‘We call upon the Church of Christ to tread the path of thorns’ — the words of a Soviet Baptist leader from jail a few years ago.
The Christian Church was born in suffering and persecution. Christ died the death of a criminal. Rome oppressed Israel. For three centuries the Early Church faced physical extinction almost daily. Yet it’s probably true that more Christians have suffered for their faith in this century than in any other in history.
At the same time in a world of compassion for many causes, those who do not suffer for their faith find it very difficult to stand beside those who do. In America many churches have a suite of offices, usually with plush carpets and computer records. In the Soviet Union thousands of towns and villages are permitted no church at all and even a duplicating machine is illegal for a believer. Yet in God’s amazing providence it’s the second which has more lessons of faith to teach the first than vice versa. The world is still blind to this, but reading the Bible should have led us to expect it long ago.
Isaiah prepared the way for this more than six centuries before Christ when he wrote: ‘He was despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief . . . surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows’ (53: 2–3).
The Russian Church, so much more surely than the Church of the West, lives in the knowledge that the path to resurrection leads through the door of Calvary. If you stand at the altar-screen of a Russian Orthodox Church at Easter and look back at the congregation, you see a myriad of faces. Each is bright in its own pool of light from a hand-held candle. Many faces bear the marks of suffering, but on every single one that suffering is turned to joy: the joy is the certain knowledge of the resurrected and living Christ, a lesson of life and experience, not of Christian books, which are virtually unobtainable anyway. Neither did the Apostles learn of the Resurrection from books. Not in our theological colleges, not in our synods, no, not even in our evangelical campaigns do we find such certainty. We may preach the Gospel: they live it. All our machinery and organisations are ultimately dispensable: the Body of Christ is not. The Russian Christian knows he’s joined in that Body by the great and noble army of recent martyrs, tens of thousands from the ’twenties and ’thirties — and yes, some from the ’eighties, too. We’ve lost our nerve in affluence; they’ve discovered it in persecution. From where can the Church today rediscover the courage it has lost? An example is before us.
The very earliest pages of the written New Testament are the letters of St Paul, some of which reached the Early Church direct from prison. Bunyan, Bonhoeffer and now Pastor Georgi Vins — profound teaching and inspiration have come from prison in recent days, too. In the last decade there have probably been more such lessons than at any time since St Paul sat in jail in Rome. Fr. Frantisek Lizna, a Czech Jesuit, wrote a letter from an isolation cell. In it he said that his sole companion was a thin beam of sunlight:
‘I am even now amazed how quietly the sun comes to us, without arousing the slightest attention, in great contrast to human behaviour. Observe how unobtrusively a ray of light penetrates the room, how solidly constructed and yet how delicate it seems. I’d like to extend my brotherly greetings to the newly discovered particles of dust, hated here by everyone, in gratitude for their willingness to stay with us so quietly and inconspicuously. I hope that you all, who remember us with love, will benefit from these discoveries and will greet the sun’s rays as messengers of our loving God.’
Both Isaiah’s Suffering Servant and St. Paul in II Corinthians give due warning that calumny can often be the lot of the follower of Christ. ‘We’re the impostors who speak the truth,’ Paul said. Some Russian Christians suffer for their faith not only at the hands of the Soviet authorities. Sometimes even their own official church leaders criticize them for breaking the unjust laws that put them in prison in the first place. This sometimes causes Western church people to echo this criticism.
In so doing, they’ve forgotten that the Church is the Body of Christ. If one limb suffers, the whole body feels the pain. So it may have done in the first century, but it doesn’t now, not at least in the West. It’s easier for our comfort not to be disturbed by the news that Marxism- Leninism is still, in 1984, causing extensive suffering to those who believe in God. There are at least 50 million practising Christians in the Soviet Union today, 40 million Muslims, two and a half million Jews and half a million Buddhists. Believers suffer serious discrimination under the Soviet law and may have to suffer physically for their faith at any moment. In other countries — Albania, China, North Korea, Vietnam, Kampuchea, Czechoslovakia — it is, or very recently has been, as bad or worse.
