Welcome to , 30 Jan 2011
Fortnightly Report on Christianity in Former Soviet Bloc Countries,
by Dr. Robert D. Hosken
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from Reuters

Select to see full-size! (27 Jan) God is absent from a new spiritual guidelines the Russian Orthodox Church is drafting in tandem with Russia's ruling party, a newspaper said on Thursday. Instead justice, patriotism and solidarity top the list of the guideline, dubbed "Eternal Values: The foundation of Russian Identity," which the Church is to publish with the dominant United Russia party, headed by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. The moral guide lists the values in order of their importance in the eyes of the church and the party: 1. justice, 2. freedom, 3. solidarity, 4. unity, 5. self-restraint and sacrifice, 6. patriotism, 7. welfare and 8. love, the daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta reported.

The paper cited Church spokesman, Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, as saying the principles were based on how strongly they are "rooted in God's truth and in the life experiences that remain constant." The Orthodox Church has gained substantially in power in Russia since the fall of communism, forming close ties with Russia's political elite. But its dominance has drawn criticism from rights groups who say it's growing political role undermines Russia's secular constitution. [read more...]

by Felix Corley, Forum 18 News Service

(28 Jan) After a 22 January raid on Protestants in a private flat in Turkmenabad in eastern Turkmenistan, a court has imposed heavy fines on about 17 of those present, Protestants who asked not to be identified for fear of state reprisals told Forum 18 News Service. All are thought to have been fined under Article 205 Part 2 of the Administrative Code, which punishes "support for or participation in the activity of a religious group of religious organisation not officially registered in accordance with the legally established procedure."

Two children present were forced to stand before their entire schools and publicly insulted. Victims of other raids are often afraid to have their cases publicised, for fear of attracting further state harassment. Local people told Forum 18 that the fines represent between one and two months' average wages for those in an average state job. "I don't know how these people are going to pay the fines," one told Forum 18. State officials refused to discuss the case with Forum 18. The Administrative Code is being re-drafted, but previous legislative changes have not improved freedom of religion or belief in practice. [read more...]

from Interfax Religion

(25 Jan) The Russian Orthodox Church believes that the society must change its current value system to effectively resist terrorism. "In the consumerist society, an individual is too dependent on the material side of life and immediate goals and values, therefore, it is easy to disturb his/her balance and frighten him/her. And a terrorist who lives by another logic, which may even be perverted, is much less afraid of death," head of the Synodal Information Department Vladimir Legoyda said in a live interview to Dozhd TV channel.

According to him, the Church may give the "weapon" of values to the society for its fight with terrorism. "The fight with terrorism should be conducted both on technological and industrial levels and on the level of values," Legoyda believes. He noted that the ideology of the modern entertainment civilization is "aimed at creating the earthly paradise, therefore, any 'disorder in paradise' brings serious instability to society and exposes vulnerable points in the values of security in society." [read more...]

by Felix Corley and John Kinahan, Forum 18 News Service

(20 Jan) Nora Sarkisyan of Armenia's Justice Ministry has stated that draft Amendments restricting freedom of religion or belief will be changed to reflect the recommendations of a Council of Europe / Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) legal review. This found that the Amendments do not comply with international human rights law. However, Vardan Astsatryan of the Ethnic Minorities and Religious Affairs Department claimed "the draft Amendments were in accordance with international human rights standards."

Many human rights defenders and religious communities are concerned at what Pastor René Leonian described as "limitations on freedom of conscience, freedom of expression of our faith and limitation on human rights generally." Stepan Danielyan of the Collaboration for Democracy Centre thinks the Amendments "had the strong backing of Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisyan." But Maria Aghajanyan of the Open Society Foundations asked, "why does the government keep pushing laws in this area that get negative reviews?" Danielyan and Aghajanyan are organising a civil society-government round table "to get the government talking - this is a question of transparency," Aghajanyan told Forum 18. [read more...]

from Religious Information Service of Ukraine

(28 Jan) In an interview to RISU, Secretary of the Holy Synod of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kyivan Patriarchate (UOC-KP) Bishop Yevstratii (Zoria) of Vasylkivtsi said that the situation in the church life of Ukraine from 1991-1992 has been the result of the realization of the church-state plans of Moscow and called Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church "the main architect of the present divide of the Ukrainian Church."

