Welcome to , 13 Feb 2011
Fortnightly Report on Christianity in Former Soviet Bloc Countries,
by Dr. Robert D. Hosken
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FIRST, THE NEWS:
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METROPOLITAN HILARION EXPRESSES SUPPORT FOR WCF MOSCOW DEMOGRAPHIC SUMMIT
from ChristianNewsWire

Metr. Hilarion (11 Feb) On February 10, World Congress of Families Managing Director Larry Jacobs was one of a group of evangelical leaders who were privileged to meet with Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev. The Metropolitan is head of International Relations of the Russian Orthodox Church, the second highest position in this church. In the course of a conversation with Jacobs, Metropolitan Hilarion expressed support for pro-life and pro-family positions, and both the WCF "Moscow Demographic Summit: Family and the Future of Humankind" (June 28-30) and a potential Russian bid for World Congress of Families VII in 2013/2014. The meeting was organized Dr. John A. Bernbaum, president of the Russian American Institute, and took place in Washington, D.C.

Select to see full-size! Besides Jacobs, guests included Michael Cromartie (Ethics & Public Policy Center), Dr. Janice Shaw Crouse (Concerned Women for America), Dr. Richard Land (Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, Southern Baptist Convention), Paul Marshall (Hudson Institute), Daniel Schmidt (The Bradley Foundation) and Mark Tooley (Institute on Religion and Democracy). EPPC, CWA and ERLC are all World Congress of Families Partners. Jacobs said the Metropolitan was enthusiastic about the upcoming Moscow event - the world's first Demographic Summit - and recognized the names of several Church officials on the Organizing Committee, among them Father Maxim Obukhov (head of Pro-Life Centers of the Russian Orthodox Church) and Father Dimitry Smirnov (Chairman of the Synodal Department on Relationships with the Armed Forces and Law Enforcement, and Chairman of the Church's Bioethics Commission). [read more...]


MEDVEDEV BLASTS NATIONALISTS, HAILS SOVIET "MULTICULTURAL VALUES"
from Reuters

(11 Feb) President Dmitrii Medvedev, facing challenges from Islamist insurgents and far-right nationalists, used a trip to a Muslim region of Russia on Friday to urge a return to what he called "tolerant Soviet values." Speaking in the regional capital of Bashkortostan, he attacked political extremism and called for measures to root out nationalism from the education system. "In Europe it has become fashionable to talk about the failure of policies aimed at multiculturalism," he said, speaking at a State Council meeting

"If we talk about the failure of multiculturalism, then entire cultures can be destroyed, which is a dangerous thing, and European countries should understand this," he said. European leaders, most recently British Prime Minister David Cameron, have pointed to a failure of state multiculturalism that they say has left many Muslim youths isolated and has increased the risk of radicalism in major European cities. In Russia tensions are high between the Christian Slavic majority and an estimated 20 million Muslims from the country's southern reaches, including the North Caucasus, where Moscow is fighting an Islamist insurgency. [read more...]


AFGHANISTAN: EXECUTION TRIAL OF CHRISTIAN CONVERT IS ILLEGAL
from World Evangelical Alliance

(12 Feb) The trial of an Afghan man, Said Musa, who may face execution for converting to Christianity, violates the Constitution of Afghanistan approved by consensus in 2004 and must be stopped. Forty-five year-old Musa was arrested after a television station in the capital city of Kabul broadcast images that allegedly showed Westerner Christians baptizing Afghans. Since the May 2010 telecast, Musa has remained in the infamous Kabul Detention Center and suffered sexual assault and torture with apparently no access to a lawyer to defend him.

"The arrest of Musa in the first place and the subsequent demands for death for apostasy violate at least three provisions of the Constitution of Afghanistan, leave aside the illegality of the inhuman treatment meted out to him in the prison," said WEA-RLC Executive Director Godfrey Yogarajah. "Article 130 of the Constitution states that courts can rely on the Sharia law as per the Hanafi jurisprudence only within the limits of the Constitution and only if a 'pending' case does not relate to any provisions in the Constitution or any other law," Yogarajah said.

"A case can be pending only is it is first registered under a law, but apostasy is not a crime recognized in the Constitution or any other statutory law," Yogarajah pointed out. "Article 27 of the Constitution says that no person shall be pursued, arrested or detained for an act that is not considered a crime. So under what statutory law was Musa arrested?" he asked. "Furthermore, Article 7 of the Constitution clearly marks Afghanistan's obligation to the international covenants the country is signatory to." One of the conventions Afghanistan has signed (in 1983) without any reservation is the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). [read more...]


UZBEKISTAN: "IT'S OUR SECRET"
by Mushfig Bayram, Forum 18 News Service

(9 Feb) In Uzbekistan, police in the central Syrdarya Region have raided and are preparing to prosecute members of an unregistered Baptist Church, Forum 18 News Service has learned. They also confiscated religious literature for "expert analysis", even though it had been bought from the registered Bible Society. Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church has spoken of the difficulties his church faces in Uzbekistan, noting in particular a ban on missionary activity and opening Orthodox schools, and inability to get state permission for new parishes. The state Religious Affairs Committee refused to discuss this with Forum 18.

