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Russia, Ukraine Institute Biblical Curriculum in Schools
A Canadian ministry is mandated by the Russian and Ukrainian governments to supply Bibles to all their elementary and secondary school children.  

As core moral values drift away from a biblical standard in Canada, countries formerly closed to Christian ethics are discovering and embracing the Bible’s teaching.

The Lutsenkos see this as an unprecedented opportunity ... to provide Bibles for the people, but funds are needed.

For 15 years the Canadian Kindness Society’s president, Dr. Olga Lutsenko and her husband Fred of Vernon, British Columbia, have been working with the Russian government to establish a Bible-based curriculum in the country’s elementary and secondary schools. Ukraine also adopted the program in 2002, and China’s government has expressed interest.

In February 2009 Russia’s president Dmitry Medvedev noted publicly that biblical moral education should be required in all Russian schools. “This announcement represented a milestone in our work with the government and a real achievement,” says Lutsenko, who is known as “Dr. Olga.” In mid-October 2009 she chaired a Moscow conference, in conjunction with Russia’s Department of Education. The resolution of this conference was to develop Bible-based curriculum for all elementary and secondary grade levels.

President Medvedev's statement was taken seriously, and teaching of biblical morality began immediately even with a lack of Bibles and teaching materials. Kindness, whose mandate it is to provide these products can't keep up with demand. "We just haven't had enough money to provide all the materials the schools and teachers need," says Fred.

Teachers are grasping for materials, and the Russian Orthodox Church is attempting to step in with their doctrinal literature. This literature, however, is apparently not being well-received. "Educators don't want a specific denominational perspective. They want sound, biblically-based programs." 

Russia, a Christian country?

The shift in Russia’s educational policy began after the fall of Communism when Russian society faced an ideological vacuum. The new government perceived that a return to pre-Communist values and traditions would provide a foundation for future leaders. At the time, Dr. Olga, a high-ranking officer with the Russian government, was serving with the former USSR’s Academy of Pedagogical Sciences.  She was asked to determine which ideological system would provide the best moral training for Russia’s 30,000,000 children. Her team concluded that the Bible not only represented a return to the faith of their ancestors, but was also the best tool for building moral and ethical character. Her research also led her to personal faith in Christ.

Dr. Olga immigrated to Canada in December 1995 and established the Kindness Society in 1996. Kindness became the only government-sanctioned organization mandated to provide moral bibical education to Russian and Ukrainian schools. Kindness provides Bibles and Christian literature to individuals, schools and families, promotes student exchange programs, selects and trains teachers, prints a professional magazine, Eternal Word, which is approved by the Department of Education for both countries, and operates government-sponsored Christian camps.  

Kindness, says Dr. Olga, is not a mission or ministry. Their materials are “government- and constitution-friendly,” and not “religious.”

“Government decision-makers express the needs of their educational systems and [nationals] themselves get involved. We help them achieve their goals.”

But as teachers receive Bibles and training, they also develop personal faith. They give children Bibles, children bring them home to parents, and entire families respond with faith. The Russian/Ukrainian governments appear unconcerned. “That’s their private life, they say. Everyone has freedom to believe however they choose.” 

Dr. Olga describes an encounter with the governor of a Communist state. “We explained what we do, and he said, ‘You can bring Bibles here on one condition – the truck stops first at the parliament building and every politician and government worker gets one first. I want them to be moral people and have a solid foundation.’” 

The Lutsenkos see this as an unprecedented opportunity to rally behind the efforts of these governments to provide Bibles for their people, but funds are needed.

"The doors to Russia are now wide open,” says Fred Lutsenko. “We must take advantage of the opportunity and place as many Bibles in people’s hands as we can. We must train as many educators as possible, so that if doors close, teachers can carry on for decades doing what they have been trained to do.” 

For more information on the Canadian Kindness Society, visit their website, Canadian Kindness Society, or contact Gary Sedlick gsedlick@okaudiolab.com.  

Daina Doucet is a writer and editor based in Hamilton, Ontario. She edits The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada’s website, Christianity.ca.

Originally published in ChristianWeek, January 2010. Updated, July 2010.

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