“Missiology after Maidan”: A Chance for Ukrainian Protestants

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Maidan opened a new era in relations between Protestants and Ukrainian society. For the first time an unprecedented openness and confidence in religion were united with the highest le`vel of exactitude and seriousness. The church’s understanding of its mission in this world was modified by the events and demands of Maidan. Now there is an aspect of mutuality in relations between the Church and society. In the context of Maidan, missiology has the possibility to be holistic and actual. The Church has a unique historical chance to see society as a very active subject who is able to ask serious questions, not a passive recipient of spiritual care; to see itself as a part of current events and a servant of missio Dei, not a centre of missionary activity. This missiology overcomes ecclesio-centrism and rehabilitates the people to be co-workers in God’s mission of salvation and the establishment of His Kingdom as the highest trans-social and trans-ecclesiological reality.
Students of religion point to the appearance of a new form of religiousness called ‘civil church’. This name originates from ‘bilateral missiology’ where the Church is a part of civil society and the society sees the Church as a part of itself.
However, a number of missiological questions arise: Where was the place of the Church and Christians at Maidan and where is it now in the society after Maidan? How can Christians serve the people? What is the relation between serving God and serving people, in the context of Maidan? Is it possible to attach a dynamic character not conflict to the missiological tensions between patriotism and universalism?
Leaders of various Protestant churches have expressed their opinion about these issues. It seems that they prefer missiology not political science. Now the Protestant theologians need to build a holistic vision of ‘mission’ taking into consideration different Protestant views.
This author’s hypothesis, based on different Protestant materials and documents states that Maidan’s events gave Protestants a unique chance of socialization in Ukrainian society; Maidan gave a possibility and a right to be a part of building of a national identity, to fulfil Protestant potential in such a crucial period of time, to lay a valuable foundation for the future of the country.
The author sees his task in combining different theses, views, and opinions on these Maidan events in order to develop this vision of ‘missiology after Maidan’ which would correspond to the understanding of ‘the Church after Maidan’ and demands of ‘the society after Maidan’, accordingly.
Missiological Motives, Questions and Theses in the Context of Maidan
Missiological motives of Protestant churches of Ukraine (the majority belong to the evangelical Protestants: Baptists and (neo-)Pentecostals) dominate. These motives determine a social stand among Protestants. If the main task is a mission ‘the Great Commission’ given by Christ, then other issues are secondary. Theology, enlightenment, and charity serve or attend missiology. Under normal conditions, as a minimum, Protestants are interested in at least the freedom of the church to exist within the limits of the physical church or temple building. As a maximum they would like to have both freedom of conscience and the ability to proclaim the Gospel. In the context of Maidan, this fragmentary approach of church mission is quite problematic, inadequate, and scandalous.
An incarnational model of evangelism could be a good alternative to a social, self-sufficient, and intra-church missiology. This incarnational model implies a possibility for being put into cultural, social, and political practices.
‘Missiology after Maidan’ is only possible in incarnational options. Incarnational missiology cannot be partial, accordingly; it should be founded on the dogma of the Incarnation and integrated into social teaching, political theology, and the theology of culture.
The content and direction of missiology are connected with the issue of the essence and nature of Christianity; an understanding of mission follows from the theology of salvation, the Church, and eschatology. Roman Nosach argues these issues in his article ‘Ukrainskiy razlom’,
Some people see their life after conversion as forced waiting for either the Coming of Christ or their own death. Then a sense of earthly life is to evangelize as many people as possible. The Church is a prototype of a ship or an ark sailing the sea of evil and death. It is most important to keep the ship, fill it with passengers, and reach the final destination. Other people consider the Church’s destination is to be the light and salt in this world. They think the Church should proclaim God’s reign in this world and the new world as well. There is a need not only to pray… but also to fight for justice.
Church discussions about Maidan’s reality have raised missiological questions. Should this mission be partial or integral, proclaimational or transformational, apolitical or politically committed, indiscriminately kind or truthful on principles, cosmopolitan or national? Should the Church have been at Maidan? Has the Church got a special mission in this context? Is there a unique chance for the Church and mission in such a critical period?