Elsewhere, two short-term Baptist prisoners of conscience have been released. Judge Bobojonov as he initially introduced himself, of the court which convicted the Baptists, changed his mind about what his name was after Forum 18 asked him why the Baptists were jailed. Police Major Asliddin Mirzayev - who stopped the two Baptists hundreds of kilometres from his office - refused to explain why he did this. "It's our secret," he retorted to Forum 18. [read more...]


UZBEKISTAN: PRISONER OF CONSCIENCE "RELEASED BUT NOT FREE"
by Mushfig Bayram, Forum 18 News Service

(3 Feb) Former prisoner of conscience Dmitrii Shestakov, who was recently released from a four-year jail sentence continues to be placed by Uzbekistan under the severe restrictions of 'administrative supervision', Forum 18 News Service has learned. Among the restrictions Shestakov faces he has to report to police in person almost every week for one year, he may not be outside his home between 21:00 in the evening and 06:00 in the morning, he may not leave his home town without written police permission, and he cannot visit public places such as restaurants. The term of administrative supervision can be extended, and the punishments for breaking the supervision regime range up to imprisonment for four years

The authorities have refused to explain the reason for the restrictions to Forum 18. "He was released from prison but is not free," a local Protestant complained. Current known long and short-term prisoners of conscience jailed for exercising freedom of religion or belief are Muslims, Jehovah's Witnesses and Protestants. The latest two short-term prisoners of conscience are two Baptists jailed for distributing religious literature and carrying communion wine used in worship. [read more...]


PATRIARCH LUBOMYR HUSAR RESIGNS, SPEAKS OF HIS POSSIBLE SUCCESSOR
from Religious Information Service of Ukraine

(10 Feb) Ukrainian Greek Catholic Patriarch Lubomyr Husar said in an interview on Thursday, "My peers are pensioners. To transfer patriarchal power to any of them would be futile. Our church has a synodal structure that must search not for a person with extraordinary talents but for the leader of this community. The archbishop, father, and head of our church is the head of the synod. In our tradition, especially in the restored tradition, the synod is the governing body that sets the tone of the church's life. I am sure that our bishops will look for a man who will plan for the future, who will continue the work that has already begun, because through the synod, we all take part in the life of our church."

According to the hierarch, "a person capable of strengthing, supporting and promoting the church must be chosen. It is not about a single attribute but about the person's vision. We should take advantage of the internal unity of the church to move forward. We should look not only at the near but also at the distant future. We have already developed some strategies in our church for the next decade. These strategies should be put into practice and not remain words. Also, the proceedings that took place in the last 20 years should be continued with new force," said the Patriach Lubomyr. [read more...]


OTHER NEWS HEADLINES:

ORPHAN AGENCY IS SAFE AS RIOTS ERUPT IN ALBANIA
from Mission Network News

RIGHTS ADVOCATES LAMENT UKRAINIAN CHURCH SITUATION
from Religious Information Service of Ukraine

RUSSIAN ORTHODOX BISHOPS RESPOND TO PUBLIC CRITICISM
from Kommersant

HOLY SYNOD OF THE UKRAINIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH INVITES PATRIARCH KIRILL
from Russian Orthodox Church - Moscow Patriarchate

WORD OF LIFE BRINGING NEW LIFE
from Russian Ministries

BISHOP OF ASSOCIATION OF FULL GOSPEL CHRISTIANS DEMANDS FREEDOM FOR POLITICAL PRISONERS
from Belarus News

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


NOW, OUR VIEWS:

Click on the above second thumbnail photo (of the building) in our first news article, and you'll see the future of the Church! Without strong, healthy, good-sized families the Church - and Western civilization - have no future. That's why demographics are important. Chasing after happiness and material prosperity has all too often led to having fewer children or none at all, which in turn has brought on a "demographic winter." Meanwhile, in both the former USSR and Western Europe the Muslim population is growing at an alarming rate. It's interesting that in our second news article Russian President Dmitrii Medvedev came out against statements by other world leaders on "the failure of multiculturalism," while at the same time expressing great concern over the growth of Muslim extremism in southern Russia. You may notice that this issue has no news items on Christianity from our Russian news source Interfax-Religion - this is because nearly all of their recent articles concern the growing threat of Islam in Russia and the Middle East unrest.

The Origins of Religious Liberty

In the "Our Homecoming" article at www.Discover-Original-Christianity.info I detailed the sources of modern religious liberty: after Europe's population was decimated by the Thirty Yesrs War in the 1700s, the Austro-Hungarian Emperor Joseph II in 1782 issued an "Edict of Toleration" calling for religious toleration among the various Christian confessions of Europe. This was about the same time that the American colonies, with different Christian confessions dominant in each colony, were struggling for their independence, and adopted religious liberty. As the latest issue of Tikkun Ministries' newsletter states:

In all ancient cultures, religious order and governmental authority were tied together. The gods of one's tribe were tied to ancestors, to the chief of the tribe, and to the elders. They were totally intertwined. The idea of any separation was not on the horizon of human consciousness. ...Ancient Israel was a theocracy and was not enjoined to religious liberty. All Israelites were required to be loyal to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Sojourners and strangers in their midst were to show respect to the God of Israel and not engage in foreign practices on Israeli soil.

