Welcome to , 19 Jun 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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(Note: the "prayers" link in the heading will take you to this issue's "Prayer and Praise" list.)

IN RUSSIA, CONSCIOUS EFFORTS ARE NOW BEING MADE TO INTEGRATE HANDICAPPED PEOPLE
from Russia Profile

Subway turnstile in Moscow (09 Jun) As Russia's public transport system and buildings still have hardly any facilities for physically disabled people, many of them live their lives in forced seclusion. Most normal schools are not accessible to disabled children, and professional possibilities for disabled adults are even fewer. About ten percent of Russia's population is disabled - some 15 million people, six million of which are of a working age. Of these, 85 percent are unemployed, data from the Health Ministry for 2009 shows.

At the end of March, President Dmitry Medvedev signed a Health Ministry plan that should help solve many problems that disabled people encounter on a daily basis. Between 2011 and 2015, 49 billion rubles ($1.76 billion) will be spent through the "Accessible Surroundings" program, meant to "increase the level and quality of life of disabled people," "to increase the effectiveness of their rehabilitation through the accessibility of social facilities," and "to increase their social activity," the program description states.

Slowly but surely, the idea that a disabled person should have the same rights as any other individual, including the freedom to choose an employer, is becoming more popular in the Russian society. "We want disabled people to become more attractive as employees on the open labor market," Gregory Lekaryev, the head of the Health Ministry's Disability Department, said at a round table conference organized by television channel Dozhd in May. [read more...]


LEGAL PROTECTION OF UNBORN CHILDREN COULD BOOST RUSSIA'S POOR DEMOGRAPHICS
from RIA Novosti

(17 Jun) In an interview with RIA Novosti's Mikhail Yousef, Father Maksim, an archpriest and the head of the Life Medical Educational Center, explains why the new measures are so important.

Mikhail Yousef: To what extent do you think the decision to limit government subsidies on abortion is justified? If adopted, will this measure reduce the number of abortions?

Father Maksim: In accordance with Article 36 of Law on Protection of Health, abortions are financed by medical insurance. This decree is contradictory: pregnancy is a normal physiological condition, so terminating it [through abortion] should not be eligible for insurance. If the law envisages the financing of abortion, then it recognizes pregnancy as a disease. The committee on family and youth has estimated that large - even astronomic - sums paid by us, clinics and the budget are spent subsidizing elective abortions. It is immoral to persist with government subsidies on such procedures. This contradiction of legislation has been revealed, and a solution - removing public funding - has been proposed to amend it.This is just one of many measures.

Mikhail Yousef: What are the other measures?

Father Maksim: Firstly, it is the need to establish the principle of protection of an unborn child. A child is a patient even prior to birth. His organs are formed during pregnancy and at birth he only changes his methods of breathing and eating. Unfortunately current legislation stipulates that babies simply do not exist before birth. The law thus should introduce this principle of protection, even if it is in a declarative manner. It would be a big step forward. Hungary has recently ratified a new constitution, which established that life begins at conception. Hungary is a country that is undergoing a demographic crisis similar to the one in Russia. Legislators in Hungary have made the first step to reducing abortion.

A different measure is to hold a Week of Silence. An abortion on the day of first consultation is murderous because it is an act driven by impulse in emotional excitement. It is often undertaken by underage patients who cannot be held responsible for their actions - they walk in, have the abortion and show no regard for its possible consequences, such as infertility. By introducing the week of silence, the patient is given an opportunity to review her decision, consider other options, including adoption, and speak with psychologists, priests or charity organizations. Ten percent of patients do not return after this week. This method does not entail government spending, revolutionary changes in or the reorganization of the health care system. [read more...]


UZBEKISTAN: POLICE BEATING, AXE DEATH THREAT, BEATING THREAT
by Mushfig Bayram, Forum 18 News Service

(15 Jun) Police officers assaulted a woman at her home while her parents were being interrogated over their religious activity at the local police station, sources who asked not to be identified for fear of state reprisals told Forum 18 News Service. Officers "kicked the woman and hit her on the head, giving her severe concussion". Police refused to discuss the incident with Forum 18.

