Welcome to , 06 Nov 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.)

SERBIAN FOREIGN MINISTER TO UNESCO: DON'T ALLOW THEFT OF OUR HERITAGE
from B92.net

(31 Oct) "Monasteries and churches of the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) cannot belong to the so-called 'Republic of Kosovo'," Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic said. Addressing the UNESCO General Conference in Paris on Monday, Jeremic stated: "In this organization, we are supposed to protect and nurture cultural identities, not be complicit in politicized attempts to carve up new ones. As a member of UNESCO, Serbia will increase its efforts to safeguard at-risk cultural patrimony across the planet."

This point affects Serbia most directly in its southern provinces of Kosovo and Metohija, which is home to four UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Danger, and Serbia is responsible for their protection, he underscored. "I would like to salute UNESCO's strictly status-neutral work in Kosovo. We would also like to thank the various donor countries for their help in conserving and rebuilding Serbian heritage under very complicated circumstances," Jeremic said. "In post-conflict environments, honoring everyone's identity is a pre-requisite for reconciliation, and excluding or negating a particular identity makes it impossible," the Serbian minister said. [read more...]


UZBEKISTAN: DID AUTHORITIES BLOCK RUSSIAN PATRIARCH'S VISIT?
by Mushfig Bayram, Forum 18 News Service

(02 Nov) A planned visit by Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill to mark the 140th anniversary of the establishment of Tashkent Diocese in 1871 - expected to have begun on 2 November - appears to have been obstructed by the Uzbek authorities, Forum 18 News Service notes. Some believe the Uzbek authorities were unhappy over the Moscow Patriarchate's decision in July to change its structures in Central Asia and appoint a new bishop to Tashkent without consulting with or gaining the approval of the Uzbek authorities. The Orthodox Diocese, now part of the Central Asian Metropolitan Region, has not yet been able to re-register under its new structure. However, an Orthodox priest in Uzbekistan has told Forum 18 that the Patriarch's visit will take place between 23 and 25 November.

Meanwhile, Sergei Kozin and Pavel Nenno, who belong to an officially registered Baptist Church in the region around the capital Tashkent, are now being prosecuted three months after a July police raid on a group of Baptists on holiday. Also, another Protestant, Azamat Rajapov, has been fined 50 times the minimum monthly salary to punish him for his religious activity. His fellow-believers think that he may be being repeatedly targeted by the authorities. [read more...]


RUSSIANS DON'T WANT TO CELEBRATE HALLOWEEN - POLL
from Interfax-Religion

(02 Nov) Halloween, widely celebrated only in the USA and Canada, is becoming more familiar to Russians, but only few of them are going to celebrate it, sociological research shows. The number of Russians who know nothing about the feast was reduced from 46% to 27% over the last five years, sociologists from the Levada-Centre told Interfax, summing up the results of the research held in Russia in late October. However, only 6% (4% - in 2006) of the 73% of Russians who know about Halloween are going to celebrate it. Halloween is celebrated on October 31. The Russian Church has frequently said that the feast is alien to traditions of Russian culture.

The feast has its roots in the pre-Christian epoch when Ireland, northern France and England were populated with Celtic tribes. Their year consisted of summer and winter. The transition from summer to winter was celebrated on October 31 and symbolized the beginning of a new year. The night before November 1 when, according to their traditions, the border between the worlds of the living and dead opens, was considered the main feast of these ancient peoples. The holiday was very important for the pagan Celts. To not be caught by the world of the dead, they put on animal heads and skin, put out the fires in their houses and scared away any ghosts. In the 9th century when Christianity spread to Great Britain, these old traditions were mixed with another holiday - All Saints' Day, and the evening before it became All Hallows E'en. Gradually it was shortened to Hallowe'en or Halloween. [read more...]


AZERBAIJAN: UP TO FIVE YEARS' IMPRISONMENT FOR UNCENSORED RELIGIOUS LITERATURE
by , Forum 18 News Service

(01 Nov) Prison terms of up to five years or maximum fines of nearly nine years' official minimum wage are set to be adopted by Parliament in mid-November for groups of people who produce or distribute religious literature without going through Azerbaijan's compulsory prior state censorship of all religious literature. The punishments are included in proposed amendments to the Criminal and Administrative Codes prepared by the powerful Presidential Administration, and approved by two parliamentary committees on 28 October. Parliamentary officials told Forum 18 they are set to be adopted in one reading, probably on 15 November.

"Insanity is only increasing," one member of a religious community who asked not to be identified told Forum 18. Another - who also asked not to be identified - agreed: "I don't understand what they are trying to do." Azerbaijan has repeatedly amended its laws - usually with little notice or public discussion and secrecy surrounding texts - to restrict the exercise of the right to freedom of religion or belief and other human rights. For example, the Religion Law has been amended 13 times, most recently in June. The amendments were approved in a joint session of the Parliament's Human Rights Committee and the Legal Policy and State Building Committee on 28 October, Mushfiq Jafarov of the Human Rights Committee staff told Forum 18 from the capital Baku on 31 October. They were then sent for consideration by the full Milli Mejlis. [read more...]