The Voice of the Suffering Church
‘Khristos voskrese! Christ is Risen!’ cries the priest, heralding Russian Easter. ‘Voistinu voskrese! He is risen indeed!’ the people reply in antiphon. This response from a poor church is already making many rich (in St Paul’s phrase). The Church of Silence, as it used to be called, had found its voice. There are a thousand examples to show that this cry speaks to the hearts of millions with its urgent and profound truth, while the tenets of Marxist- Leninist dogma endlessly proclaimed in the captive media fall as flat as a stone. Here’s a very recent example.
In 1983 news reached the West of the establishment of a group to defend the rights of the Ukrainian Catholic — often called the Uniate — Church. The prime movers could scarcely have chosen a more inauspicious time. Since 1979 persecution of all human-rights groups in the Soviet Union had grown steadily worse. The accession of Andropov signalled an even greater threat. This Uniate Church of three to four million people had been totally suppressed since the ’forties. Even the Vatican had excluded this problem from the agenda of its discussions with the Kremlin. The initiator of the new defence was Iosyf Terelya. Already for his Christian activities he’d spent no less than 19 of his 40 years in prison or psychiatric hospital. Undeterred, he proposed a new approach to the Soviet authorities, so the K.G.B. noose closed on him again. His arrest followed on 24th December 1982. The Russian Church and the Ukrainian Catholics have had an unhappy relationship in history, yet an Orthodox Christian from Moscow writes in a letter to the Pope:
‘Iosyf Terelya is an honourable, brave man and a true Christian, accepting any deprivation or torment in the name of good and love. He’s prepared to lay down his life for his friends’.
In the last letters to reach us from Terelya himself, he wrote:
‘Despite the declarations and forecasts of some party members, we’re living, we grow, we conquer. The trials and persecutions .suffered by Catholics in Ukraine have strengthened us even more in the faith and have given us the opportunity to sound the depths of God’s providence. I can state without exaggeration that there’s nothing greater than to die, a Catholic, in a communist prison. He who loses fear gains truth and hope.’
Two Christmases ago a copy of a letter from a Baptist in prison to his family reached Keston College, our study centre in Kent. It read:
‘Although here I couldn’t be with you physically, I prayed and rejoiced with tears in my eyes yesterday evening: I sang carols with you, I could see the children reciting poetry, the Christmas stockings; I could hear the carols below your window and see the children’s delight in their presents in the morning. How great is the world, yet even greater is the joy of Christmas embracing the hearts of all who are saved. Although that evening I had only a mug of hot water and a hunk of grey bread, my joy often overflowed my heart and tears washed my cheeks. What rivers of joy and tears for you in your prayers, during your services, your rehearsals, your times of prayer. When I knelt in prayer with you my soul rejoiced with you.’
It’s not only the Christian Church which has been touched by this revival of faith. Other religions are experiencing it as well.
The Jewish festival of Hanukkah originated in 165b.c. According to one tradition, Antiochus Epiphanes had defiled the temple in Jerusalem and kept it under siege for eight days. Sheltering with his followers inside, Judas Maccabaeus lit a last candle which was more than a symbol: it was the light of life. God miraculously sustained and increased this light over the whole of the eight days.
For Anatoli Shcharansky this miracle recurred in 1982. Shcharansky, a Jewish activist of 36 years old, has come within a point of sacrificing his life for all the freedoms in which he and many of his fellow-citizens believe. He wrote to his mother from within the appalling conditions of his Soviet prison:
‘Last Hanukkah I lit candles on all eight nights. It was a real Hanukkah light produced by a tiny piece of paraffin wick. Every night I had to cut it into even smaller pieces. I was afraid it wouldn’t last for eight nights, but when the last night came, all eight candles were burning, burning as brightly as on the first night. These eight candles are like the past eight years of our lives. They symbolize such a dear and difficult happiness and an extraordinary experience. For those eight years I am infinitely grateful to Him who ‘set us in the land of the living; He keeps our feet from stumbling. For Thou has put us to the proof and refined us like silver’ (Psalm 66: 9–10).’
Over the last 10 years there has been a revival in the Islamic faith, despite the continuing hostility of the Soviet system. The Sufi brotherhoods are now amazingly strong. They and the holy places provide an alternative focus for Muslim faith quite apart from the official Islam of the mosques. Let me give an indication of this which comes from a Soviet author in good standing with the authorities. Chingiz Aitmatov from Kirgizia is the only Central Asian writer with a word reputation. Each of his books is more Islamic than the last. His latest, The Day Lasts a Thousand Years, describes how the Soviets have unsuccessfully tried to suppress Islam beneath their ideology of materialism. Aitmatov has a large international following and is clearly not under Soviet control.