A Tashkent police officer threatened to kill local Protestant Anvar Rajapov if he continued to challenge a fine of 80 times the minimum monthly wage handed down to punish him for his religious activity. "I have prepared an axe for you, which will be flying after you, observing you, and if need be kill you," sources quoted Major Zufar Rashidov as telling him. Police refused to discuss the threats with Forum 18. Tashkent Investigator Aleksandr Ten threatened the son of a Baptist church member that he would "beat him up and put him in prison for three months" if he did not sign statements against the church's pastor and bookkeeper who Ten is seeking to prosecute. [read more...]


METROPOLITAN HILARION URGES MUSLIMS AND CHRISTIANS TO JOINTLY RESPOND TO CHALLENGES OF MODERN WORLD
from Interfax-Religion

(16 Jun) Christians and Muslims are called to jointly oppose immorality in the world, head of the Synodal Department for External Church Relations Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk believes. "Heaven urges us to live in peace, in mutual respect, to oppose immoral wickedness. Let us jointly respond to challenges of the modern world, protect our right to live according to traditional morality," the Metropolitan said speaking at the Egyptian Al-Azhar University, which is the biggest in the Islamic world.

He mentioned manipulations with human rights among such challenges as human freedom is used "to justify encroachment on religious feelings, on accepted moral norms that regulate social and family ethics, relations between parents and children." To illustrate his words, the hierarch pointed out to the publication of the Islam founder's caricatures in Danish media. According to the Metropolitan, another challenge is revision of family values when "ideas of sexual debauchery, perversions, adultery, unisexual cohabitations are publicly cultivated." Speaking about the interreligious dialogue, the Metropolitan cited passages of the New Testament and Koran saying that Christians and Muslims should live in peace with each other. [read more...]


COMMENTARY: ADVANCING FREEDOM OF RELIGION OR BELIEF: AGENDAS FOR CHANGE
by Malcolm Evans, Forum 18 News Service

(14 Jun) "Rather than being a celebration of a thing of worth, the approach currently adopted by the international political community to religious freedom is dominated by the language of special pleading, disadvantage, hostility, and hate. This must change," argued Professor Malcolm Evans in a lecture hosted by the Archbishop of Canterbury and published in abbreviated form by Forum 18 News Service. Agendas such as "defamation of religions, incitement to religious hatred, combating anti-semitism, Islamophobia, Christianophobia, Discrimination against Christians, etc." risk, Evans notes, being "self-defeating by being self-serving."

"The predominant interest which faith communities show in the rights of their own" forms a barrier. "Unless and until that barrier is overcome, the ability of the international community to engage effectively with the protection of the freedom of religion or belief as a human right will be diminished." Calling for work to re-start on a UN Convention, Evans observes of some approaches that: "The question which continually gets lost in these twists and turns is simple, but important: 'Why not start with the idea of the freedom of religion or belief for everyone?'" For states are the source "in reality, [of] most of the restrictions placed on the freedom of religion or belief - and, therefore, much of the hostility and violence which believers face." [read more...]


UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT INTENDS TO FORBID QUESTIONING PRIESTS ABOUT INFORMATION OBTAINED DURING CONFESSIONS
from Religious Information Service of Ukraine

(14 Jun) Draft law No. 5335 "On Introducing Changes to Criminal and Procedural Code of Ukraine" (on adherence to the confidentiality of a confession) in the first reading was supported by 236 deputies while the required minimum is 226, informs Korrespondent. The author of the draft, a deputy of the Our Ukraine-People?s Self-Defense Bloc, Volodymyr Marushchenko, points out that the current code allows priests to be interrogated as witnesses if the person who entrusted them with information during a confession relases them from the necessity to keep it secret.

The representative of Our Ukraine is convinced that the presence of the norm in the code regarding the possibility of interrogating priests as witnesses can cause malpractices. The council intends to specify that lawyers, notaries, doctors and psychologists are allowed to expose confidential information only on the condition of a written agreement of the person who entrusted them with information. As reported earlier, in June 2009 the council refused to forbid questioning priests as witnesses in criminal cases with regard to information they received during a confession. [read more...]


