|FIRST, THE NEWS:||
(Please note that the "prayers" link in the heading will take you to the current issue's "Prayer and Praise" list.)
RUSSIAN CATHEDRAL PLAN FOR PARIS SITE SPARKS SPY FEARS
from Building Design
(23 Mar) The Franco-Russian company Sade-Arch has sparked fears of cold war-style espionage in the heart of Paris with its plans for a $45 million Russian Orthodox cathedral beside the Eiffel Tower. The architect has unveiled plans for a golden onion-domed building with a huge glass solar-panelled roof. The highest dome would reach 27m (90ft). The firm's chief architect Manuel Nunez Yanowsky said the roof was designed to evoke an immense waterfall and "the veil of the Mother of God".
The firm, founded by Nunez Yanowsky and Miriam Teitelbaum in 1991, was chosen from a shortlist of 10. But the scheme has found itself at the center of a political storm with the French worrying the cathedral could become a Russian spy base. French counter-espionage agencies are concerned because the man overseeing the project, Vladimir Kozhin, is a former KGB agent, the Daily Telegraph reported. French intelligence has detected a significant rise in Russian spy activity since the election of President Sarkozy in 2007, it added. [read more...]
UZBEKISTAN: "ANTI-TERROR" RAID ON OLD PEOPLE'S HOME
by Mushfig Bayram, Forum 18 News Service
(22 Mar) Six Baptists who led Sunday worship in an old people's home near Uzbekistan's capital Tashkent face criminal and administrative charges after an "anti-terror operation" against their service, Baptists told Forum 18 News Service. Asked why the authorities halted the service and harassed participants, deputy police chief Major Sofar Fayziyev - who took part in the raid - told Forum 18: "They could not produce any proof that they had authorisation for their activity."
Elsewhere, three Baptists were fined after police raided a Sunday morning church service. As happens frequently, the court verdict ordered the destruction of Bibles and other confiscated Christian literature. And Judge Abdumumin Rahimov who handed a massive fine to a young resident of Navoi for transporting Jehovah's Witness literature insists that "the main purpose of the punishment is not revenge against the offender, but teaching him to respect the law". [read more...]
75 OF 100 VICTIMS OF RELIGIOUS INTOLERANCE ARE CHRISTIANS - METROPOLITAN HILARION
(24 Mar) Head of the Synodal Department for External Church Relations Metropolitan Hilarion cited data according to which Christians prevail among victims of religious intolerance. "According to the data of non-governmental organization Aid To The Church In Need 75 of 100 victims killed from religious intolerance have been Christians in recent years," the Metropolitan said in his interview to Izvestia daily newspaper on Thursday.
The Metropolitan points out that in the majority of states where a Christian minority is being persecuted, Christians have lived for many centuries, "even when local political regimens declared themselves more radical than today. It is today when all states have undertaken obligations to protect human rights, the outflow of Christians from certain countries has increased. I believe it proves the failure of modern world policy on religious freedom and lack of interest in religious education," the Metropolitan said. According to him, Christians are often fell victims of political mistakes made by Western states: "The situation is difficult in Iraq. According to some data, half of the 1.4 million Christian population has left the country since 2003." [read more...]
RUSSIA: WILL DUMA APPROVE "ANTI-CONSTITUTIONAL" RELIGIOUS LITERATURE RESTRICTIONS?
by Felix Corley, Forum 18 News Service
(24 Mar) Proposed Russian legal amendments that would ban anyone except registered religious organisations from distributing religious literature have received initial backing from the Duma's Committee on Social and Religious Organisations, Forum 18 News Service has learned. The Committee has set 30 April as the deadline for comments on the amendments, which also impose fines for this "offence", and are an initiative of the Duma of Belgorod Region.
In May the Committee will review the draft in the light of comments and either pass it to the full Duma or reject it. Some do not think the draft will be adopted, but it has aroused concern from human rights defenders and some religious communities. Similar proposals have regularly been made, but this is the first time to Forum 18's knowledge that such a proposal has had initial Committee backing. It is unclear how much support this proposal has among senior Russian political figures. [read more...]
