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MORGAN GRIFFITH: He is Risen

As we approach Easter, I am always reminded of one of my favorite stories from the Cold War, between the United States, the West and the Soviet Union.

That story involves Soviet Communist leader Nikolai Bukharin. A Bolshevik revolutionary and member of the Politburo, Bukharin rose to great prominence in Soviet circles following the Russian Revolution of 1917.

The Communist regimes of Eastern Europe were ruthless in their tactics. Soviet troops occupied many of the countries and food shortages were commonplace.

The public could not express themselves in a free and open manner without there being serious repercussions. Secret police forces sniffed out any potential dissenters. Loved ones and friends were jailed or went missing.

These were precarious times for the people of Eastern Europe and the rest of the world. Because of the oppressive rule exercised by Communist regimes in Eastern Europe, many people were led to believe that their lives revolved around the government.

As the story goes, in 1930, Bukharin traveled from Moscow to Kiev to speak before a large crowd (one version I have heard says it was a crowd of thousands and in a stadium). While he gave his remarks, he emphatically denounced religion as the communist atheist regime frequently did. The story as I have heard it said, he had harangued the crowd and belittled religious thought. After he finished, he asked if the audience had questions.

In response, an orthodox priest approached and mounted the speaker’s platform. The man then exclaimed to the crowd in the customary Orthodox way, which translated into English would be:

“Christ is Risen!”

The crowd answered back:

“He is Risen indeed!”

The story about Bukharin in Kiev has been told many times, but it may be a legend; no reporting at the time confirms it, although the Communist rulers of the Soviet Union no doubt would not want such a story to be repeated.

But decades after the episode with Bukharin reputedly took place, the whole world could see in previously Communist-ruled countries a similar widespread affirmation of faith and rejection of state-imposed atheism.

In spite of bleak conditions, the masses remained secretly steadfast in their faith. No matter how oppressive or tyrannical the Soviet regime was, the people recognized there was something more in life than just the government. For many, their faith did not waver.

Today, even Putin ostensibly acknowledges the significance of the Russian Orthodox Church to Russians. In Kiev, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church gives the people emotional strength based on their faith.

The power of faith prevails. Thus, the Bukharin story is inspiring to me.

I am a Christian and celebrate Easter because “He is Risen.”

I respect your religion and your ability to practice your faith, whether that be tied to Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Atheism, etc. All faiths should be respected. We are better suited to develop harmonious relationships, come together and overcome obstacles by recognizing the freedom to pray however one chooses.

One of the things that I love about our country and having served in the Virginia House of Delegates is Jefferson’s Statute for Religious Freedom.

Virginia’s law was the first to cement liberty.

James Madison said of the Statute that it is the “true standard of Religious liberty: its principle the great barrier against usurpations on the rights of conscience.”

The Statute for Religious Freedom would become the model for the First Amendment in the Constitution, establishing religious freedom for all Americans. Other countries would follow suit.

The House of Delegates chamber in Richmond has a plaque dedicated to this triumph and celebrates Virginia as the birthplace of religious freedom in the world.

I am very proud to call the birthplace of religious freedom my home.

During Easter, I hope and pray that God’s love and peace will be with each of you, and that there will be peace and joy amongst all faiths.

God is good and he sent his only begotten son in order for our sins to be able to be forgiven.

So if on Easter, someone says to you,

“He is Risen,”

Remember the story of the priest and Bukharin. And respond:

“He is Risen Indeed!”

– Congressman Morgan Griffith

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