After days of searching, two pastors in the Russian southern town of Beslan discovered yesterday that six of their eight young children were among those killed in the local school hostage drama that shocked the nation and the world, their Christian mission organization confirmed Wednesday, September 8.
According to an official of the U.S.-supported Russian Ministries, pastors Taymuraz Totiev and Sergey Totiev from the Evangelical Baptist Church in Beslan were "still hoping" to find their children alive up until the last moment.
"Tragically, out of the eight Totiev children who were in the school, only two have survived," said Russian Ministries Vice President Sergey N. Rakhuba in a statement obtained by Hungary-based news agency BosNewsLife.
News about the deaths came after two days of National Mourning in Russia for the 335 killed in last week's Beslan school siege.
Rakhuba said two colleagues traveled to Beslan to take part in the memorial service in front of the homes of the Totievs', who are both brothers and neighbors. "Between 1,500 and 2,000 people gathered in front of their homes, including many Christians who came from other areas to support the Totievs' who are loved very much," the Russian Ministries team said in an Internet message from Beslan.
Neighbors of the Totiev family reportedly told the parents "with tears" in their eyes, "You lost your children, but we feel like they were our children too. They were shining lights on our street", apparently referring to what Russian Ministries called "their good behavior and helpful spirit."
As others in the crowd began cursing and vowed to take revenge against "the terrorists", Pastor Sergey Totiev, who lost two children in the siege, stood up at the end of the memorial service and reportedly said: "Yes, we have an irreplaceable loss, but we cannot take revenge. As Christians, the Bible teaches us that we must forgive. Vengeance is in God’s hands."
The Russian Ministries team described it as "the most powerful sermon and witness that has perhaps ever been heard in that community." It said "the crowd was very moved by what Pastor Totiev said. Truly the Totiev children who were killed are still shining lights in their community even as they lay in their caskets."
To provide spiritual and physical aid for the people of Besland, Russian Ministries said it has established a Terror Relief Fund and stressed that "all donations made will go directly to the Beslan community."
"No administrative fees will be deducted. A committee overseeing distribution of aid has already formed and will provide full accountability," stressed official Rakhuba , referring to criticism that aid funds of other organizations are sometimes mishandled.
He said donations can be made online via the Internet at website: http://www.russian-ministries.org or mailed directly to Russian Ministries at: P.O. Box 496, Wheaton, IL 60189.
Meanwhile, Russian Ministries said it would encourage Sunday School groups and Bible study meetings as well as other Christians "to help the Beslan community recover from this brutal attack."
The children of Taymuraz and Ria Totiev who were killed were identified as Larissa, 14, Luba, 12, Albina, 11, and Boris, who was 8 years old. Their daughter Magina was reportedly found, released from the hospital, and is recovering at home.
The children of Sergey and Bela Totiev who died were Dzerassa, 15, and 9 year old Anna. Their son Azamat, 12 years old, is currently in the hospital and is being treated for a severe eye injury.