As long ago as November 28, 2013, Vyacheslav Nesteruk, the President of the All-Ukrainian Union of Associations of Evangelical Christians Baptists, said to Russian Baptist journalists that ‘we have no activity at Maidan’. Consequently, Ukrainian Baptist theologians produced an open letter,
This view simplifies the social position of Ukrainian Baptists and reduces it to extreme neutrality. The Church cannot live in some neutral zone out of society and its needs. Ukrainian Baptist churches do not call people to political demonstrations and violent actions, but encourage people to make a responsible personal choice. Ukrainian Baptist churches call people to intercession for victims, help for those who are in need, prayer for peace, truth, and prosperity of our nation. Let us call ourselves to intensify our prayers for the Ukrainian nation, to help, for God’s defense, peacemaking, and evangelism in this difficult time. We can take care of people in different ways; however, we cannot be indifferent to people’s needs.
Two missiological approaches were revealed out of this discussion. The first approach argues that the Church should be at the center; the second gives priority to Christ and teaches people to see His work and the Kingdom of God. According to the first approach, salvation can be found in the Church, so, there is a need to call people there. According to the second approach, the Church is a sign of God’s Kingdom; the Church should go to people and see the center of its activity among them not within itself. Maidan challenged the ‘missiology of the Church’ and gave stimulus to the ‘missiology of the Kingdom’.
Anatoliy Kalyuzhnyy, the leader of the Alliance of Independent Evangelical Churches, suggests the ideas of ‘missiology of the Kingdom’ by saying that Maidan’s events were the result of the work of the Holy Spirit and God’s presence among protesters. He argues,
It is a misunderstanding to wait until people will come to you. We need to go to them. The activities of Maidan and their outcome may decide the fate of the people. I am sure that the Church must be there as well. God is everywhere. However, God strongly reveals Himself where there is the spirit of love and community, hope and dream of faith which God gives. If you would like to experience special God’s presence, then go to Maidan. However, go there not for 10–15 minutes. Go there and serve: scavenge a street, encourage people, feed them, share the Gospel, pray. Jesus came into this world to serve the people. To give is more important that to take. This is our mission in this world. We need to be there. I am sure if Jesus would be physically present among us, then He will be there together with us.
Thus, waiting for people to come to the church is an ecclesio-centrist way of missiology and the movement of this mission will be centripetal. On the contrary, a missiology of the Kingdom understands the Church as a center of outgoing activity towards people and teaches us to see Divine Providence in all world events.
According to Valeriy Antonyuk, ‘We need to see God, His guidance and implementation of His plans in everything that is happening, and get added evidence that all biblical prophecies are being fulfilled in our generation.’ On the one hand, missiology ignores socio-political processes, however, on the other – it tries to recognize God’s work and the possibility of participation in that work.
Two types of missiology are different in understanding of people’s needs not only in its center and vector. The missiology of the Church puts the emphasis on only spiritual needs such as salvation. The missiology of the Kingdom integrates various needs (spiritual, personal, social, political, cultural, and economic) into a holistic concept of salvation (liberation, reconciliation, transformation, and restoration).
According to Peter Kovaliv, a Pentecostal theologian,
Salvation cannot be limited merely to outward ritualistic behavior or purely personal spiritual experiences. Salvation is restoration of the whole person and returns his life to the fullness of God’s plan for man. Every person is a social being. Therefore, his salvation is connected with his social life… and directed towards spiritual-moral changes of whole society.
According to pastor Mykola Romanyuk, Maidan became a symbol of the new missiology,
Maidan stimulated social commitment and is an inspiration to evangelize… helped the Church (the Church wanted it) to face the society. If you would like to serve people in their spiritual and physical needs, then you do not need to follow their views. All you need is just to be with society.
This thesis carries an aspect of radicalism, because mission is to be with people, to live with them, not only to call people to the Church or to serve people. The mission is not to guide, carry or call. The mission is to be the light and salt for this world.
On January 17, 2014, Protestants organized the roundtable ‘Maidan and the Church’. The roundtable passed a resolution, which declared missiological statements as well as political,
The main task of the Church is to be ‘the salt’ and ‘the light’ in this difficult time. It implies: uncompromising condemnation of every sin in spite of political position; calling both authority and nation to penance; showing people the way of salvation through Jesus Christ; helping people in their needs; and bringing hope in this world. We believe that Maidan’s events will become a starting point for revival and renewal of the whole Ukrainian society by God’s mercy, people’s prayers, and Christian work.
