Welcome to , 17 Jul 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.)

RUSSIAN AND UKRAINIAN CHURCHES - FRIENDS OR FOES?
from The Voice of Russia

Kiev Cathedral (8 Jul) A Council of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church - Moscow Patriarchate started in Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, on July 8. The last similar council took place some 20 years ago. Some people are afraid that the present council, in fact, means a revival of the activity of those people who want to separate the Ukrainian Church from the Russian Church and make it self-governing. However, the council's organizers say that these fears are groundless. The council was convoked because there are some problems of the Ukrainian Church which need immediate solution, they said.

A representative of the Ukrainian Church, Archbishop Mitrofan. said: "In the last few years, many changes have taken place in the Ukrainian Church. The number of dioceses and monasteries has grown. Church life has become more active. The state laws which have to do with the Church have changed, and the Church has to outline its policy in the new circumstances. That's why we convoked the council."

However, some observers doubt that this is the real aim of the council. The news about the coming council was announced only a few days before its start. Some people suspect that the council, in fact, has been convoked to increase the role of the Ukrainian Patriarch's locum tenens, and, thus, make the Ukrainian Church less dependent from the Russian Patriarchy. Usually, a locum tenens is appointed if the patriarch is ill or too old to perform his duties. Rumors that the Ukrainian Patriarch Vladimir is seriously ill have long been circulating in Ukraine. It is believed that these rumors are being spread by those who want to separate the Ukrainian Church from the Russian one. [read more...]


ARMENIA: "A KIND OF THEATRICAL FARCE - I SEE NO PROGRESS"
by Felix Corley, Forum 18 News Service

(14 Jul) Human rights defenders and members of some religious minorities have reacted critically to drafts of a proposed new Religion Law, as well as changes to the Law on Relations between the Republic of Armenia and the Armenian Apostolic Church, and to the Criminal and Administrative Codes. The draft laws were made public on 12 July. "These proposed amendments are repressive and a lot worse than the previous version," Stepan Danielyan of the Collaboration for Democracy Centre told Forum 18 News Service from the Armenian capital Yerevan on 13 July. "In practice they would be used to repress religious organisations." Evangelical Pastor René Leonian is equally critical of the drafts and the government's approach. "This is a kind of theatrical farce," he told Forum 18 from Yerevan the same day. "I see no progress."

The major proposals Armenian religious communities and human rights defenders have so far expressed concern about include: proposed punishments for sharing one's faith - "soul-hunting", defined as "improper proselytism", which could be punished by up to two months' imprisonment (up to two years' if done by more than one person); compulsory registration for any religious community with more than 25 members, with punishments for those who do not register; as well as the vague formulation of many provisions. All of these are thought likely to leave followers of religious organisations that the government - or the powerful Armenian Apostolic Church - dislikes vulnerable to arbitrary and tight restrictions on their freedom of religion or belief. [read more...]


RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH AGAINST BECOMING THE STATE RELIGION
from Interfax-Religion

(15 Jul) The Moscow Patriarchate's position on what relations between the state and the Church should be is invariable. "We do not want the (Church) to become part of the state apparatus, state machinery, to assume secular functions," Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, the head of the Synodal Department for Church and Society Relations, said. He was commenting on a poll conducted by the Sreda agency along with the Public Opinion foundation of 1,500 people across 44 Russian regions, 100 towns and villages. According to the poll, 30% of Russians want Orthodoxy to become the state religion, 48% are against it and 23% did not have an opinion about it.

The system of church-state relations in Russia has not changed over the past decade, both from the point of view of secular laws and the Church's decisions, the priest said. "The fact that the Church is growing and becoming more active by no means implies a review in its position on relations between the state and religion," he said, adding that the Church is not trying to substitute some state [ideology] or form some politicized ideology. [read more...]


KAZAKHSTAN: "ABSURD" CRIMINAL CHARGE FOR PRAYING FOR THE SICK
by Mushfig Bayram, Forum 18 News Service

(5 Jul) Pastor Yerzhan Ushanov of the New Life Protestant Church in the city of Taraz could face up to two years' imprisonment if criminal charges of harming an individual's health, brought by the KNB secret police, reach court. The KNB claim a visitor to the church suffered after pastor Ushanov prayed for him using hypnosis, the second time the secret police have brought such charges against a Protestant pastor in Jambyl Region.