OTHER NEWS HEADLINES:

HOW RUSSIANS SURVIVED MILITANT ATHEISM TO EMBRACE GOD
from Christian Science Monitor

AZERBAIJAN: RELIGIOUS COMMUNITIES TO BE FORCED TO BEGIN RE-REGISTRATION AGAIN?
from Forum 18 News Service

OVER 60% OF RUSSIANS OPPOSE GAY PARADES - OPINION POLL
from Interfax-Religion

MOLDOVA LEADS IN GLOBAL ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION; CHURCHES RESPOND
from Mission Network News

BIKE PILGRIMAGE "UKRAINE WITHOUT ORPHANS" BEGINS
from Religious Information Service of Ukraine

PRIEST'S SUICIDE EXPOSES PROBLEMS IN ORTHODOX CHURCH
from Ezhednevnyi zhurnal

FROM A LIFE OF VIOLENCE TO A LIFE OF PEACE
from ASSIST News Service

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


NOW, OUR VIEWS:

It is always pleasant to learn of renewed efforts in Russia to integrate handicapped people into normal society, as we see in the first news article above. The photo of the subway station turnstile with a symbol showing "no handicapped access" is all too familiar to Cheryl and me: only a few of the newest subway stations in Moscow have elevators that will enable people in wheelchairs to use those stations. And of course, a person in a wheelchair needs an elevator to not only get on the subway, but also needs one at the station where he's getting off. This means there are few routes that a handicapped person can travel via subway. Occasionally we or other passengers would help carry a wheelchair-bound person up or down two or three flights of stairs in order to get on or off the subway in Moscow. The entire infrastructure of society and all workplaces now need to be made wheelchair-accessible, since during the Soviet period, as the article explains, people in wheelchairs were kept out of sight because they would give the lie to the "homo Sovieticus" ideal man of communist propaganda.

In the third news article above, "UZBEKISTAN: POLICE BEATING, AXE DEATH THREAT, BEATING THREAT." we see yet another example of the brutal KGB-style persecution of Protestant Christians in Uzbekistan. While this type of religious persecution is much diminished in today's Russia, it has barely decreased in the authoritarian post-Soviet Central Asian republics and in Belarus. In fact, the secret police are still named "KGB" in Belarus. Such violations of fundamental human rights not only are condemned by the U.S. and other Western countries, but also are embarrassing for Russia. Why are they tolerated?

In the Window on Eurasia article "Arab Spring Leads Authoritarian Leaders in Post-Soviet Space to Look to Moscow for Support," we read that Uzbek President-dictator Karimov is meeting with Russian President Medvedev, attempting to strengthen his relationship with Moscow, because of Western support for democratic change in Muslim countries and U.S. mid-term plans to withdraw from Afghanistan, thus decreasing U.S. need to support this Uzbek dictator. It was a distasteful but necessary choice of the lesser of two evils for the U.S., in order to bring military supplies into Afghanistan. But the article also states: "the U.S. is changing its relations with key allies such as Israel." The "Arab Spring" is being used as a pretext to shift U.S. and Western diplomacy more in favor of Muslim countries and away from Israel, in order to guarantee access to Middle-Eastern oil supplies. But watch out! I would suggest this is making a deal with the devil and will likely lead to disaster.

Is The Fatherhood of God Important?

Today in the U.S. it is "Fathers' Day." Distant dads get phone calls, local fathers receive gifts, and of course the commercialization of it all means big profits for stores and restaurants. But the socialist/humanist emphasis on the "daddy state" in both East and West leads to a decreasing importance of true fatherhood. True, almost any adult male can become a biological father, but it takes a special kind of moral commitment to be a true father.