In that context, mission is not only repentance. Mission is linked with condemning the wrongs, helping, working, and encouraging renewal of society as well.
Grigoriy Komendant, the ex-President of the All-Ukrainian Union of Associations of Evangelical Christians Baptists, pointed out the presence of the Soviet alienation syndrome,
After the breakup of the USSR, we made a difficult decision to create independent national church unions and the Euro-Asian federation of unions. Not all people were ready for this serious step. However, it was time to make that decision. The old generation did not understand those changes. They did not understand a new concept of mission. Why? There was the Church. It was enough. Everyone had become accustomed to the Church which lived its own life. There was no need to be committed to the mission. However, a strong Church has an influence on a country. It is our hope. Now the Church cannot lapse into a cocoon of self-isolation as it did fifty years ago. There is need to create a new politico-prophetic vision and to work in it. We cannot be ‘cavemen’.
Therefore, Maidan has become a turning point where the missiology of the closed and self-sufficient Church is transforming itself into a missiology of the socially responsible and open Kingdom. In this context, every Christian, not only professional evangelists, can become an agent of mission. Grigoriy Komendant argues,
I agree that we need to expand an understanding of mission; because mission is much more than the work of some missionaries. Unfortunately, our successful politicians-Christians have rather got lost. They came into politics; however, they do not know what to do next, how to use these opportunities. Materialism has seized churches and they have become business rivals, instead of using their possibilities for an extension of Christian influence.
The post-Soviet Church did not have a missiological vision; its potential of influence was unused. Maidan became a place of a meeting of socio-active Protestants. Here an agenda of a new missiology was formed. This new missiology is sensitive to human freedom and dignity, ecumenically open, and politically responsible.
Here is the testimony of one Protestant activist Alexander Bychkov,
The event of the dispersion of Maidan was like a burial of freedom in my country. I decided that I needed to resist. I am sure that our whole life needs to be submitted to our faith; and there are no reasons to separate political and social activity from this. I think that some Christian appeals such as, ‘Let us go to Maidan and start to evangelize,’ are better than merely ignoring those events in the center of Kiev. Nevertheless, it seems quite an inadequate approach. These appeals put me off. I am glad to hear preaching bishops who always are with people and compassionate for the future of the nation.
In other words, a mission that ignores the future of the people and the country and has interest only in salvation is not ethical for ‘Protestants at Maidan’. Christian society rejected those churches which went to Maidan in order to advertise themselves and ‘preach Christ not politics’.
The center of the Protestant ‘mission’ was the Prayer Tent. However, there was not only prayer. As Anatoliy Denysenko witnessed,
Active brothers and sisters decided to worship God at cold and dangerous Maidan, instead of inside warm and safe church buildings. The Prayer Tent became a symbol of Christian social activity. Christians understood their responsibility for the country’s future. Someone was supporting these activities with finances, another was sewing sleeveless jackets with the slogan ‘Pray for Ukraine’; somebody was on duty, others were bringing food and the Bible, etc. All those who participated in church ministry at Maidan understood that a prayer should go along with actions and actions should go along with a prayer.
Those Christians were missionaries, because they responded to people’s needs in the name of Jesus Christ. First of all, there was a need for hope, God’s protection, faith in justice, and love for each other as different parts of one free nation. There also was the need for food, clothes, beds, medical aid, and physical force.
The Church faced new needs and possibilities for mission after Maidan: peacemaking work between different sides and victims of conflict. The next day after the escape of President Yanukovych, Valeriy Antonyuk appealed to Baptists by his ‘The Word of Reconciliation’,
We passed with our nation through the difficult times. We were serving people by prayer and sharing the Gospel, voluntary and medical aid, clothes and food. Now there is need for an active ministry of reconciliation which can keep our nation and country united.
On June 3, 2014, the Ukrainian Interchurch Council adopted a resolution ‘The Church in Times of Social Chaos’, which appealed for
the ministry of peacemaking … to show Christian love and mercy upon wounded people and migrants regardless of political opinions, nationality, social position, and religious convictions; to be a national conscience and prophet by calling the society to dignity, morality, peacefulness, and law-abiding actions; to evangelize and share the Gospel; to teach the principles of Christian morality and decency. The Church must support historic-cultural enlightenment among the Ukrainian population and create a list of documents of social issues in collaboration with interconfessional, state, and international organizations. This list should include: The Social Manifest of the Ukrainian Interchurch Council, The Project of National Program of Spiritual-Moral Revival of Ukrainian Society in 2015–2025.
