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Agency Warns of Violent Reprisals over Beslan

Following the end of the forty-day period of mourning in North Ossetia, several groups and individuals have expressed concerns of violent reprisals for the tragic school siege
( [email protected] ) Oct 14, 2004 11:50 AM EDT

Following the end of the forty-day period of mourning in North Ossetia, several groups and individuals have expressed concerns of violent reprisals for the tragic school siege. Most recently, World Vision warned that threats of revenge for the 330 deaths combined with the appointment of a Russian-backed president in Chechnya could rekindle decades of violence in the Caucasus region.

“After the terrible acts of violence in Beslan, there are thousands of people in Beslan grieving for lost loved ones,” said World Vision’s Jan Butter, as reported by London-based Ekklesia. “Hundreds of mourners continue to visit the remains of the school every day.

“Many people will also be angry and desperate for justice,” Butter added, World Vision staff are praying for peace, praying that this anger won’t turn to violent revenge and are calling on the church to do the same. Further violence can only lead to more deaths, more grief and more pain.”

Fears of reprisals are not unfounded, Ekklesia reported. Whether between ethnic groups, tribes or religious factions, the history of the Caucasus is marked by a tradition of conflict and revenge. The early 1990s staged a bloody civil war between the predominately Christian republic of North Ossetia and the Muslim-dominated Ingushetia, which neighbors war-torn Chechnya.

The violence did, however, come to an end, and it is hoped that the slaughter in Beslan does not mark the start of new wave of inter-ethnic violence.

Having worked in the North Caucasus since February 1995, World Vision and its staff were on hand to provide immediate assistance when the siege broke out at the beginning of September and local hospitals began calling for medical aid. After initial distributions of medical equipment to hospitals and toys to children in Beslan, the charity is now working with the World Health Organization and the Russian Ministry of Health to establish a psychological rehabilitation center in Vladikavkaz. The organization is one of the few UK-based charities still working with the victims of the tragedy.

David Womble, National Director for World Vision in Russia said that many of the wounds, both physical and mental, will take many years to heal.

“The psychological scars have been left not only on those individuals who were inside the gymnasium during those tragic days,” Womble commented. “But on the entire communities of Beslan and Vladikavkaz.”

The center, which will cost an estimated $144,000 to restore and equip, will provide long-term counseling and support to victims of the crisis from both communities.