Russian National Prayer Breakfast – 2016
MOSCOW – The 16th annual Russian National Prayer Breakfast (RNPB) took place on March 15, 2016 in the Red Hall of the Hotel Complex “President-Hotel”.
After a prayer of thanksgiving and breakfast Mr. Viacheslav Starikov, master of ceremonies, presented a brief history of the National Prayer Breakfast movement and it’s purpose, as it is expressed in “A Word of Welcome” by Mr. Peter N. Sautov, the Chairman of the National Morning Prayer Foundation, on the main page of the official web-site of the Foundation http://www.fondnum.ru/english.
Among the assembled guests were representatives of foreign countries:
– his Excellency, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Albania to the Russian Federation Mr. Arben Gazioni;
– his Excellency, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Ghana to the Russian Federation Dr. Kodzo Alabo;
– his Excellency, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Philippines to the Russian Federation Mr. Carlos Sorreta;
– his Excellency, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Lithuania to the Russian Federation Mr. Remigijus Motuzas;
– Deputy Chief of Mission of the United States of America to the Russian Federation Ms. Lynne Tracy;
– Minister Plenipotentiary of the Embassy of South Africa to the Russian Federation Mr. Henry William Short;
– Advisor at the Embassy of the State of Palestine to the Russian Federation Mr. Ahmad Khazaal, as well as
– diplomats of the Albanian, French and Canadian embassies.
Among the representatives of the Russian Federation were:
– representatives of the Presidential Administration;
– deputies of the State Duma of the Federal Assembly;
– members of the Civic Chamber;
– representatives of the Moscow City Government and Moscow State Duma;
– representatives of the Central Bank;
– representatives of national communities;
– representatives of security agencies;
– representatives of the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Culture, the Ministry of Education and Science;
– heroes of Russia and heroes of the Soviet Union;
– business representatives, and
– representatives of major religions and confessions.
Following this general introduction, Mr. Boris Dikidzhi, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Foundation “National Morning Prayer”, said a welcoming word. He directed everyone's attention to the fact that the year 2016 marks a 140th anniversary of the Russian Synodal translation of the Bible. Mr. Dikidzhi gave a brief overview of the translation’s history and expressed heartfelt gratitude to the Russian Orthodox Church for this priceless work that benefitted Russia and Russian-speaking population. He expressed the message of the Bible in simple terms: “The Bible speaks of God’s love, manifested through Jesus Christ, who gave His life for the redemption of humanity. Everyone today can find forgiveness and salvation... The Bible has become a source of salvation, redemption, healing, encouragement, comfort and strength.”
To underscore the high value of the Holy Scriptures that shapes individuals and history Mr. Dikidzhi quoted Ivan Nikitin and Alexander Pushkin, two Russian poets, who were contemporaries of the process of translation. He concluded that the Bible is the right foundation for building society’s family values, despite many challenges to the institution of family that exist in modern society. In conclusion he called all the assembled “to do everything possible for the good of people.”
Rev. Igor Kovalevski, General secretary of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Russia, the administrator parish of Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral in Moscow, read the text of the Sermon on the Mount of Jesus Christ from the Gospel of Matthew. In the process of reading, when the text came to the Lord’s Prayer, he invited all present to stand and address God in the words of that prayer.
Renata Wołkiewicz, singer, composer, musician, prize-winner of multiple international vocal competitions and a finalist of the Russian voice project “Golos-4”, performed a Russian version of the song “You raise me up”, lyrics by Brendan Graham, music by Rolf Løvland. This song speaks of the comfort and encouragement each person can find in fellowship with the loving heavenly Father.
The first thematic address on the subject of the protection of persecuted Christians was presented by Mr. Yaroslav Nilov, State Duma Committee Chairman on Public Associations and Religious Organizations. To underscore the importance of the subject he listed a number of facts of persecution of Christians over the course of world and Russian history, as well as examples of persecutions and privations of the followers of Christ in today’s society.
Mr. Nilov called all representatives of religious denominations to demonstrate an active civic stance that would counteract the growing tendency to violate religious feelings of believers, especially since the constitution of the Russian Federation guarantees any person the right to hold any religious view, but does not give anyone the right to insult other people. He expressed his conviction that the golden rule of the Bible – “Whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (Mat.7:12, ESV) – is the proper foundation for people to live together in peace. However, this peace does not come about all by itself. It is a result of active measures towards the protection of human rights. Therefore, there is a great need for public and adequate evaluation of all wrong-doing in the realm of religion. As an example of such public active stance, Mr. Nilov read a portion of the recent joint declaration of Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill, signed at the meeting in Havana, Cuba, on February 12, 2016:
Our gaze must firstly turn to those regions of the world where Christians are victims of persecution. In many countries of the Middle East and North Africa whole families, villages and cities of our brothers and sisters in Christ are being completely exterminated. Their churches are being barbarously ravaged and looted, their sacred objects profaned, their monuments destroyed. It is with pain that we call to mind the situation in Syria, Iraq and other countries of the Middle East, and the massive exodus of Christians from the land in which our faith was first disseminated and in which they have lived since the time of the Apostles, together with other religious communities. We call upon the international community to act urgently in order to prevent the further expulsion of Christians from the Middle East.