It is notable that this resolution includes a list of various directions of mission, because without them ‘evangelism’, ‘works of mercy’, and ‘word of reconciliation’ would not be possible in order to achieve transformation of society. Moreover, there was the statement of two important documents. The first document concerns the social stand of the Church; the second one – a vision of our country’s future from the Church perspective.
Reopened prophetic-critical, socio-transformational, cultural-educational, and politico-educational functions have become a matter of many documents and statements of this new generation of Protestant theologians and writers.
According to Fedor Raychinets, the Church has a mission towards the state, not only toward society. If the Church does not perform both of these functions, then it will break its mission. He argues,
The Church needs to remind both itself and the state of God’s commandments that are higher than state laws … The Church has a responsibility to remind everyone that each and every law needs to defend God’s image and the dignity of human life, not to destroy and humiliate these images. This Church position … can both annoy the state and make the Church vulnerable … Many people think that if the Church will be closer to the state or political party, then it be more effective in its mission. However, this is a big mistake. Then the Church will lose its identity and loyalty to God’s mission. There is a confusion of loyalty.
Maidan has become an external stimulus of church liberation from forced placement inside the socio-political system and self-restrictions. The Protestant Church still is at the beginning of its Exodus. Taras Dyatlik points out that,
We were focused on preservation of the form of worship, music, and traditions. We did not understand that the Exodus changed form, style and traditions. Only God is unchangeable. We condemned those who were trying to transform some forms, music, and traditions. We seemed to think and feel that those changes were very complicated, because they raised new questions without answers. Now we are trying to get on with ‘the spiritual Pharaohs’ and ‘the spiritual Egypt’, instead of serving as a prophetic voice for them.
The Protestant publicist writes that ‘a free life with God’ liberates the Church from self-business in order to serve at the center of society. According to Oleg Turlak, Protestant churches found themselves not ready for this freedom and mission ‘without walls’. He says,
Appeals to an active participation in the life of our country and decision-making face misunderstanding and apathy, ‘What are you talking about? Is it about Maidan? Oh, no!’ Evangelical churches of the former USSR are more associated with worship services within the walls of church building then an eager activity outside of the range of the church building. The euphoria of mass evangelization in the nineties has disappeared. People thought ‘we will conquer the whole world for Christ’. Now Christians are absorbed in their church issues; they forgot of which country they are citizens. Probably, Christians feel deep apathy because of constant political, economic, and social problems. Hyper-spiritualization of biblical texts brought Christians to lose touch with reality.
Young theologians joined in the discussion of inevitable consequences for the theology of mission after Maidan. Dmytriy Byntsarovskiy suggested three important directions for possible Ukrainian ‘liberation theology’,
It is better to focus on civil society instead of poor people; the interests of civil society do not always show the interest of the whole nation; the theology of mission should remain ecclesiastical, because it cannot be out of church even for the sake of Maidan.
Alexander Bychkov tried to explain a connection between mission, church growth, and social ministry,
On the one hand, a missionary does not need to be so unselfish as to not wish for church growth. On the other, a missionary does not need to be so interested in his desire for church growth in order to make his social ministry conditional on it. If there is clearness of both purposes for him and other people, then he will be honest, unselfish, and interested also.
Protestants of Donbas, whose church buildings (orphanages and residential treatment centers as well) were occupied by terrorists and turned into their headquarters, were forced to abandon their strategies of church growth. They needed to return to a simple form of mission by practical help. According to pastor Peter Dudnik,
Christians, who are in the thick of the military events, serve people daily by sharing food, bringing medicine, and evacuating people to places where they would be safe from the bombing etc. There is not only merely the death of innocent civilians and bursting of shells in our city. There is the real persecution of Christians. The terrorists took many of our brothers hostages; others needed to escape from the city. The church buildings are occupied … We pay for our Christianity and our faith in God. However, we made a choice of serving people in spite of political opinions or colors of a flag. We acknowledge two groups of people: those who were born again and those who still are in need of God’s salvation. We often do not say that we are church representatives; however, we do not try to hide it. I often say that we are civilians just as many others; that we love God and people; that we would like to help others and do this for free … The Church was returned to an active life in such a difficult period of life.