Wherever we look beneath the surface in a Communist country, there is evidence of great religious vitality. This is a act of the highest importance — for them but possibly even more for us. And what are we making of it? Not much.
The West has scarcely even begun to find an adequate response to this revival of religion in the Communist world.
There are few bright exceptions, but the enormous resources available for academic programmes on Eastern Europe have largely bypassed the study of religion. Yet you can’t understand Eastern Europe while ignoring the role of the Church, especially its present dynamism.
Journalism became aware of the role of the Church during the first return of Pope John Paul II to Poland in 1979, but, with exceptions, has failed to seek out the facts on other Communist countries.
In a logical world we would have seen the Christian church joining together in songs of elation at this new proof of the power of the Cross. The Vatican, the great British missionary societies, the World Council of Churches, the National Council of Churches in New York and Christian Aid here would be joining hands in prayer and support for the suffering and they would be eager to see what they could learn. We sorely need a theology of persecution. It may be too early to work this out in detail, but when we have fully digested what we can learn from the experience of these brothers and sisters under persecution, I am convinced that some of what passes for received wisdom in the churches of the West will be subjected to sharp questioning, and in particular that mission evangelism will be transformed.
A more detailed examination of why the churches and the councils of churches have done so little in this field must await a later occasion.
I shall consider some very positive exceptions shortly, but first I outline some of the problems and misconceptions.
To the credit of our generation, there has never been more openness or compassion toward suffering within the church than now. There is also a response from some parts of the secular world. More than half of mankind is severely repressed. Hundreds of millions receive less calories daily than we put in our dog’s bowl. Discrimination on grounds of colour or race disfigures many societies which proclaim democratic liberties. It’s not quite so easy to gauge the misery which results from repressive political systems, though we made a greater effort to do so when these are located in South or Central America or South Africa than in Eastern Europe. It’s strange that in such a large part of our churches the suffering of believers under Communism has not struck a more immediate and responsive chord. Why is that so many of us don’t feel equally deeply the effects of repression caused by Communist regimes? There are even respected Christian leaders who seem to say that people living under the harshest Communist regimes feel positive to the conditions of their society. Fifteen years ago Mao Tse-Tung was generally portrayed as the adored leader of his grateful people. Now even Chinese subjects condemn his tyranny before television cameras and are able to blame the immorality of young people today in their country on the organized hysteria of the Cultural Revolution.
No Soviet citizen can today in public similarly criticise his society, past or present. When there’s a serious famine in the Sahel, camera teams bring the horror right into our living rooms. Many of us respond directly to this by money and prayer. One of the most closed borders in history prevents the world from grasping the nature of Soviet tyranny. It’s not just that television is barred from Soviet labour camps and psychiatric prisons. The massive Soviet propaganda campaign stands truth on its head. Despite this, the kindness and humanity of the ordinary Russian people engulfs everyone who encounters it. Even some Soviet church leaders have become caught up in the Soviet propaganda machine. They, too, have become victims of the closed system in which they’ve had their whole upbringing. Their earliest memories were shaped, in part, by their Soviet upbringing. Later the system deliberately seeks out and elevates those it can most easily bend to its will. They, no less than the more obvious victims, need understanding. They need, not condemnation, but prayer to find strength. The Body of Christ needs no lies and compromise to ‘preserve’ it. Yet equivocation flourishes and the influence of false concepts is pervasive.
I can’t discuss all of them today, but I’ll list a few before passing on.
- The Soviet People. The phrase itself is a misnomer. When I look at the complex ethnic map of the Soviet Union I see Lithuanians, I see Jews, I see Ukrainians and Armenians, yes, I see a myriad of Muslims and of Russians. I don’t see ‘Soviets’ and when I hear some such phrases as ‘the aspirations of the Soviet people’ I know that we’re in the realm of ‘newspeak’. I see also an empire, no less real because there’s no sea between Moscow and its subject people. I see an empire in the process of decay, because there’s no binding loyalty which will keep it together. The Red Army, not Marxism- Leninism, provides its cement. Sixty years, many purges and a world war on from the death of Lenin, the subject peoples retain their individuality, they retain their hopes. They still identify themselves not just by language and a few attractive folk dances. Religion strikes the deepest chord of all in the hearts of people who will never accept Moscow along with enforced atheism. Break the power of religion and the Soviet melting-pot will start to bubble on the stove. It’s not doing so yet, which should be no surprise to anyone who has observed the break-up of all the world’s other great empires over the last half- century. Many Christians criticize colonialism but they say nothing of the true nature of the Soviet empire.