FIRST SESSION OF COMMITTEES OF KYIVAN PATRIARCHATE AND UKRAINIAN AUTOCEPHALOUS ORTHODOX CHURCH ON UNIFICATION HELD
from Religious Information Service of Ukraine

(31 Oct) The first joint session of the committees set up by the Synod of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kyivan Patriarchate (UOC-KP) and the Hierarchical Council of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC) to conduct a dialogue on unification was held on October 27, in a session hall within the Golden Dome Monastery of St. Michael. On behalf of the Kyivan Patriarchate, the session was attended by the head of the committee, Metropolitan Dymytrii of Lviv and Sokal, Bishop Epifanii of Pereiaslav-Khmelnytskyi and Boryspil, Bishop Yevstratii of Bohuslav. The UAOC was represented by the head of the committee, Metropolitan Andrii of Halych, Metropolitan Makarii of Lviv, Bishop Volodymyr of Zhytomyr and Polissia, Bishop Ioan of Lviv and Sambir, Bishop Volodymyr of Vyshhorod and Podillia.

According to a report of the press service of the Kyivan Patriarchate, at the first session the participants exchanged ideas on a wide range of questions on the history and present state of Ukrainian Orthodoxy and discussed various proposals as to possible ways of unifying the UOC-KP with the UAOC. A list of proposals was prepared to be included in the final document of the session. In the afternoon, the second session was held where the hierarchs of the two churches considered and passed the text of the final document. The ten paragraphs of the document present both the agreed general vision of the unification process and concrete proposals as to overcoming the existing church divide. Upon approval of the document by the primates of the churches, it is to be submitted to be considered by the two churches through discussion at the eparchial sessions. [read more...]


FRANK WOLF: CHURCHES, AMERICANS QUIET ON RISING PERSECUTION
from Christian Post

(02 Nov) At a time when some members of the U.S. Congress are more focused on the economy and other national matters, Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) continues his decades-long crusade for human and religious rights. His first book, Prisoner of Conscience: One Man’s Crusade for Global Human and Religious Rights, details his work for those who have no voice. Elected to the House of Representatives in 1980, he has represented Virginia for 16 terms. During much of his tenure, he has brought national and worldwide attention to persecution in such far-flung places as China, Sudan, Ecuador, Kabul, Romania, Tibet and the former Soviet Union.

Wolf has also been active in presenting bills before Congress in support of human and religious rights. This summer, the House passed legislation sponsored by Wolf and Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) to create a special envoy at the U.S. State Department for religious minorities in the Near East and South Central Asia. That bill is now before the Senate. In October, the House approved reauthorizing the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, a 1998 creation of the Wolf-sponsored International Religious Freedom Act. The Senate has yet to act on this issue as of late October. Called a “modern-day William Wilberforce” by Chuck Colson in his book’s introduction, Wolf has seen firsthand the effects of human and religious right violations. [read more...]


OTHER NEWS HEADLINES:

EUROPEAN LEADERS CALL FOR PROTECTING CHRISTIANS IN EGYPT AND SYRIA - WHY NOT IRAQ?
from Mission Network News

METROPOLITAN HILARION ACCUSES WEST OF LEAVING EGYPTIAN CHRISTIANS IN THE LURCH
from Interfax-Religion

RUSSIA: RAIDS ON MEETINGS FOR WORSHIP INCREASING
from Forum 18 News Service

"TRUE ORTHODOX CHURCH" IN RUSSIA STRUGGLES FOR EXISTENCE
from Council of Russian United National Alliance

MEDVEDEV CALLS REVIVAL OF ORTHODOXY IN RUSSIA "A MIRACLE"
from RIA Novosti

RECONCILIATION ASSOCIATION OF CHRISTIAN CHURCHES ESTABLISHED IN ODESA
from Religious Information Service of Ukraine

METROPOLITAN HILARION MADE DOCTOR OF THEOLOGY HONORIS CAUSA BY ST. PETERSBURG THEOLOGICAL ACADEMY
from Russian Orthodox Church - Moscow Patriarchate

RUSSIAN MINISTRIES CELEBRATES 20 YEARS OF SERVICE
from Russian Ministries

HEAD OF UKRAINIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH (MP) HOSPITALIZED IN GRAVE CONDITION
from Kiev Post

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


NOW, OUR VIEWS:

In our first news article, we see how Serbia is still struggling to maintain its Orthodox churches and monasteries in Kosovo and Metohija, which have declared their independence from Serbia and are aligning themselves with Albania and the larger Muslim world. In the first century Serbia, Kosovo and Albania were all part of the Roman Empire province Illyricum, where St. Paul preached the Gospel and established churches. In fact, Illyricum even stretched up into what is now Switzerland and parts of Austria. With the rise of Islam, the Turkish Empire conquered the southern Balkans including Albania and parts of Serbian Kosovo, where much of the population became Muslim. The higher birth rate among Muslims meant that the overwhelming majority of Kosovars now are Muslims, and many Orthodox churches and monasteries in Kosovo have been torched, bombed or otherwise desecrated.