The pastor of the Protestant church called ‘God’s Assembly’ in Donetsk and coordinator of ‘Prayer Platform’ Sergey Kosyak suggested even a more minimalist mission program,
We just pray. We do not call for violence or political parties. I take people as sinners in spite of pro-Ukrainian or anti-Ukrainian opinions. I call people to pray for Ukraine by kneeling before God, because I think that a humility before God is our only salvation.
Missiology after Maidan attempts to be holistic, means to balance the interests of the Church and society, ‘spiritual’ and ‘earthly’ issues, individual and political dimensions; however, to be ready for minimalism, means to respond to the people’s primary needs, instead of developing a strategy of church growth.
Geography of ‘Mission after Maidan’
After the collapse of the USSR, Ukraine remained a part of post-Soviet space and Eurasia became the main field of missionary work. Many Ukrainian churches were participating in the processes of Central Asia and Russia through missionary activity. However, there has been the development of an anti-Ukrainian mood and extrusion of Ukrainian missionaries recently, because of state policy. Therefore, Ukrainian Protestant missionaries have redirected their activity to internal mission, spiritual care of the Ukrainian diaspora, and non-Christian Third World countries.
I would like to relate examples of how Maidan’s events have had an influence on identity of Protestant missions. I know very well the history of these Christians organizations (to which I am going to refer); actually, I have participated in their history as well. So, I can say that those changes were speeded up and confirmed by the events of Maidan.
The first example is linked to the organization ‘The Ukrainian Fellowship of Evangelical Students’ (UFES). It is a subdivision of a world organization ‘The International Fellowship of Evangelical Students’ (IFES). UFES is part of regional association IFES-Eurasia. For three years the National Committee of Directors of UFES has tried to move from IFES-Eurasia to IFES-Europe. The activists of UFES took an active missionary and voluntary part in the events of Maidan. Now the leaders of RFES (‘The Russian Fellowship of Evangelical Students’) and IFES-Eurasia have accused their Ukrainian colleagues of participation in political upheaval. They said that UFES brought discredit on the whole student movement in Eurasian countries, because all leaders of FES look like westernists and mutineers. Therefore, the leaders of UFES decided to speed up the process of withdrawal from IFES-Eurasia. There were very intensive negotiations with the leadership of IFES-Eurasia during the last months. Unfortunately, there still is no resolution or results, because the leaders of IFES-Eurasia think that UFES must be a part of the Eurasian community, instead of developing into a European community.
The second example is linked to the missionary organization known as ‘Russian Ministries’ in the West and the Association ‘Dukhovnoye vozrozhdeniye’ in the post-Soviet countries. Since 1992 the mission had a central office in Moscow with a big staff. All resources and projects were coordinated from this ‘Moscow center’. In 2005 a process of mission restructuring began. The mission was transformed from a centralized organization into a network structure with a center in Kiev (Irpen). There also was a search for new name for the organization which could correspond with new political realities and not compromise the ministries in Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Moldova. Probably, now the word ‘Eurasian’ will be used instead of ‘Russian’. It is not a typical example for the Ukrainian context, because the mission is not going to change the focus of its ministry in the whole post-Soviet space (including the ministry in Russia). It is interesting that the mission prefers to coordinate all its projects from Ukraine even on the Eurasian scale.
Thus, names and titles can fix the deep changes in mission understanding, searching for conformity with the new regional and geopolitical reality, and directions of its work.
The shift from Eurasia to Europe has already occurred for many Ukrainian Protestant missions. This process of reorientation has been drawn out during the last one and a half decades, when Protestants felt the ingratitude of Russian society and realized the needs of the Ukrainian diaspora. If the missionary direction was in an easterly direction in the first years of religious freedom, then recently it has been westerly.
In addition, there has been an extension of needs of internal mission. Ukraine (and Moldova) were both country-donors during the last years. The best missionaries and pastors went to Siberia, Yakutia, and Central Asia etc. Hundreds of missionaries still are in those places. Meanwhile, our recently transformed Ukrainian society has become the most perspective evangelization field needing missionaries.
