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Mount Calvary Is a Monument to Tragedy and Final Victory

On the scenic foothills of the Alatoo Range in northern Kyrgyzstan there is a spot that looks up to the peaks of the towering Celestial Mountains, and down across the valley to the city of Bishkek. They have built there a great monument complex in honor of the Kyrgyz people. It's name is Ata-Beyit.

But there is something different about this place. Most monuments of such a grand scale are built to commemorate national victories and grand achievements. This place, however, was built specifically as a monument to magnificent defeat. Specifically, there are three heartbreaking defeats that the Kyrgyz people remember together on that scenic hill.

There is a soaring monument to the defeat of 1916 when the Tsar Nicholas II decreed that all Kyrgyz men be conscripted into the Russian army to fight in the First World War. On that mountaintop some 100,000 died, either massacred by soldiers or lost in the brutal winter. The second monument on that hill remembers 1938 when at the personal instruction of Joseph Stalin, 137 leading citizens—writers, teachers, artists, and politicians—were rounded up and led up those hills to be murdered. The third monument remembers 2010, when eighty-four young people were lost in a single day, murdered for protesting against yet another brutal regime, standing in the way of freedom.

Nothing but tears on that mountain … but the Kyrgyz people believe these must forever be remembered for they are magnificent defeats. Despite the oppression of their worst enemies, and the tears of these most painful tragedies, the Kyrgyz people have not only persevered, but they are today a proud and thriving people.

Sometimes there are defeats so magnificent that they simply must be memorialized—and every Christian understands this. On the foothills, just outside of another great city, there is another site remembered with many tears and a monument to unthinkable injustice. And while it would be impossible to remember that place without being moved by its terrible tragedy, we remember it because of something so magnificent in that tragedy. On that terrible hill—by his wounds, we were healed. On that terrible hill—through his cross, we are saved. On that terrible hill—death may have won the day, but life-everlasting secured an unbreakable victory.

Some people might ask why go to such trouble to memorialize a mount of such great painful sorrow. We would say that some defeats are worth remembering, precisely because they contrast the magnificence of the final victory that overcame the evil of that place.

The Kyrgyz people have a mountain, and its name is Ata-Beyit. The people of God have such a mountain. Its name is Calvary.

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