BILLS ON FREEDOM OF RELIGION TO BE DEVELOPED BY WORKING GROUP OF MINISTRY OF CULTURE
from Religious Information Service of Ukraine
(22 Mar) On March 16, at the Ministry of Culture of Ukraine, the working group convenes for the first time to prepare bills in the area of freedom of religion. The session was headed by the first deputy minister of culture, Yurii Bohutskyi, who is also the head of the working group, reports the Institute of Religious Freedom. The meeting was attended by authorized representatives of the Ministry of Culture, the State Committee of Ukraine on Nationalities and Religions, members of the Secretariat of the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations, and experts from the Institute of Religious Freedom.
The participants discussed questions of further improving the regulatory and legal basis of church-state relations, in particular the new wording of the Law of Ukraine "On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations" and draft law of Ukraine "On Restitution of Religious Buildings to Religious Organizations."?Representatives of the churches voiced their principled positions on approaches of work on the mentioned legislative changes. [read more...]
UKRAINIAN CATHOLIC CHURCH SELECTS 40-YEAR-OLD BISHOP AS NEW LEADER
TAJIKISTAN: "LEGAL" RESTRICTIONS ON PARENTS' AND CHILDREN'S RELIGIOUS FREEDOM
from Forum 18 News Service
RUSSIAN CHURCH STAGES PERFORMANCE WITH HOMELESS AS ACTORS
CHRISTIAN AFTER-SCHOOL PROGRAM FOR POOR CHILDREN IN DANGER OF CLOSING
from Mission Network News
UNREGISTERED BAPTISTS DENOUNCE PROPOSED LAW ON LITERATURE DISTRIBUTION
PREPARATIONS FOR PAN-ORTHODOX COUNCIL WILL CONTINUE IN THE NEAR FUTURE
from Russian Orthodox Church - Moscow Patriarchate
"PURPOSE DRIVEN JOURNEY" CONFERENCE IN UKRAINE
from Russian Ministries
PATRIARCH KIRILL MOVES TO EXPAND CHURCH ROLE IN THE NORTH CAUCASUS
from Window on Eurasia
See HOSKEN-NEWS Daily for more of the latest news!
In the second news article above, note the "anti-terror operation" label being linked to Evangelical Christians in Uzbekistan. As we've reported at various times earlier, the authorities have placed this "terrorist" label on non-Orthodox Christians in Russia as well as in various former-Soviet Central Asian republics - a very disturbing trend. When the public consciousness has been trained to associate certain Christians with terrorism, it is just a short step to begin persecuting them.
In Luke 20:19-26, we read how the religious authorities tried to entrap Jesus in the church-versus-state snare:
The chief priests and the scribes sought to lay hands on Him.... They watched him, and sent out spies, who pretended to be righteous, that they might trap him in something he said, so as to deliver him up to the power and authority of the governor. They asked him, "Teacher, we know that you say and teach what is right, and aren't partial to anyone, but truly teach the way of God. Is it lawful for us to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?" But he perceived their craftiness, and said to them, "Why do you test me? Show me a denarius. Whose image and inscription are on it?" They answered, "Caesar's." He said to them, "Then give to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." They weren't able to trap him in his words before the people. They marveled at his answer, and were silent.
This church-state issue has troubled Christianity ever since Jesus' time in the first century. Many Christians, especially in the West, will point to Emperor Constanine's adoption of Christianity in the third century as the end of "genuine" Christianity for over a thousand years. But if you read the above passage carefully, you'll see that Jesus was describing a proper balance between church and state. It is very difficult, however, to attain and maintain a harmonious relationship between them. It is always difficult for earthly authorities to acknowledge Jesus Christ as God Incarnate, the ultimate authority over heaven and earth.
In Old Testament times, religion and state were fused together. But Joshua realized that you can't serve the Lord if you're not holy (see v. 19) -
Now therefore fear Yahweh, and serve him in sincerity and in truth; and put away the gods which your fathers served beyond the River, and in Egypt; and serve you Yahweh. If it seem evil to you to serve Yahweh, choose you this day whom you will serve.... 19 You can't serve Yahweh; for he is a holy God; he is a jealous God; he will not forgive your disobedience nor your sins. If you forsake Yahweh, and serve foreign gods, then he will turn and do you evil, and consume you, after that he has done you good. (Joshua 24:14-15a, 19-20)
Then Christ appeared, and He taught: "the Kingdom of God is within you" and "My Kingdom is not of this world." The Apostles taught that Christians are "in the world, but not of the world" and "the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but mighty before God to the throwing down of strongholds, throwing down imaginations and every high thing that is exalted against the knowledge of God." Christians are to conquer through personal holiness and moral persuasion.
