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September 11 : Remembering Beslan

Introduction: On September 1, 2004, more than 30 Muslim terrorists attacked a school in the small town of Beslan, Russia. They held over 1,000 men, women, and children hostage for three days in a school there. On September 3, a fierce and chaotic battle erupted between Russian forces and the terrorists. Around 330 people were killed as a result of the Beslan terrorist attack; most of the dead were children.

Photos of the deceased line the gym walls

Jason Catizone of Calvary Chapel Pittsburgh, was so touched by watching the tragedy unfold on television, that he made several trips to Beslan and has been able to serve and minister there for about a year and a half (combined time).

Jason attempted to return in January of 2008, but was detained at a Moscow airport for around twenty hours, refused entrance, and then set back home.

Now here’s his moving story:

A mother weeps for the loss of her child

Six years have passed since the Beslan terrorist attack, but the reality is that time simply does not heal all wounds. I still keep in touch with many of the families that the Lord blessed me to minister to while living in Beslan, and I can testify that their tears remain.

Some weeks back, I was talking on Skype with one of the youth who survived the massacre (but lost his mother there). His name is Mairbek, and he is now in his early teens. We were discussing different topics and things, and he started recounting some of the details he remembers from having been held in the school with his mother.

Jason and Mairbek

He told how that one night he had moved to another area inside the school as it was somewhat cooler there; and as he mentioned his mother dying, Mairbek broke into tears. He then tried to control his weeping, and was angry at himself for crying, saying that he had promised God he wouldn’t cry about it anymore. (In this area of Russia, men are “not supposed to cry.”)

The Lord graciously allowed me to share that God had made him with emotions, and that such sorrow was normal, and that it wasn’t wrong for him to cry. Mairbek then started asking different questions about The Lord, and I was blessed to share some things from God’s word. Mairbek even said, “Hold on – let me get The Bible,” and then came back moments later and we read and discussed different passages together. It was one of the most amazing opportunities Jesus ever gave me to share with young Mairbek. But there was a lot of groundwork that had to be laid beforehand.

As it is nearing three years since I was denied entrance to Russia, I have come to realize more and more that the work of God simply cannot be hindered by anyone: not even by another country’s federal government. The Lord allowed me to physically live in Beslan and regularly visit many of the survivors and victims’ families.

Jason and Nazeera (the grandmother he lived with in Beslan; Nazeera is a very strong believer, and lost her teenaged granddaughter – Sofia, also a strong believer – in the terrorist attack)

But now that I am not there in person, the blessings of technology still enable His witness to go forth. Physical letters and photos and gifts can still be sent through the postal service; e-mails are sent back and forth; phone calls are still made; I’m able to keep in touch (even daily) with many of the youth there who are on what is kind of like Russia’s version of Facebook; and some of the families now even have Skype and webcams, as do I.

One of the families in Beslan had twin boys who were both among the hostages in the gym during the attack. One of the twins survived… the other did not. The boy who survived, Edik, is now entering university, and we keep in touch online. This year on September 3rd – the very day he gained his life back six years ago, though his brother tragically lost his – Edik called me on Skype.

It was an experience I don’t think I’ll ever forget. Having been in Beslan for three of the anniversaries, I can tell you assuredly that those days are filled with wailing and mourning such as you have probably never seen or heard before. And I know that Edik’s family is obviously one which suffered greatly again just a few days ago in remembering all that happened six years ago, and how they lost one of their children.

And so it was so precious and such a blessing to talk with (and see via webcam) Edik, two of his other brothers, his parents, and other family members as well. I was able to pass on our sympathies and that we remember them and pray for them, and they were very thankful. And it was also a time of much laughter; this is a very precious family, and we know each other well. And so there were many jokes, and just a lot of joy and happiness in general in being able to see and talk with one another once again.

I would ask you to please keep the dear people of Beslan in your prayers. Six years have passed, but there are reminders everywhere… quiet homes and streets, once noisy with children… survivors now unable to walk, while others still have shrapnel in their bodies… the great mental and emotional toll all this suffering has taken on them.

I know and am good friends with two Baptist pastors (who are also brothers) from Beslan, who lost a total of six children in the terrorist attack. Both men have bad heart conditions, and their wives also have great internal sorrow. Yet they all continue in ministry.

Six years have passed, but the sorrow remains.

Jason and Edik

I, for my part – with the help of God – have resolved that Beslan and the shattered families there will not be forgotten. We must pray for them, and we must let them know that they are loved, remembered, and prayed for.

As time passes, the world remembers these families less and less, which is why it is all the more critical that we believers in Jesus Christ continue to pour forth love, comfort, and the witness of Christ. Please pray for me as well, for His wisdom, strength, and guidance. Thank you so very much, and all glory be to The Lord Jesus Christ!

Note: If you would like more information about this ministry, or would like to be kept up-to-date on what’s going on with this and other ministry opportunities which The Lord is blessing Jason to be involved in, please e-mail him at and please

Jason Catizone

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