At the same time, Bishop Yevstratii noted that in view of the close connection between the authorities and the church in Russia, the plan to liquidate the UOC-KP, disclosed in Patriarch Filaret's New Year's statement, cannot be called a plan of only the Moscow Patriarchate: "It is rather a Moscow or Russian plan that is to be implemented in Ukraine through the Moscow Patriarch and, probably, through other channels as well." According to him, the main element of the plan is the fact that the Kyivan Patriarchate "lost the support of the authorities," and the Moscow Patriarchate "has been granted the support of the authorities." In the opinion of the bishop, priests of the UOC-KP are being persuaded to transfer to the Moscow Patriarchate exactly on that basis [read more...]


from Aid to the Church in Need

from Forum 18 News Service

from Interfax Religion

from Religious Information Service of Ukraine

from Portal-Credo.ru

from Russian Orthodox Church - Moscow Patriarchate

See HOSKEN-NEWS Daily for more of the latest news!

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The first two news articles clearly illustrate the two sides of our theme for this issue: first, the Russian Orthodox Church serving as the ideological support for the "United Russia Party"; and second, an Evangelical church being raided and prosecuted because it hasn't been registered with the government of Turkmenistan. These point out the two extremes, so the question is: how do we achieve balance between these two worldviews?

Balancing Statist and Religious Worldviews

My interest in this question goes back to shortly after I had commited my life to Christ: in high school I wrote a term paper called "Christianity and Communism." Then in university I studied Russian and Soviet history and politics and the Russian language. I learned that shortly after the 1917 Communist Revolution, the revolutionaries arrested the Orthodox Patriarch and began murdering monks, priests and bishops and demolishing churches. They used the "divide and conquer" tactic, allowing the minority Evangelicals to function openly for about ten years, playing one side against the other. Then, after installing a puppet patriarch and subjugating the Orthodox Church, they turned against the Evangelicals and began persecuting them.

Two years after graduating in 1967, my wife and spent a few years in mission work travelling behind the Iron Curtain, and I translated, edited and printed materials for Christians in Central Europe and the Soviet Union. One item I translated was an appeal "To All Christians of the World" from the unregistered Evangelical Christians-Baptists in the USSR. The Communist Party had required all churches to register with the state and report their membership to the KGB so that they could control them. Children were forbidden to attend worship services or be baptized until the age of 18, and then if they were baptized and became active in a church, the KGB would ensure they would not attend university. Adults were often fired from their jobs, never given promotions, or only given the most difficult or menial work. These KGB tactics were used against both Evangelical and Orthodox believers. So some of these believers refused to register with the government, split off from the state-recognized Evangelical Christians-Baptists and began functioning as an "underground church."

This continued until shortly before the fall of the USSR in 1991, when we resumed travelling to and then living in Russia. There we met in person some of the unregistered Evangelical Christians-Baptists. We learned that although they were not being persecuted, they maintain their refusal to register and their "underground" mentality of disobeying any laws regulating their activities, including violating copyright laws by the illegal re-publishing of copyrighted Christian literature used by some registered Christian organizations.

A good example of this mentality is the Wall Street Journal article, Abuse Case Sparks a Clash Over Limits of Tough Parenting, about unregistered Evangelicals from Ukraine who were allowed to immigrate to the U.S. About 150,000 of them moved to the state of Oregon, where they kept to themselves, invisible to the surrounding American culture. Only when one of their children called the authorities because his parents "were obeying the Biblical command" to beat their children did they come to the authorities' attention. This arose because of the mistranslation of Hebrews 12:5-11 in the Russian Bible: the Greek word paideuo (teach, train, raise, punish or disipline) is always translated as "punish." The parents were sentenced to seven years each and lost their parental rights to their older six children who had been systematically beaten for several years.