In the "OTHER NEWS HEADLINES" above, you see the article "MOLDOVA LEADS IN GLOBAL ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION; CHURCHES RESPOND." Moldova, a former Soviet republic, is just ahead of Russia in per-person alcohol consumption, at 18 liters per year about three times the world average of 6 liters and enough to cause inheritable genetic damage. Why did this happen? Studies have shown it is because Soviet men were not rewarded for level of achievment in their work - all workers received equal pay, and in the Soviet Union men were not encouraged to marry and remain faithful to one woman: this was considered a "corrupt bourgoise notion," and "free love" was advocated in Soviet movies and literature. So if men were not rewarded for their work and weren't encouraged to be responsible fathers, it created for men a feeling of worthlessness and irresponsibility, resulting in millions of men turning to alcohol.

Why is the Fatherhood of God important? Well, because human fathers are created to be an image or type of God the Father, Who is the prototype of ideal Fatherhood. But under socialism and humanism that deny or denigrate the existence of God, human fatherhood also becomes denigrated. That is, however, secondary. But first of all, the Fatherhood of God is important because it is the truth. Jesus Christ called God His Father, and taught us to pray "Our Father, Who art in heaven...." God can only be "Father" if He has a Son and other children. The idea that God is a loving heavenly Father is unique to Christianity.

This idea, however, is antithetical to Islam (and other religions). How can a transcendent, infinite, omnipotent God have mortal, finite and weak human beings as His children? In fact, a fundamental precept of Islam states: "Allah (God) is One, and He has no son!" This is a direct denial of the divinity and Sonship of Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Trinity. The Muslims believe that if God is One, He can't be Three-in-One, and He can't have a Son. But the study of Early Church history shows that Islam is the direct outgrowth of the Arian heresy that denied the deity of Christ: after the Arians were excommunicated and banished from the Christian empire, they fled to the Arabian deserts where Mohammed a century later picked up these ideas and embellished them in his teachings, which became the Koran.

In 1 John 4:1-3 we read: "Beloved, don't believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit who confesses that Jesus Christ [the Messiah] has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit who doesn't confess that Jesus Christ [the Messiah] has come in the flesh is not of God, and this is the spirit of the Antichrist, of whom you have heard that it comes. Now it is in the world already."

And in 1 John 5: 1 & 5 we read: "Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ [the Messiah] is born of God. Whoever loves the Father also loves the Child who is born of Him.... Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?" And in 2 John 7-9: "For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who don't confess that Jesus Christ came in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the Antichrist. Watch yourselves, that we don't lose the things which we have accomplished, but that we receive a full reward. Whoever transgresses and doesn't remain in the teaching of Christ, doesn't have God. He who remains in the teaching, the same has both the Father and the Son."

So the Fatherhood of God is vitally important, because the proof is that Jesus Christ came in the flesh - Christ is God Incarnate, the true Son of God the Father: God had a real human Son through the Virgin Mary and the Holy Spirit. "Without the Incarnation there is no Salvation," said the Early Church Fathers: if God is not our Father by Jesus being the Son of God in the flesh and the promised Messiah, if Christ our God did not take upon Himself our human nature, it would be impossible for us to "become partakers of the Divine nature" (2 Peter 1:4). But praise God, the transcendent One is also immanent, He loves us so much that He became one of us, suffered with us, died for us and rose again!

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Prayer and Praise:
Sun. - Thank God for increased efforts in Russia to care for "the poor, the lame, the maimed and the blind."
Mon. - Pray for legal protection of the unborn and limits on abortion in Russia and in the West.
Tue. - Ask the Lord to protect Christians in Uzbekistan who were beaten, threatened with ax killing and a beating.
Wed. - Pray that Christians in Russia and in the West will be very cautious about making common cause with Islam.
Thu. - Thank the Lord for freedom of religion, and pray that states will use it for good and lead to true tolerance.
Fri. - Pray that confidentiality of the confessional will be made law in the Ukraine and other post-Soviet countries.
Sat. - Praise God for fatherhood: that He is Our Father because Jesus Christ is His Son so we can become God's children.

 

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  Your fellow-servants,

  Bob & Cheryl

p.s. Thank God for the gift of each day: that's why it's called "the present."


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