Our strength is found in unity, but today a lot of effort is directed to the realization of “divide and conquer” principle. Therefore, it is crucially important to have meetings, where representatives of different confessions defend human rights and common ethical values. We must not fear to speak out, to present our viewpoint and to defend our position. “Silence today may turn into great sorrow tomorrow,” concluded Mr. Nilov.
Mr. Alexander Torshin, State-Secretary - Deputy Chairman of the Bank of Russia, gave a second thematic address on the subject of traditional family values. First of all, in characteristic warm manner Mr. Torshin expressed his gratitude to the Foundation “National Morning Prayer”, the organizer of the Russian National Prayer Breakfast, and especially to the Chairman of the Foundation, Mr. Peter Sautov.
Turning to the main subject of his address, Mr. Torshin shared that in the past he had to read many various materials on the subject of family origins, but now he is personally convinced that marriage is an institute established by God as a union of one man and one woman. That is what is written in the Holy Scripture: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Gen.2:24). Despite the fact that Christians, Muslims and Jews all share the same basic understanding of marriage, modern society presents many serious threats to the traditional family values:
– the number of legally registered marriages is decreasing;
– the number of divorces is increasing;
– the number of abortions is horrifying.
Every society revolves around the axle, which is the family institution; hence the matter of family is a matter of national safety. The traditional definition of marriage is protected by law in Russia, but the government alone cannot protect Russian society from ever-increasing threats. Therefore, Mr. Torshin called everyone to a realization of personal responsibility for the rearing of their families, as a spiritual entity, a small church, where members are taught to believe in God and to love people. We must pray, meet, fellowship and act. He concluded: “With God’s help we will win through our prayers and actions.”
Mr. Anatoly Aksakov, Deputy Chairman of the State Duma Committee on Credit Organizations and Financial Markets, said a word of greeting on behalf of the deputies of the State Duma. He summed up the sermon that Jesus Christ preached on the mount of beatitudes, as a sermon about love and happiness. Every one wants to be happy. A family is a place where one loves and is loved by others. “Family is happiness.” Mr. Aksakov expressed his desire that his children and grandchildren would live in a prosperous country. The sense of responsibility before future generations motivates all upright citizens to work hard for that future today.
Mr. Aksakov concluded that “the sermon of the mount is the foundation, upon which we can turn humanity into a harmonious, glorious and peaceful family.”
Mrs. Inese Šlesere, Chairperson of the Lavian National Prayer Breakfast, member of the Latvian Parliament (2002-2011), the runner-up in the 1999 Mrs. World and a contestant in Miss World 1991, mother of five children, gave the third thematic address on the subject of traditional family values. Mrs. Šlesere passed greetings on behalf of the Committee of the Latvian National Prayer Breakfast, which celebrated it’s 10th anniversary in 2015. After this Mrs. Šlesere shared a brief history of her life and her political carrier, which was dedicated to the protection and the improvement of the living conditions of orphans in Latvia. “The Kingdom of God – is the best political system.” The values of God’s kingdom find their most natural incarnation inside the family. Therefore, it is essential that God should be at the center of each family.
In conclusion Mrs. Šlesere, as a representative of Latvia, expressed a sense of high esteem and love for Russia and the Russian people with a conviction that family values and the values of God’s Kingdom are able to unite the people of the respective countries. The Lord’s Prayer unites people as God’s children, as members of one family. She finished her speech by expressing a prayerful wish: “May the Lord's Kingdom come to our hearts, our families, our countries.”
After this Renata Wołkiewicz performed a song that speaks of the reality of struggle, pain and the necessity to be steadfast in this world – “They strike us, we fly”, lyrics by Dzhakhan Pollyeva, music by Andrey Ktitaryev.
Mr. Peter Sautov, the Chairman of the Foundation “National Morning Prayer”, gave the concluding address, in which he emphasized that this event is a “prayer” event. Every year the Russian National Prayer Breakfast brings together people who care, who are not indifferent to the future of Russia, to the fate our the Russian people and of all mankind. Prayer is vitally important, which Mr. Sautov emphasized by a short anecdote:
Two senators meet in a corridor of the Senate. One asks another:
– (S1) How is it going?
– (S2) As well as you pray.
– (S1) But I don’t pray!
– (S2) Well, that explains it.
It’s natural for people to desire happiness, and they have an instrument to become happy – prayer. The Word of God teaches us to pray “in every place” (1Tim.2:8). But prayer requires patience, endurance and perseverance. A popular saying goes like this: “We don’t want a revolution, we want a reformation.” Reformation is not a simple process. It requires people's efforts and their time. If people desire to be happy, they must learn to pray. They must pray for all people, but especially “for kings and all who are in high positions” (1Tim.2:1-3). God wants Russian people to pray for their President. He concluded: “We must be slow to criticize, slow to judge, but quick to pray.”
After this Mr. Sautov called all the assembled guests to prayer, in which he voiced petitions to God for:
– Russia and the Russian people,
– the President of Russia,
– the Russian families,
– the forgiveness of sins and
– the enlightenment of the people through the gospel.
In light of the 140th anniversary of the Russian Bible Translation all guests were offered free copies of a Children’s Bible and a Bible with Illustrations by Gustave Doré.