Finally, a shift from globalism to ethnocentrism has happened in the history of Ukrainian Protestant mission. There has come an understanding that the Gospel needs to be preached first to our own nation not others; that disciples of Christ are called to be ‘witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth’ (Acts 1:8). It means to be ‘witnesses in Kiev and in all Ukraine and Eastern Europe, and to the end of Eurasia’.
On March 27, Valeriy Antonyuk appealed to the Baptist Church for active evangelization in Ukraine,
Today God is speaking unusually to Ukraine. This is the time for analysis of the past, consideration of the present, and preparation for the future. There are a lot of churches and Christians in Ukraine. We were glad to serve others in the past. However, today we are asking you to serve Ukraine.
Maidan as a Need and Opportunity
Maidan has become a chance for renewal of Protestant missiology, the finding of integrity and interactivity, when it covers all aspects of human life by Christian witnessing and care; when missiology is willing to listen to people and to learn from them no less than to speak to them and teach them.
Maidan also has become a unique chance for Protestant churches to be a part of transforming a socio-political movement. These global and deep processes which are transforming Ukraine as both country and nation. Ukrainian Protestantism has a unique opportunity to become one of the national churches which will be respected by society and other confessions.
The most serious crisis in the history of Ukraine has become the greatest opportunity for Protestant missions and the Church. Before Maidan our society looked at the Church in the light of its historical meaning and degree of political influence (proximity to authority). After Maidan society looks at the Church in the light of its ability to respond to the needs of people. Therefore, ‘historical’ and ‘evangelical’ churches have an even chance of public recognition. For a long time Protestants have been ranked as sectarians by Ukrainian society; thus, they have habituated themselves to that position and, probably, would not risk changing it, if Maidan had not occurred. In other words, society gives huge credit (confidence, recognition, and freedom of action) to Protestant churches right now. To fulfill this credit is a difficult task. Protestants did not ask for this, but to reject it would be a shame.
However, there has been no sense in talking about the marginal character of Protestants after Alexander Turchynov, an evangelical Christian and leader in Maidan became the Interim President (till May 26, 2014) and the Head of the Ukrainian Parliament.
In these circumstances, society stopped being separated from the Church or ‘missionary field’, but instead it became a natural environment where the Church has a responsibility for political, social, cultural, and ‘missionary’ activity as well. It is a unique historical chance for Ukrainian Protestants to move from mission as a specific activity to being with society in all aspects of its life; to move from external mission (church-‘world’-church) to internal mission (Kingdom-church-‘world’-Kingdom); to move from a marginal character to social; to move from ministry in Ukraine to understanding its own Ukrainian identity; to move from sharing the Gospel to being a transforming presence (from proclamation to Reformation).
Reformation Mission
There are two concrete needs of society for Protestants (consequently, Protestant churches may reconsider and extend the definition of mission) besides those already mentioned: needs in charity, words of reconciliation, a prophetic voice and spiritual and moral education. There are needs for a ‘new evangelization’ of Ukraine and Europe (here the Protestant understanding of Christianity in the aspect of personal relationship with God and priority of the Gospel take on special significance for traditional confessions and the nominal Christian majority as well; in this context, Protestant mission is in helping nominal orthodox believers to become evangelical orthodox believers, not to transform them into Protestants) and the Protestant factor of Europeanization of Ukraine (which means reopening the ‘spiritual background’ of Europe and retransmission of ‘Protestant’ values, ethics, and models of public life).
The ‘Mission’ of Protestant churches is becoming both evangelistic and civilized in the light of historic-cultural peculiarities and urgent needs of society. It is a reunion of Ukraine and Europe where there is no need to make a choice between European and Christian, and where European and Christian are reconsidered in the light of a ‘Protestant’ reading of the Gospel. In other words, it is ‘the Reformation mission’ of Ukraine and Europe, Ukrainian and European Christianity. It is the Christian analogue of ‘the Maidan revolution’.
Reformation is a demand of Maidan to the Ukrainian society and the Ukrainian Church. Protestants should know better than others what Reformation means. There was not a renewal of Europe and Christianity without the Reformation. There will not be a renewal of Christian and European Ukraine without a Reformation. Protestants have a unique opportunity to make it as their mission.

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