Remember: the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church is next Sunday, November 13. The last news artice and the first item under "Other News Headlines" illustrate that some leaders in the West are concerned about persecution of Christians, especially in the Middle East, even if many in the West are wrapped up in themselves and their own economic problems. The second news headline tells us that Metropolitan Hilarion accuses the West of abandoning Christians in Egypt, Iraq and Syria. One wonders if he is aware of the above-mentioned efforts, or if he is projecting the problems in his own backyard on the West: see the next two news headlines.

Our dear Evangelical friend in Udmurtia reminded us: "We have many opportunities to minister together with the Orthodox. Please pray: from 6 to 12 November will be an Orthodox exhibition and fair in which 100 churches in Russia will participate. The theme is 'From Repentance to Rebirth.' An Udmurt singing ensemble will participate with its spiritual repertoire. We need wisdom in all matters. Thanks for your prayers." This is a refreshing example of cooperation between the Orthodox Church and Evangelical Christians!

For All The Saints

(To let us know what you think, please use the online feedback form!)

The above news article about most Russians not celebrating Halloween reminds us of the Christian celebration of All Saints' Day on November 1. It is a tragedy that most people in the U.S. and Canada are unaware of this Christian holy day, and many Christians participate instead in the ancient pagan holiday. For twenty centuries Christians have honored their departed saints: starting in the first century, Christians buried the bodies of martyred saints in their catacomb churches, and honored the most revered saints by burying their bodies directly under the altar. This practice of honoring the saints continues to this day: all Eastern Christian churches must have a relic of a saint under the altar. Miracles are known to occur when people ask these departed saints to pray for them.

Well, what about asking the saints to pray for us and others? Some may ask, "Why can't we just pray directly to God?" Of course you can! But it's not an either-or decision; instead, it's both-and: we should pray directly to God and we should ask the saints to pray for us. In the parable of Lazarus and the rich man (Luke 16:19-31), Jesus taught that the dead can call out to Abraham, who can intervene on behalf of the living. Jesus didn't say, "I'm giving you this parable, but it can never really happen." And in Luke 20:37-38 Jesus reminds us that Lord is "The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. For He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for all are alive to Him." The departed, glorified saints are more alive in heaven than we are on earth. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught us to even pray for our enemies: "But I tell you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who mistreat you and persecute you" (Matthew 5:44). After a whole chapter telling about the Old Testament heroes of the faith, we read in Hebrews 12:1 - "Therefore let us also, seeing we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us." Those Old Testament saints are watching us.

Simon the magician asked St. Peter: Pray for me to the Lord, that none of the things which you have spoken happen to me” (Acts 8:24). St. Paul wrote: "Brothers, pray for us" (1 Thess. 5:25); "To this end we also pray always for you, that our God may count you worthy of your calling" (2 Thess. 1:11); "Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may spread rapidly and be glorified, even as also with you" (2 Thess. 3:1); "I exhort therefore, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and givings of thanks be made for all men (1 Tim. 2:1); "Pray for us, for we are persuaded that we have a good conscience, desiring to live honorably in all things" (Heb. 13:18). St. James wrote: "Confess your offenses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The insistent prayer of a righteous person is powerfully effective" (James 5:16). St. John wrote: "Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be healthy, even as your soul prospers (3 John 2); and finally, the "golden bowls full of incense... are the prayers of the saints" (Revelation 5:8). The departed saints in heaven are praying for us!

(To let us know what you think, please use the online feedback form!)


Prayer and Praise:
Sun. - On Sunday, November 13, remember the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church, and pray for them.
Mon. - Pray for the remaining Christians, churches and monasteries in Kosovo, that they will be preserved safe and sound.
Tue. - Intercede for Christians in Azerbaijan, where punishment has increased for avoiding censorship of religious literature.
Wed. - Thank the Lord that two different Orthodox groups in Ukraine have held productive talks on unification.
Thu. - Praise God for U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf and for European leaders who stand up for persecuted Christians in the Middle East.
Fri. - Please pray for the Orthodox exhibition and fair from 6 to 12 November in which 100 churches in Russia will participate.
Sat. - Thank the Lord for all the saints who have gone before us and who are interceding before the throne of God for us.

 

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  Your fellow-servants,

  Bob & Cheryl

p.s. Be fishers of men: you catch them - He'll clean them.


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