"This is not the first time the authorities in southern regions of Kazakhstan bring such absurd accusations against pastors for allegedly using hypnosis, while in reality all they do is pray for the sick," New Life Church members complained to Forum 18 News Service. Extremism and Terrorism Police then raided the Church's Sunday worship after an alleged complaint of food poisoning and the KNB searched Pastor Ushanov's home. The KNB secret police and the Extremism and Terrorism Police refused to comment to Forum 18. [read more...]


UKRAINE: HOW BAPTISTS BECAME SECTARIANS AND MEMBERS OF THE OPPOSITION
from Religious Information Service of Ukraine

(12 Jul) Last Friday the whole country saw how MP Inna Bogslovska, known for her mental issues and open hatred towards the opposition coalition in the Ukrainian parliament, called new enemies, connected with the opposition, some sort of "religious" group. Included in this category are Baptists, among whom is former Deputy Prime Minister Oleksandr Turchinov. There are hundreds of thousands of Baptists in Ukraine, and now each of them must feel like a member of a "sect," because in our country it's not important whom you consider yourself, but whom you are considered by those in power and the courts.

Here is the relevant excerpt from their exchange (First National Channel, July 8, 2011):
Inna Bogoslovska: "Mr. Turchinov can only say what he says because he has been the right hand man of [former prime minister] Tymoshenko his whole life... And everything going on right now with Tymoshenko, the criminal investigations, are thereby also connected to Mr. Turchinov.... Mr. Turchinov certainly knows how to talk, because he is part of a sect, lectures in that sect every week, and he knows how to raise his eyes to heaven and lie, he has done so many times...." [read more...]


RUSSIA ENACTS LAW OPPOSING ABORTION
from The New York Times

(15 Jul) President Dmitri A. Medvedev has signed into law the first steps intended to restrict abortion since the collapse of communism, the latest salvo in what is beginning to resemble the fierce divide over abortion in the United States.

The changes require abortion providers to devote 10 percent of any advertising to describing the dangers of abortion to a woman's health, and they make it illegal to describe abortion as a safe medical procedure. Tighter restrictions on abortion may follow after Parliament considers a separate health bill in the autumn.

Officials of the Russian Orthodox Church had complained that members of Parliament who support a right to abortion had scuttled amendments to a health bill that would have imposed a waiting period. Voting on that bill, which raises a number of other medical issues that have caused an outcry in Russia, has been postponed until autumn. [read more...]


OTHER NEWS HEADLINES:

LATVIAN CHURCHES IN ROW OVER SOCIAL SCIENCE SEXUALITY TEACHING
from Ekklesia

BELARUS: "CLERGY ACCESS IS SOMETHING EXCEPTIONAL IN PRE-TRIAL DETENTION CENTERS"
from Forum 18 News Service

RUSSIAN CHURCH DOUBTS THE FUTURE OF POLITICIANS WHO REFUSE DIALOGUE WITH IT
from Interfax-Religion

RUSSIAN GANG LEADER CHANGED BY CHRIST NOW DYING, NEEDS PRAYERS
from Mission Network News

ONLY 13 OF 95 KYIV CITY COUNCIL DEPUTIES SUPPORT UOC-MP MONOPOLY OVER BURIALS IN KYIV
from Religious Information Service of Ukraine

RUSSIAN PRESIDENT ACCEPTS AMBASSADORIAL CREDENTIALS OF ARCHBISHOP IVAN JURKOVIC AS APOSTOLIC NUNCIO
from Russian Orthodox Church - Moscow Patriarchate

GEORGIA: CHURCH-STATE DISPUTE IN TBILISI EXPOSES ANTI-ARMENIAN UNDERTONES
from EURASIANET.org

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


NOW, OUR VIEWS:

In the leading news article "RUSSIAN AND UKRAINIAN CHURCHES - FRIENDS OR FOES?" above, we note potential tensions accompanying Moscow Patriarch Kirill's visit to Ukraine. It seems that some even within the Ukrainian Orthodox Church - Moscow Patriarchate are not happy with the growing rôle that the Moscow Patriarch is playing. And the religious discrimination exhibited in the news article "UKRAINE: HOW BAPTISTS BECAME SECTARIANS AND MEMBERS OF THE OPPOSITION" points to the new pro-Moscow alignment of the Ukrainian government and its Moscow-oriented Orthodox Church, taking potshots in parliament at former Deputy Prime Minister Oleksandr Turchinov, a Baptist. Religious-nationalistic tensions in Ukraine are clearly appearing.

