Thousands of schools across the EU held a minute’s silence on Tuesday in honor of the victims of this month’s hostage crisis in North Ossetia, Russia. Meanwhile, the town of Beslan continues mourning for those who were lost after the violent three-day siege and praying for the healing of those still hospitalized.
In the latest reports, Russian officials said fifty victims of the Beslan school siege remain in a serious condition in Moscow hospitals, where 122 wounded are being treated. A senior health ministry official, Sergei Goncharov, said half of those most seriously hurt were children.
Apart from the 122 being treated in Moscow, 207 survivors are in hospital in North Ossetia, including 123 children. None of the latter are gravely ill, Goncharov said.
Russian officials also reported that the death toll from the three-day hostage crisis now stands at 338, while the North Ossetian interior ministry says 84 bodies - including those of 52 children - remain unidentified.
In the meantime, Italy-based AsiaNews reports that survivors of the Belsan tragedy are recounting the terrible siege that shocked the nation and the world. One hostage, Zalina, said that in the first days of the siege, as terrorists started killing some of the adults, children began praying aloud to beg them to stop. “A woman with a gun and explosives attached to her waist then came in,” she recalled. “She went to the children and told them ‘Stop praying to your God! Start praying to Allah!’”
Irina, a Christian woman who was also locked up in the school with her two children, said that during the ordeal she prayed and chanted religious hymns with her children. “I was praying with my boys that God would give the terrorists peace of mind to let the children out of that place,” she said.
News of two pastors of an Evangelical Christian-Baptist Church who had lost six of their eight children also made its way through Beslan and the Christian media. Brothers Sergey and Taimuraz Totiev were two pastors well respected in Beslan, a village where non Orthodox Christians are a minority. Some 2,000 children took part in the funeral ceremony during which the Totiev children were laid to rest.
“It was as if my own children had died,” some of those attending the funeral said. “Those boys and girls brought life to our streets.”
Among the crowd, some called for vengeance, but Rev. Sergey Totiev, who led the funeral service, answered the call saying: “We have suffered an enormous loss, but we should not take vengeance for as God said ‘Vengeance shall be Mine’.”
The Baptist pastor said he had no intention of leaving Beslan. “God has given us the strength to face the loss of our four children and He shall give us the courage to remain among our people, here in Beslan,” he said.
Of Taimuraz Totiev’s five children, Larisa (14), Liuba (12), Albina (11), and Boris (8) did not survive, only Magina did. And of Sergey Totiev’s three children, Dzerassa (15) and Anna (9) did not survive. Sergey’s son Azamat, whom the terrorists had used as a human shield, suffered injury in both eyes as a result of an explosion but is still alive.