In the coming days, the winter Olympiad will open in Sochi, Russia. The attention of the entire world will be focused on the athleticism and skill of the participants. The costliest Olympics ever (over $51 billion in a number of media reports) still have some operational problems. Some hotels are not finished; others are not expected to open on time. Not only is the water in Sochi undrinkable, hotels warn guests not to use the bathroom water to wash their faces. Some have suggested that much of the excess cost of the Sochi Games is because of corruption, with tens of billions allegedly stolen by President Putin’s cronies and political favorites. Some have gone so far as to suggest (without any direct evidence so far) that many of the International Olympic Committee members were bribed to choose Sochi over the runner-up city of Salzburg, Austria. (Yes, Sochi, the first city to host an Olympics in a war zone, was chosen over Salzburg, the city of Mozart, great desserts, and a well-established infrastructure. Nothing to see here, of course.)
Today I want to call for prayer for Russia as the Sochi Games are located in one of the most violent areas of the world. The Kremlin has mounted the most extensive security operations ever in the history of sporting events to guard against militant Islamic terrorists. The Sochi Olympics have focused the world’s attention on Russia’s most-wanted terrorist, Doku Umarov, and the threats posed by terrorist attacks, such as the ones in Volgograd that killed 34 people in December when Islamic terrorists attacked mass transit. Today in Russia, men, women, and children are trafficked for forced labor and prostitution, with Russia women trafficked around the world. Russian organized crime gangs have a stranglehold on the Russian banking system, and Russian gangs heavily influence many businesses. Corruption in Russia is endemic, as is alcoholism and drug use. Russia has the highest level of HIV/AIDS in Europe, where it is spread primarily through the use of shared needles, and infections are growing at Europe’s fastest rate. Tragically, Russia reports more abortions per year than live births, and the Russian population drops by an estimated 500,000 people each year, notwithstanding the government’s attempts to reverse that trend. At the same time, an estimated 800,000 orphans in Russia live in utter squalor. One million more children live on the streets, and earn their subsistence by begging, prostitution, and by working as drug runners.
In the coming weeks in particular, please pray for Russia and its people. As the eyes of the world are focused on Russia, please pray that tens of millions in Russia will embrace spiritual change that leads to a biblical faith, and that they find a true future hope that exists only in the Lord Jesus Christ. And please remember to pray also for the safety of the Sochi Olympics.