I am not asking for a reversal of values or for less criticism of other evils. I am asking for an even- handed justice, with as much concern for innocent suffering in the countries under Communist rule as in South Africa or Latin America.
- Anti-Soviet. The very term without any defined meaning is widely used as one of abuse. Whatever we do, in whatever context we find ourselves, we who attempt to descry the truth and support the persecuted are always being told that we must never become ‘anti-Soviet’ or ‘anti-Communist’. To do so, or Christian evaluators tell us, is to descend into the depths of moral bankruptcy. I’ve heard people saying this for 20 years, but I’m never sure exactly what they mean by it. Do they mean that the Soviet system is here to stay and is supported by the consensus of those living under it? Of course, there’s a real sense in which the Christian must be pro Gospel, not anti anything. The Christian, too — as Russian believers teach us — must love the Communist, while retaining his right to oppose much of what Communism stands for. Yet, in an equally real sense, every Christian of principle has to be ‘anti-Soviet’, if the term ‘Soviet’ stands, as it certainly does, for the imposition of state atheism. We’ve stood back while propaganda has put its own special meaning into the word ‘anti-Soviet’. Indeed, many Church people have uncritically accepted that ‘anti-Soviet must mean ‘fanatical’ or ‘extremist’.
- Misconception number three is that ‘the Soviet Constitution guarantees the freedom of religion’. First, whatever the Soviet Constitution might state in writing it doesn’t ‘guarantee’ anything, because the Soviet system hasn’t been able to encompass the concept of the rule of law. The law is the Party policy of the moment. Defence against the dictate of the State is impossible. Second, the Soviet Constitution does not proclaim ‘freedom of religion’, it proclaims ‘freedom of religious worship’. This very phrase strongly implies the real fact: that religious education and the right to propogate the faith are banned. Third, the Soviet Constitution also proclaims the separation of Church and State. In reality, Soviet jails have housed thousands of believers in recent years who have sought to exercise precisely this constitutional right.
The Fundamentals of Legislation on Marriage and the Family of 1968 state that every child is to be brought up ‘in the spirit of the moral code of the builder of communism’. In a court of law, where the prosecution is about to take away children from their parents and put them in a state boarding school for re-education, such a phrase can mean exactly what the prosecution wants it to mean.
- Collective rights are to be defended more than individual rights. This is a phrase which Soviet propaganda has very recently relaunched. It was common 50 years ago and now has entered the arena of international church relations. Its purpose is to baulk investigation of the cases of individual dissenters. The humanitarian ring of the phrase has attracted many Christians. The near end of this road is visible and seems to be in a pleasant landscape, yet beyond the haze it leads straight to the Gulag.
The Christian message is very clear and very different: ‘Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God? But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: you are of more value than many sparrows’ (Luke 12: 6–7).
Since 1979 there has been a massive Soviet campaign against dissent of all kinds. It began as a ‘pre-Olympic purge’, an attempt to expel from the cities the critics of the system before the foreign invasion during the Games. This has turned into the most systematic repression since Stalin of all kinds of nonconformity. Not only Christians, Jews, nationalists and those monitoring the Helsinki Agreements have suffered from it, but even those seeking to establish the rights of the disabled, who are treated by Soviet society as second-class citizens.
- Myth number five is that religion, already the preserve of the old and the uneducated, is now dying out. Lenin said exactly the same, seeing mainly old people in the churches. His 70-year-olds would now be 130, so something has gone wrong with his prediction.
Thousands of Soviet newspaper articles still proclaim: ‘Religion is of course dying out, but . . .’ And after the ‘but’ we find concrete evidence of the reality: that young people, tired of living in a moral vacuum, are looking for permanent values. The Soviet press, of course, uses different terminology, but it can’t disguise the fact that more and more young people are returning to the fold of the Church in a way that hasn’t happened in Russia in over a 100 years.
