Thousands of women throughout Russia have turned to Church-established humanitarian centers over the past year and a half, receiving material aid that gave them the stability to refuse the abortions they were contemplating.
Church centers in 102 cities and rural settlements in 57 Russian regions were able to help 14,507 women since the beginning of 2017, saving the lives of their children, RIA-Novosti reports.
These numbers underscore the importance for the Church of not only preaching against abortion, but of putting that preaching into action, offering concrete help to those in need. While statistics have shown significant improvements in recent years, abortion remains a serious problem, sullying the nation.
Women finding themselves in difficult situations in life, intending to have an abortion, often repent of this decision when they receive financial assistance. According to Maria Studenikina, the head of the Russian Church’s Department for Charity’s anti-abortion movement and director of the “Home for Mothers” Moscow crisis center, about 27% of women who intend to have an abortion cite financial difficulties and an inability to support their child.
Highlighting the importance of a human connection, and simple gestures of love, she says,
In our practice, there were cases where a woman declined to have an abortion thanks to the fact that we offered her warm boots. It was winter in Krasnoyarsk. One girl declined to have an abortion thanks to the fact that we helped her with a baby bath, because she had nowhere to bathe her child in her village home.
She further describes the harsh reality of the situation facing many pregnant women:
It is so painful to state this sad fact, that sometimes a child’s life is comparable to a pack of buckwheat, sometimes to 500 rubles [$8], to warm boots… But it’s important to give people real help.
The network of humanitarian centers was built with the $658,000 (39 million rubles) donated during the first All-Russian Church-wide fundraising effort on June 1, 2016, the International Day for Protection of Children. The second such fundraiser will be held in all Russian churches this coming Sunday.
The International Day for Protection of Children is celebrated annually on June 1. The holiday was first observed in 1950. There are traditionally various events held this day, including anti-abortion activities and charity events. The day has been well received by the various Orthodox Churches, which firmly teach that abortion is a grave sin.
Fr. Dimitry Smirnov, a famous Moscow priest and representative for the Patriarchal Commission for Family, and the Protection of Motherhood and Childhood, well expresses the severity of the sin of abortion according to Orthodox teaching:
A person can find no kind of happiness if he is a murderer of his own children. Such cannibals, as our people, need to be wiped off the face of the earth, and only the great grace of God towards us (for we are all His children) will save us from the wrath of God. But if we don’t wake up, the wrath of God will fall upon us.
The first round of donations from the 2016 fundraiser was doled out in January of 2017, with $214,000 (12,687,500 rubles) going to 48 Church dioceses throughout Russia, orthochristian.com reported at the time. The funds went towards purchasing necessary equipment, salaries for specialists, and minimal stockroom replenishments for the first three monks of work at the maternity centers being built and revitalized through the nation.
It is very important not just to call for a ban on abortion, but to render material assistance and spiritual support to pregnant women in difficult situations faced with a choice: to refuse their child and ends its life, or to take on the podvig of fulfilling God’s will for humans born into this world,
stated Metropolitan Joseph of Kurgan and Belozersk at the opening of the center in his diocese.
Orthochristian.com also reports that the All-Russian pro-life organization “Women for Life” launched a petition on the International Day for Protection of Children this year, calling for a monument to all the victims of abortion in Russia to be erected in Moscow, to encourage Russian society to think more deeply about the “horrible problem” of abortion.
The authors of the petition note that, according to official numbers, nearly a million children are aborted in Russia every year. The State Statistics Committee reports that 836,611 abortions were performed in 2016. However, Russian Minister of Health Veronika Skvortsova also notes that 2016 was a “very significant” year, in that the number of abortions dropped by 96,300 (13%), whereas in previous years the average drop was 8%.
Speaking at the conference “On creating conditions for increasing the birthrate in the Russian Federation” in January 2017, Skvortsova reported that the number of abortions in Russia was halved over the previous four years.
“We will, undoubtedly, proceed further in this direction. Over the past four years the number of abortions in our country has decreased twice over, so there is still room for movement, and we will be moving in that direction,” she confidently stated.
While much work is still to be done, there is hope. The proportion of Russian citizens who consider abortion unacceptable has tripled over the course of the past 20 years, from 12% to 35%, and the Russian Church has repeatedly pinpointed the fight against abortion as one of its top priorities.
Undoubtedly, thousands more precious children will be saved by the donations brought in as part of this year’s upcoming International Day for Protection of Children fundraising, and by the Russian Orthodox Church’s continuing efforts.