Are You a Victim or a Victor?

(Let us know what you think - use the online feedback form!)

In our last issue, writing on the theme "Train Up A Child In The Way He Should Go," I touched on the need for discipline. Today I'd like to follow up on that theme: Heb. 12:11-13 states - "All discipline seems for the present to be not joyous but grievous; yet afterward it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been exercised thereby. Therefore, lift up the hands that hang down and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet, that that which is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed."

Here we see the results of discipline: "the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been exercised thereby." In this Scripture passage, specific types of exercise are also mentioned: "Lift up your droopy hands and weak knees! Make your feet walk in a straight line! Heal your dislocated joints!" [my paraphrase]. These expressions all point to taking concrete, tangible measures that all involve discipline, exercise and effort.

Part of fallen human nature is to take the easy route, to sit around rather than exercising our arms and legs by walking, jogging or swimming. Rather than walking the straight and narrow path, human nature often chooses to sneak around, seeking our own advantage even if it means cheating others. Or instead of using items such as eyeglasses, hearing aids or leg braces, people sometimes "do without" these "artificial" devices and continue to function at less than normal levels - perhaps motivated by the mentality of "feel sorry for me: I'm a victim of oppression/discrimination/my environment/my genetics..." (fill in the blank).

Modern society has made freedom into an absolute. We're taught to think we are free to choose whatever we want, and we can have it. But when we make choices, we all must reap the consequences of those choices: some choose booze, and suffer the consequences of liver damage or decreased mental abilities; others overindulge in food, and reap the results of diabetes, knee failure, or heart disease; others indulge in illicit sex and reap the consequences of venereal disease, terminated pregnancies or illegitimate children, single-parent households and poverty, still others live beyond their means by running up huge debts and eventually have to "face the music" of bill collectors, bankruptcy and/or foreclosure. Then they often cry out to the government to help them because they are victims of circumstances beyond their control. Eventually, though, the government runs out of resources too, and then there's nobody to bail it out.

But we can also exercise our freedom to choose to do what is right. A saying I often quote is: "There are two kinds of pain: the pain of discipline, and the pain of regret. The choice is yours." We can choose to be a victor over our circumstances, not a victim of our circumstances. It's your choice to "Lift up your droopy hands and weak knees! Make your feet walk in a straight line! Heal your dislocated joints!"


Prayer and Praise:
Sun. - Pray for harmony and unity among Christians and Churches in Russia and Ukraine.
Mon. - Ask the Lord that the drastic provisions in Armenia's proposed new Religion Law will be softened.
Tue. - Thank God that the Russian Orthodox Church refuses to become the state religion of Russia.
Wed. - Pray against the absurd criminal charges of "using hypnosis" - praying for the sick at New Life Church in Kazakhstan.
Thu. - Pray for Ukraine's former Deputy Prime Minister Oleksandr Turchinov, a Baptist, who was slandered recently in parliament.
Fri. - Praise the Lord that Russia has passed a law that attempts to turn society's views toward limiting abortions.
Sat. - Ask God to give us the strength, resources and courage to become victors, and not victims.

 

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from Phyl, 07/18/11, 8:21pm:
I'm overwhelmed at the weaknesses and challenges being faced in Russia. With God I know the good will outweigh the bad, however it's difficult to see some of the good in these times there. I pray for the many needs as I try to understand them. Thanks for the hours and hours you spend preparing this information, Bob. God bless you... bunches. Phyl


Dear Phyl,
Thanks for your consistent prayers for Christians in Russia, and your encouragement to us!
In Christ, Bob



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

  Your fellow-servants,

  Bob & Cheryl

p.s. The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of its blessings;
the inherent blessing of socialism is the equal sharing of misery. -W. Churchill


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