Historically, all over the world the religion of the king or emperor has been enforced as the religion of his subjects. After Constantine, the Emporer Julian "the Apostate" abandoned Christianity and tried to force Christians in his empire to recant and return to paganism. Also, the struggle against the heresy of Arianism - the false teaching that Jesus was merely a godly man, a great teacher and prophet - resulted in centuries-long social conflict throughout the Roman Empire. Eventually the Arian heretics were driven out of the Empire and into the Arabian desert. There it morphed into Islam, which taught that Jesus was a great prophet and even born of the Virgin Mary, just as Arianism taught. Thus both Arianism and Islam can be seen as early forms of humanism, which accepts Jesus as a great man and moral teacher... period.
Islam is a militant fusion of religion and state, using military means to force submission to its god Allah - the word "Islam" means "submission." Finally Muslim armies conquered much of the Eastern Roman Empire and attacked Constantinople, the capital. Encircled by these fierce armies, the eastern emperor sent messengers asking for military assistance from the Roman Pope who ruled the western empire. Instead, the Pope's crusaders plundered Constantinople and installed puppet Patriarchs in Constantinople, Antioch and elsewhere.
By AD 1215, Pope Innocent III convened the Fourth Lateran Council, which officially proclaimed "papal primacy," the Roman Pope as supreme ruler over all the other patriarchs, and over the "Holy Roman Empire" including its emperor. Thus we again have the fusion of religion and state, with the ruler using military means to force submission. But the next, Fifth Crusade, failed to dislodge the Muslims, and soon afterward Constantinople, much weakened by the Pope's armies, fell to Islam and was renamed Istanbul.
(By the way, the Fourth Lateran Council also instituted or strengthened teachings on priestly celibacy, transubstantiation and confession at least once per year. The latter item soon became the norm, with millions of people going to confession just once a year so they could attend church and take communion at Easter. Then they were "good to go" and keep on sinning for another year.)
Fast-forward to the present: after the Enlightenment, the Age of Reason and the Reformation, modernist pseudo-Christianity in the West has again rejected Jesus Christ as the Son of God Incarnate, and has "humanized" Him into merely another prophet, a great moral teacher. Socialism and communism can be understood as a form of "decapitated" Christianity, borrowing Christianity's social teachings but rejecting Christ as the Head of His true Church, the Kingdom of God. Both socialism and Islam are a fusion of ideology and the state, with the state controlling all aspects of society and instilling its ideology by compulsion and the threat or use of force. Thus it is not surprising that Western armed forces led by socialists have installed an extremist Muslim regime in Kosovo (Albania), and are in the process of installing one right now in Libya. Albania was the ancient Roman province of Illyrica where St. Paul evangelized, and Libya was evangelized by later Christians - St. Augustine came from Carthage (near modern Tunis), that same area of North Africa. Both areas later fell to Muslim armies.
(Let us know what you think - use the online feedback form, or go here to read and comment on previous issues!)
Prayer and Praise:
1. Pray that the planned Orthodox cathedral complex in Paris will be used for its stated purpose, and not for espionage.
2. Intercede for the six Baptists in Uzbekistan arrested in an "anti-terror operation" for holding worship in an old folk's home.
3. Pray and take a stand against religious intolerance directed toward Christians in countries where they are in the minority.
4. Pray against the proposal in Russia to ban anyone except registered religious groups from distributing religious literature.
5. Uphold in prayer the new working group in Ukraine that is preparing bills in the area of freedom of religion.
6. Thank the Lord for Christ's teaching to give Caesar what is Caesar's, and to give God what belongs only to God.
7. Ask God to help Christians discern the encroachment of humanism and socialism in society that militates against Christ's divinity.
Please remember to pray for Christians in the former Soviet bloc countries, and for...
Bob & Cheryl
p.s. Democracy can only survive until the people find their way to the public purse. - Plato
Socialism can only survive until it finally runs out of other people's money. - M. Thatcher
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from Bryan, 03/27/11, 9:31pm:
7 prayers sent, with special emphasis on #7. I had not thought of the parallels of Islam and Socialism before. Thanks for this enlightenment.
Glad to share this viewpoint with you! Thanks for your encouraging response.
In Christ, Bob