By Ethan Cole
Christian Post Reporter
Wed, Sep. 03 2008 03:12 PM EDT
A delegation from the World Council of Churches began its five-day visit to member churches in Georgia and Russia on Wednesday with the goal to facilitate harmony between the two Christian communities despite their countries’ current political conflict.
"We expect this visit to encourage Christians in both countries to keep talking to each other and praying for each other," said Elenora Giddings Ivory, WCC director of Public Witness and Global Advocacy.
"If Christians in Georgia and Russia manage not to allow the divide between their countries to separate them, they may help their governments to move towards a peaceful resolution of the conflict."
In addition to encouraging peace between churches in the two countries, the delegation will also visit people displaced by the recent violence as well as meet high-level representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church, Georgian Orthodox Church and others.
They will also visit humanitarian work by Action by Churches Together International and its local partners.
The Georgia-Russia conflict began in mid-August when Georgia ordered troops to stop the province of South Ossetia from seceding. In retaliation, Russia sent in forces to South Ossetia and bombed other areas in Georgia to support South Ossetia’s desire to be independent from Georgia.
South Ossetia, which borders Russia, is predominantly made up of Russians. Although the province has an autonomous government, many South Ossetians still want to break away from Georgia to unite with the neighboring Russian province of North Ossetia.
The presidents of both countries have signed a cease-fire agreement that includes the withdrawal of forces to pre-conflict lines. But Russia has left behind troops near a key port in Georgia, causing the European Parliament on Wednesday to call on Russia to “honor its commitments” to withdraw its troops according to the agreement, as reported by The Associated Press.
Currently, there is diplomatic suspension between the two countries and both have closed their embassies in one another’s countries.
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