’t come across any streets, banks or rugby teams in honour of Diocletian here in Australia.
However, as I have been visiting various YWAM ministries here this week, emails from Europe have kept me mindful of some modern day Georges, believers who dare to stand up for truth, justice and righteousness against tyranny and corruption today! And they need and deserve our honour, support and prayers right now.
The first is Natsya, about whom we first wrote in December 200. Natsya works in a YWAM crisis pregnancy centre in St Petersburg, Russia. She has been falsely accused of extortion by a corrupt ex-policeman, a charge that can lead to years of imprisonment. Her court date has been re-set for tomorrow, May 2, at 11.30am local time. Here’s the story as we first reported it:
Late last month (Nov 2004), an elderly aunt asked her for help. A neighbour in her communal apartment building had threatened her. So, supported by two young Christian men, Natsya went to visit her aunt.
Her aunt explained that the man wanted to scare off the other apartment tenants and ‘privatise’ the place for himself. Natsya’s friends went to see the man. In the intense conversation which followed, the man told them he worked for the militia police. Four days later, Natsya and her two friends received an invitation to meet the man at a cafe to discuss the matter further. When they arrived, the militia arrested Natsya and her friends, handcuffed them and took to a militia station.
They eventually let them go home, but the militia officers are now accusing Natsya of being an extortion ringleader, and that she had brought these two men with knives to the apartment in order to extort money from the policeman living there.
They threaten to sue Natsya for ‘extortion’, a charge that can earn you fifteen years behind bars. In Russia, a police officer’s word carries huge weight. There are no witnesses to prove the charge, but it appears there is a group of corrupted police officers involved.
Natsya’s lawyer was trying to convince her to lie to get off the charges, so she had to look for a new, honest one. She needs our prayer support for this sordid affair that has hung over her now for nearly 18 months! Let’s focus our prayers for her especially tomorrow.
The other modern Georges deserving of our support are those Belarusians daring to stand against the edicts limiting religious freedom, in contradiction to various UN agreements which Belarus has signed. Human rights lawyer, Sergey, spent ten days in prison after the last elections, for organising a conference on world view with Darrow Miller. Other friends such as Jakob experienced physical violence from the authorities during the protests after the elections. They need our encouragement and prayers for wisdom, discernment, courage and conviction in the days ahead. They refuse to be intimidated and are aware of the price they may be asked to pay.
Yet one source reported rumours of President Lukashenko’s ill-health following the elections. On his one brief appearance on state television, he was weak and pale, prompting suggestions of a nervous breakdown after the election. As with Diocletian, I doubt if in the future there will be any banks or rugby teams named after him.
But in my book, Sergey is already a hero, if not a saint!
Till next week,