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Russian church literature, photos move to Baylor

Jan. 20, 2010

By Sara Tirrito
Staff writer

After losing funding, the Keston Institute at Oxford University transferred its collection of Russian resources to Baylor, with the help of Dr. Chris Marsh. Marsh, the Director of the J.M. Dawson Institute of Church-State Studies and Director of the Keston Center, has since utilized these resources for his upcoming book, a portion of which is being paralleled in a documentary by 12 Point Productions.

Under the working title, "The Suppression, Survival, and Revival of Religion in Russia and China," Marsh's book focuses on the perseverance of faith despite persecution and communism in the two countries.

"I've written on who were the Orthodox, and what's the revival of the Pentecostal church like, and what are the relations like between the Orthodox church and the Russian government today, and I was going to write a book about that and I wanted to give a little bit of history," Marsh said. "I just came downstairs [to the Keston Center] and started accessing some of this material."

Marsh's motivation for the book, which he began writing in 2005, came from the realization that many people are unaware of the details of Russia's history of religious persecution.

"Nobody really knows about this stuff and people are forgetting, and today in Russia they're just kind of pretending like it didn't happen," Marsh said. "It's really motivated me to write this sort of study I'm writing."

Part of the book is also being used for a documentary, "Faith Defending," which will center around religious persecution solely in Russia.

The documentary is being put together by 12 Point Productions.

"We're using Keston and Chris Marsh for the factual side and then we're telling the story through the testimony of the survivors," Producer Kevin Gonzalez said. "Chris's info is absolutely crucial and necessary. If I didn't have it, I probably wouldn't have a documentary."

Marsh said about four graduate students have also been helping to gather the necessary materials for the documentary.

Doctoral candidate Lauren Tapley originally became involved with research at the Keston Center because of her thesis, which Marsh draws upon in his book, and is now also helping to find photos for the documentary.

"We have a real large photo collection of churches that were destroyed, religious prisoners, baptisms, a lot with KGB and authorities, some of the camps, some of homes that were invaded," Tapley said. "They gave me just kind of a list they wanted. I think it's great that they asked Baylor to do it and that they're using Keston because the collection is originally from Oxford; it gives us the chance to use it and opportunities that we wouldn't have otherwise had."

The production company is currently working on the pitch and plans to present it to Discovery Channel in the near future.

"We're going to put the pitch online as well," Gonzalez said. "We'd like to be done toward the end of the month."

Marsh hopes the documentary will also help spark interest in his book.

"The story that's being told in the documentary parallels chapters two, three and four in my book," Marsh said.

"The book will be out this summer, so it'll be out long before the documentary is. This way if people watch the documentary and they're like 'I want to read about this, I want to know all the figures,' they'll have the book to do it."