...So what is the origin of religious liberty? It began, I believe, with the Messianic Jewish community of the first century and was a foundation of early Christianity. In Acts 5, the religious authorities commanded the Apostles to not preach and teach in the name of Yeshua. Instead, the Apostles declared that they had to obey God rather than man, and that they could not but speak what they had seen and heard.

...When "the Way" spread to the nations and included Gentiles, this assertion of religious liberty became more pronounced. Followers of Yeshua declared that He was Lord, a challenge to the very idea that Caesar was Lord. Christians in the Roman Empire thus asserted two freedoms of conscience: to declare Yeshua is Lord and to deny that Lordship to Caesar. They also asserted that their persecution was unjust. The implications of this are enormous. Daniel Boyarin, an Orthodox Jewish scholar at Berkeley, California, argues that our idea of religion as a system of beliefs, ethics and practices that a person can choose from among a number of options, was an invention of Christianity.

...In the 17th century, the Baptist pastor Roger Williams surveyed the results of European religious wars and the violation of conscience in Puritan colonies. He wrote many tracts against the wars and bloody persecutions. For Williams, there was to be a separation of civil government from church government. Williams founded Rhode Island, the first state to enshrine genuine religious freedom. As in the U.S. Constitution, there was genuine religious liberty. For Williams the conscience must not be constrained, because true religion requires freedom of conscience, including the right to seek to persuade others of one's beliefs or lack thereof. This was revolutionary.

Williams and the founding fathers of the United States did not interpret this separation to mean that the State would not acknowledge God's basic law and their accountability to God. It was an institutional separation. It was assumed that a Judeo-Christian framework would be foundational for the state [editor's emphasis]. The law provided limits to liberty in such matters as for example, child sacrifice, or perverted religious sexual practices, prostitution, and child sexual abuse (all of which happens in some religions).

That last paragraph above is crucially important. As George Washington said, "Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle." Gradually, however, this notion of toleration spread to other religions represented in the U.S. and even to non-religious and anti-religious worldviews such as Humanism and Communism. But as British Prime Minister David Cameron just recently said, "multiculturalism has failed." This echoes German Chancellor Angela Merkel's speech last year on the failure of multiculturalism. The result is that today we have legal protection and toleration - even in some Christian(?) confessions - of homosexuality, cohabitation, and child sacrifice in the form of abortion - all leading to a decline in post-Christian population, while at the same time the Muslim population in Europe is growing rapidly.

This should lead us to search for and return to the Original Christianity that encourages strong, healthy families and doesn't condone the above sexual aberrations. Toleration can only continue to exist if all religious and secular worldviews in a given society will truly practice toleration. Only if we return to Original Christianity, will we stop the slide into allowing intolerant worldviews such as Communism and Islam to gain a foothold and eventually attempt to take over our Judeo-Christian civilization.

(Let us know what you think - use the online feedback form below, or go here to read and comment on previous issues!)


Prayer and Praise:
1. Praise God for the upcoming "World Congress of Families Demographic Summit" in Moscow this June, and pray for positive results.
2. Pray for clarity in Russian President Dmitrii Medvedev's public statements and real actions on multiculturalism in Russia.
3. Uphold in prayer Said Musa in the former Soviet colony of Afghanistan, who may face execution for converting to Christianity.
4. Pray for members of an unregistered Baptist Church in Uzbekistan's Syrdarya Region on trial for possessing religious literature.
5. Continue praying for former prisoner of conscience Dmitrii Shestakov, released but still under house arrest in Uzbekistan.
6. Ask the Lord to raise up a suitable successor to Ukrainian Greek Catholic Patriarch Lubomyr Husar, who is resigning to retire.
7.

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

  Your fellow-servants,

  Bob & Cheryl
 

p.s. There are two kinds of pain: the pain of discipline, and the pain of regret. The choice is yours.


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FEEDBACK:


from Mert, 02/15/11, 9:15am:
I totally agree that Original Christianity & Religious Liberty go hand in hand. Cyril, Roger Williams, and William Carey all had a glimpse of this power. I found the book Which None Can Shut, on the spread of the Gospel in the Arabian Peninsula to be another book of significant testimony to this fact.


Dear Mert, Thanks for your good feedback! I will try to locate the book you mentioned.

In Christ,
Bob


from Anonymous, 02/19/11, 12:02 am:
For awhile, I thought I'd been taken off your email list, and I missed receiving your messages & news. So, am happy to see they're still being sent thru to me! Such a blessing you are! God is so good. And I have much to write you also. May God Bless You!


Thanks for your encouraging note, ...!

In Christ, Bob


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