Alexander Ogorodnikov came to belief from atheism while studying the cinema at a Moscow Institute. He discussed his new faith with other young people and is now in prison for founding the Christian Seminar, a young people’s movement for discussing religious and social issues. The open and full churches, too few in number, which any casual visitor to the Soviet Union can observe, are part of the same Body of Christ as the suppressed Christian Seminar. To see either in isolation is to mistake part for the whole. The existence of both is what Russian Christians call a podvig, a miracle of faith. It’s a victory won by suffering for us in the West and for the Third World, as well as for the Communist bloc.
I take you with me to a Baptist Sunday School in Kiev kept open in the face of official disapproval only by the ceaseless determination of its organizers. I was there in 1977 and was invited to answer questions. ‘Do Christians suffer for their faith in other countries, too?’ I recounted the murder, then very recent, of Archbishop Luwum of Uganda. The response in prayer was overwhelming. The next question: ‘Does your daughter speak about Christ every day in her school?’ ‘She’s a bit shy — it’s not easy for a British teenager’. ‘We get punished for this, but we still do, every day. We’ll pray for her that she will be bolder’. She has their little written card to this day.
Western Christian eyes have been largely blind to the brilliant light of the podvig, the spiritual victory. Perhaps our existing structures are too bureaucratic, too influenced by politics, to reflect it. One day, perhaps, the World Council of Churches will be able to relay this podvig, these new victories of the Cross, to the Third World; but that time is not yet. Nevertheless, the blood of the Suffering Church will somehow flow through the whole Body of Christ. There are some signs, not least in today’s events here in the Guildhall in London, that valves are already opening.
‘Being found in fashion as a man, Christ humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name’. Every day in the Soviet Union sees living illustrations of this truth that Paul discovered for the Philippians (2: 8–9). From this physical deprivation spiritual gifts flow out across the world in rich abundant waves. The vast majority of mankind may be waiting to hear this message when the barriers are removed — for there’s no doubt we’re witnessing one of the great miracles of Christian history.
The Western Response
Some individuals and groups have already responded with heart and soul to this challenge of the faith. There are men and women who’ve never set foot in a Communist country who became Christians through an encounter on paper with the faith of the East. The letters of Fr. Lizna from prison converted a lady from Essex — right there in her living room, without her having to talk to a soul.
More and more people are benefiting along their spiritual path by contact with the Suffering Church. I think for example, of a small meeting of a house church in Croydon: a long evening of prayer and learning devoted to the message and person of Valeri Barinov, a Christian rock musician in Leningrad, arrested in March after years of harassment. I think even more of response in the Third World: in Singapore, for example, a prayer of utter absorption for persecuted Roman Catholics in the Soviet Union. Why is this remarkable? The Singapore Discipleship Training Centre belongs to a tradition some distance from the Roman Catholic faith. Gathered in the room are young men and women from several countries of South East Asia. Some have been rejected by their own family and society for embracing the Christian faith. The Centre has been a beacon of prayer for the persecuted for several years and sparks from it have already carried to less privileged parts of the Third World.
I think of Africa: of the many places where the Christian faith is dancing to renewal. Here hunger, racial discrimination, persecution have sometimes brought Christ as a guest into home and heart. When news of Russian — or Ukrainian, or Polish — revival flows more freely through the veins of the body of Christ, one cannot predict the spiritual effect.
I think also of the work of the missionary societies for Eastern European, of the radio stations, whose work has been growing. Their dedication has been a factor in bringing the Christian Gospel to more and more people who cannot hear it by normal means in their own societies.
Yet the sum total of this growing work is still too small. The official churches, Anglicans, Baptists, Methodists, Roman Catholics need to be many times more involved. The needs of the Communist world are to be seen as just as pressing as those of the Third World — though more difficult of response.
We can’t know what the effect of concerted worldwide prayer for the known 350 or so Christian prisoners in the Soviet Union would be: it has never been tried. What we do know for certain is that a single postcard to a prisoner, somehow getting through the Soviet censorship, can save a life — and has done. The faintest signal can lift up a victim of injustice on wings of prayer. Nijole Sadunaite, the Lithuanian Catholic, describes the life-sustaining nature of these contacts in her prison letters.
The worldwide Jewish community has given a sterling lead in demonstrating what unified action can achieve in one particular field. As a student in Moscow in 1960 I would never have believed it possible that such pressure would open the floodgates — since closed again — of Jewish emigration.
