Reformation as a pathway towards integration of Slavic Baptists in Australia
Slavic Baptists, who immigrated and are still immigrating to Australia, are descendants of the Radical Reformers, along with other Baptists around the world. They find themselves in a kind of ethnic-religious counterdirected relationship. Slavic Baptists in Australia are, ethnically speaking, a marginal group of immigrants alongside other Slavic people, but at the same time they are affiliated with the Australian Baptists. This paper aims to show that the radical-reformed religious worldview, faith and beliefs of the Australian Slavic Baptists facilitate their identification with mainstream Australian society through Australian Baptists and other Evangelical Christians, and helps them in their process of integration. One important criteria in the formation of the immigrants’ worldview is their understanding of God. Slavic Baptists see Him not as a national-territorial God, but as a gracious Saviour, the God who is in control of all affairs across all countries. God is omnipresent, perceived through His personal touch of care and provision. He is the God of hope, who always lifts up their spirits in times of anxiety and despair. This is all consistent with their experiences as displaced people, refugees in third countries and immigrants. This God welcomed them in Australia through His other children – the Australian Baptists, who are their brothers and sisters in Christ. The involvement with local Baptists helped them to establish Slavic Baptist Churches in Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney. It enabled them to establish and maintain networks with all kinds of Evangelical Christians. Slavic Baptists love Australia and Australians because of the good experiences they have with the Australian Baptists, who they consider their brothers and sisters. Therefore any local Baptist Church is their Church, and Australian Evangelicals belong to the category of our people, which is very important for immigrants.
As data indicates, Slavic Baptists are characterised more by religion (faith) than by ethnicity. The inclusive ‘Slavic’ rather than ‘Russian’ or ‘Ukrainian’ is distinctive evidence of this, while the very identification as being Baptists gives these people a sense of belonging to Australian Baptists and other Evangelical Christians. Being a part of world Evangelical Christianity in this way also gives them a sense of belonging to the whole family of God, which does not discriminate based on differences. Their Evangelical beliefs enable Slavic Baptists to hold a more inclusive globalised worldview. In their case the Radical Reformation with its multifaceted heritage and worldview serves as a pathway for integration into the mainstream Australian society.
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