‘American Pastor’ Billy Graham Remembered in Russia
Alex GORKA | 28.02.2018 | WORLD / Americas

‘American Pastor’ Billy Graham Remembered in Russia

Billy Graham was an evangelist who had a global reach. With no office held and no religious institutions or TV shows hosted, his voice was heard in the most remote corners of the planet. He made more than 400 trips to 185 countries on six continents preaching live to more than 215 million. No one in the world preached the gospel to more people.

Billy Graham’s attitude toward Russia was very special. Rev. Graham was an anticommunist supporter of tough stance on the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Despite that, he visited the USSR in the 1980s where he was allowed to freely preach. Graham did not waste opportunities to attend a wreath-laying ceremonies to honor those who lost their lives in WWII.

Rev. Graham also frequented other socialist states of East Europe. He never forgot to call for peace and warn about the danger of nuclear arms race. He opened a 1983 convention of evangelists from 140 nations – the opportunity he did not miss to urge the elimination of weapons of mass destruction.

The Russian Orthodox Church welcomed him. Those days he said "There are many people who have said 'this is not the time to hold a mission in Moscow." But he did it against all the odds to contribute into the improvement of the relations. Billy Graham was perfectly suited to fulfill the role of mediator between his homeland and the countries it had complicated relationship with.

In 1992, Billy Graham received warm welcome in Russia coming on a year-long mission. Once he gathered 100, 000 people to preach at Moscow's Olympic Stadium. The Russian Orthodox Church and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association have joined efforts to attract world public attention to the problem of Christians persecuted in the Middle East and Africa. President Putin and other Russian officials have many times emphasized the need to handle this burning problem so rarely mentioned by Western politicians but a matter of concern for Billy Graham and his followers.

Billy Graham often said he liked Russia. As a clergyman, he has made a personal contribution into the development of relations. He is known in Russia and so is his son - Rev. Franklin Graham. “Our country needs Russia as an ally in the fight against Islamic terrorism. Join me in praying for President Trump and President Vladimir Putin as they have this very strategic meeting,” he calls upon his fellow Americans in a Facebook post. Franklin Graham supports President Putin’s policy of protecting Russian children from propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations. He also believes that Russia does the right thing protecting Christians in Syria. The evangelist does not believe Russia really intervened in the US 2016 presidential election. Franklin Graham believes that religion is in decline in America while the Russian president supports the Christian values. And he sees positive changes in Russia.

Like his father he is close to those who hold power. President Donald Trump has his backing. Rev. Graham Jr. strongly supports Donald Trump as defender of Christianity. It was him who offered the president a bible at the inaugural address a year ago. He’ll meet all five surviving US presidents attending the funeral of his famous father in Charlotte on March 2.

Unofficial contacts play a very important role in shaping bilateral relations, be it economy, international problems, arms control, cultural or religious ties. Russians and Americans may agree or disagree but they should talk. Preachers have influence. They are kept outside of political decision-making process but they offer impartial assessments based on cherished values. People holding government positions express only official views but contacts between people are free to say whatever they want is quite different and very important. Billy Graham went to Russia for the first time in 1982 – in the heat of the Cold War. Franklin Graham can contribute into improvement of the relationship, which is at the lowest ebb now. After all, Christians value peace on earth more than anything else, don’t they?