The Vatican can’t call in quite the same way to its worldwide constituency. The issues involved are more complicated. Yet the election of a Polish Pope in 1978 has brought a tide of hope flowing to Christians of more than one denomination in every corner of the Communist world. Despite the immense complexities of Vatican bureaucracy, Pope John Paul II has given the strongest encouragement to Catholics in Eastern Europe. He calls on them to be stronger and more outspoken. The Polish situation is known to all. Less well known is the ban imposed by the Pope on the compromised ‘Peace Priests’ in Czechoslovakia. He has told the Church here and in Hungary, to stand up for its rights. Hundreds of young people have been applying for permission to enter the theological seminaries in Czechoslovakia — putting such pressure on the authorities that they allowed a doubled intake in 1983: 60, with many more studying clandestinely.
An ecumenical initiative of significance has come from the British Council of Churches, when it commissioned a detailed report on the Church in Eastern Europe, published in 1974 as Discretion and Valour, updated and reissued.
Despite the strictures I’ve already made on the response of journalism to the religious revival in Eastern Europe, there are signs of awareness, at least in Australia, Britain and some parts of Western Europe. The Church Times of London blazed a trail in the 1960s. Other church newspapers have followed suit. The B.B.C. now reports on the subject regularly, both in its overseas and domestic programmes. The Times in recent weeks has produced a string of articles and editorials, leading the secular press by some margin.
One would like to see a major American or European university rise to the challenge and take on a study of religious life under Communism.
The work of Keston College links and perhaps stimulates these endeavours. Its enterprise, now 15 years old, has reached the end of its beginning: the subject is on the map at last.
War and Peace
However, the subject of religion in Eastern Europe does not lie in a sealed container. We must consider a broader context. The world could well be on the brink of catastrophe, moral or physical. Never in human history has there been a time when it was more urgent to go back to first principles. In the last two decades the energies of the Christian West have gone to furthering various causes of the moment. The Communist-Christian dialogue of the 1960s came to naught before the end of the decade. The Helsinki Accords of 1975 have been equally disappointing. They did not prevent the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 or the arrest and ten-year sentence on Father Gleb Yakunin, the leading Russian Orthodox defender of religious liberty. The Soviets have now cleared their central stage of the major groups of dissenters. Those dedicated to monitoring the Helsinki Agreements no longer exist. Most continuing activity is in the non-Russian republics.
We finally come sharply face to face with the question Keston College is often asked: Doesn’t your work damage East-West relations and make détente recede even further over the horizon? To which I reply with a phrase I’ve both used and, I hope, applied over the last 20 years: ‘We need reconciliation, but we can never build reconciliation on anything other than the truth’. Keston College, every working day, has to cut through the skein of propaganda and one of the realities we see is that religion in the Communist world — especially the Christian faith — is becoming more important for people, the dogmatic tenets of Marxism less so. Over 20 years the change is palpable.
The compelling conclusion to this is that for the Soviet Union to grant real religious liberty would bring world peace substantially closer. This thought horrifies those who hold power in the Kremlin, but the reality might not harm them so much as they think.
The potential of the new religious belief to change Soviet society for good can already be perceived by those who look long and clear. A Soviet Union in which Christian and Jew, Muslim and Buddhist, have their full say would not be making such threatening noises towards the U.S.A., nor would the U.S.A. be tempted to reply in kind. Furthermore, a truly combined programme by the super-powers to staunch world hunger might succeed as nothing yet has looked like doing. An essential religious and political initiative for the mid-1980s is therefore to press the Soviet regime on the issue of religious liberty and human rights. One does not expect praise or popular acclaim for doing so — witness the continuing criticism of Alexander Solzhenitsyn, my immediate predecessor on this platform. And one must accept that pressing the Soviet Union in this way will make immediate relations more difficult. The tactics need careful thought, but I am certain that the eventual change of the Soviet Union into a country which has the right to believe will make it a safer place for its own people and rulers, as well as making the world a safer place for everyone. That is why the work of Keston College, very small though it is in a world context, does stand on the front line.
In the very truest sense, the Templeton Prize has been awarded not to me nor to the College, but to believers under Communism. Theirs is the ‘progress in religion’. The Prize goes especially to those who have sacrificed liberty — and some even life itself— for their faith. It is for them that I speak. Insofar as I have the power and insight to do so, it is their hopes, their sorrows and their joys which I have placed before you this afternoon. God bless them and God bless you all.