Lest we conclude that child abuse is limited to conservative Christians, consider this article indicting the dominant secular mentality in the West: in The Lessons of Roe: Thirty Years of Learning the author writes (in Point 9): "Every child should be a wanted child. Now that Roe is 30 years old, every person in America under the age of 30 could have been aborted. Every child is a wanted child -- the unwanted ones were all aborted, to the tune of one abortion for approximately every three live births. So how come the rate of reported child abuse is so high? In the early years after Roe there were 60,000 cases of child abuse reported annually. Today there are three million cases reported annually, a fifty-fold increase. The reasons for this increase are debatable, but one thing's for sure, abortion didn't prevent it. Aborting "unwanted" children hasn't helped. Instead, it's taught us that an unwanted person has no right to live. A child might be wanted very much during pregnancy, and not-so wanted a few months later when she's crying in the middle of the night."

Now we see that the same old "divide and conquer" tactic is being employed in Russia and many of the former Soviet republics, but the roles are reversed: the state (in the form of the United Russia Party) is using the Russian Orthodox Church to advance its political goals, while gradually tightening the noose around non-conformist Christian confessions. In former Soviet republics such as Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan, and to a lesser extent in Russia, the authorities employ the old KGB tactic of "requiring" all religious organizations to register while actually not allowing many of them to register and then shutting them down, sometimes arresting and prosecuting their members. The question is: how long before the secret police of these former Soviet states consolidate their control, and then turn against the Orthodox Church?

So the underlying issue is how far Chistians should cooperate with governmental authorities, and how much should they insist on freedom of religion and non-interference on their activities by the government. Experience and history shows that each side can err. The ideal would be a harmonious relation between church and state, with neither side abusing its sphere of authority: "Give unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's." But this harmonious symphony has rarely been achieved. And now, with the rising threat of Islamic terrorism, it is convenient for the state to use "anti-terrorism" as an excuse to crack down on Christians as well as Muslims.

We've received lots of good feeback from our first two issues this year - go here for previous issues. Let us know what you think - use the online feedback form below!

Prayer and Praise:
1. With the new "Eternal Values: The foundation of Russian Identity," pray that Christian faith will not be co-opted by high-sounding secular "values."
2. Pray for those Protestants in Turkmenistan who were arrested and fined between one and two months' income for an unregistered religious meeting.
3. Remember in your prayers the victims of the terrorist bombing at Moscow's Domodedovo Airport, and pray for a new eternal value system in Russia.
4. Intercede in prayer for Christians in Armenia where constitutional amendments restricting freedom of religion or belief are being re-drafted.
5. Pray for the safety of Konstantin Grishchenko, Ukrainian Foreign Affairs Minister, who has spoken out against efforts to eradicate the Kiev Patriarchate.
6. Thank the Lord for our opportunity to minister in Russia and meet many kinds of Christians, Orthodox and Evangelicals, registered and unregistered.
7. Pray that Christians will strive for the proper balance between church and state, and not let themselves be controlled or co-opted by the state.

Select to see full-size!   Please remember to pray for the former Soviet bloc countries, and for...

  Your fellow-servants,

  Bob & Cheryl

p.s. I can do something. I cannot do everything, but that does not give me the right to do nothing.

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from Bob, 01/31/11, 2:25pm:
I read the Hosken-News and found your comments on the Evangelicals very interesting.

Hi Bob,

Thanks for your feedback!

In Christ, Bob H

from Phyl, 02/03/11, 6:56pm:
Thanks for this illuminating and disturbing information. Although it's overwhelming I can pray as I read the needs. God bless you, dear friend, for putting together all of this info. I pray for some understanding of why these things are happening. It's so unjust. Yet... I know that God is at work in some manner unknown at this point to so many I'm sure. Thanks again, Bob.

Hi Phyl,

Thanks so much for praying! Especially when we don't understand all that's going on in the world and why, we should lift these matters up to the Lord in prayer.

In Christ, Bob

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