Welcome to , 20 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.)

HOPE FOR ORPHANS IN UKRAINE
from Mennonite Weekly Review

Select to see full-size! (14 Nov) In much of Ukraine, hopelessness among adults has darkened the future of its youth. In the last century, the people of Zaporozhye have experienced tremendous upheaval: occupation and liberation, prosperity and poverty, hope and despair. In the 1920s, Lenin's "New Hope" through industrialization was followed by the "Great Terror" of Stalin and famine in the 1930s. The end of World War II in 1945 brought renewed optimism but resulted in food shortages, ethnic conflict and political distrust. By 1990, the idea of independence rose again. Ukrainians' spirits were lifted, only to be dashed as they watched their country disintegrate into inflation, corruption and economic collapse.

Orphaned children are in abundance across the country. Barely existing from day to day, many orphans are in prisons, run-down orphanages or trying to survive on the streets. Maxym and Anya Oliferovski are helping local orphans break the cycle of hopelessness that has been passed down to them. With the guidance of MB Mission workers John and Evelyn Wiens and volunteers from their church plant, New Hope Church in Zaporozhye, they have started a drop-in center for orphan "graduates" - teenagers who are released from state orphanages with no family, marketable skills or hope for the future. For the past year, New Hope Church has provided vocational training in cooking, woodworking, graphic design, basic home renovating and personal grooming at New Hope Center. As the center continues to develop, Maxym Oliferovski?s vision is to offer more courses that will contribute to transformation of the whole person. [read more...]


LAWS IN KAZAKHSTAN SERIOUSLY RESTRICT PEOPLE'S ABILITY TO EXERCISE THEIR FREEDOM OF RELIGION
by Felix Corley and Mushfig Bayram, Forum 18 News Service

(15 Nov) Kazakhstan has started closing Russian Orthodox prayer rooms in social care institutions. "We're all in shock," Fr Vladimir Zavadich of the Orthodox Church told Forum 18 News Service. "We didn't expect this from our government. Now we fear this will happen everywhere." Orthodox Bishop Gennady of Kaskelen stated that this took away "the last consolation from those people who, for health reasons, find themselves in a desperate, helpless situation." He described calls to bar priests from such homes, hospices and old people's homes as "inhumane." One Almaty care home staff member told Forum 18 that "faith is often a help for people in difficult times. There was no harm in what the imam and the Orthodox priest did."

Elsewhere, two more prosecutions have been brought against Baptists for meeting for worship without state permission. Another fine has been imposed on a leader of a Baptist Council of Churches congregation, whose congregation on principle refuse to seek state registration. Fines for meeting for worshipping without state permission are often large in relation to the income of the person fined. If the person refuses to pay the fine - as is often the case - the authorities have at times confiscated family property such as washing machines, or deducted fines directly from salaries. Most recently, on 17 October Judge Nurlan Kurmangaliev of Burabai District Specialised Administrative Court found Pyotr Zimens guilty of leading a congregation meeting without state permission in Shchuchinsk in the northern Akmola Region, Baptists told Forum 18 on 26 October. He was fined 30,240 Tenge (200 US Dollars). [read more...]


MEDVEDEV RECOMMENDS MEDIA BE GUIDED BY MORAL PRINCIPLES
from Interfax-Religion

(17 Nov) Moral principles must dominate over commercial interests in the policy of the Russian media, President Dmitry Medvedev told pensioners on Thursday. He attended the meeting together with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. "I think that the media policy must prioritize moral principles, while commercial gains must rank secondary," he said.

Commercial issues have to be kept in mind because the majority of media outlets fund themselves although "they receive sporadic budgetary subsidies," he said. Medvedev wondered why "a substantial part of news programs started with incidents. We realize the importance of certain events, but they do not belong to the national category sometimes," he said. "Something happens around the world every day but far from all news programs start with such reports," he said. [read more...]


TWO ORTHODOX CHURCHES ROBBED IN VOLYN ON SAME DAY
from Religious Information Service of Ukraine

(18 Nov) Two churches of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, in the village of Holoby of Kovel District and in the village of Ludyn of Volodymyr Volynskyi District of Volyn Oblast were attacked by unknown persons on November 17. The perpatrators broke the locks and grates and broke in. They threw the shrines off the altars and stole the altar Gospel from the first church and an ancient icon and a Eucharist cup from the other one.

The police are looking for the criminals. The ruling Bishop Volodymyr (Melnyk) called the priests to intensify the security measures, be on alert, especially in churches where ancient shrines and church plates are kept, reported Orthodoxy in Ukraine. [read more...]


OTHER NEWS HEADLINES:

ARCHBISHOPRIC HOUSE DESECRATED IN PERM
from Interfax-Religion

BULGARIA'S LANDMARK 'ST. ALEXANDER NEVSKY' CHURCH FALLING APART, WITHOUT OWNER
from Novinite.com

CHURCH-BACKED ABORTION BILL SPARKS PROTEST IN RUSSIA
from Reuters

REACH A CHILD AT CHRISTMAS
from Mission Network News

WHAT WILL THE CHRISTIAN SOCIAL DOCTRINE BE LIKE IN THE 21ST CENTURY?
from Religious Information Service of Ukraine

"ANTI-SECTARIAN" RUSSIAN INTERNET SITES
from Religia i Pravo

PATRIARCH KIRILL COMPLETES HIS OFFICIAL VISIT TO THE PATRIARCHATE OF ANTIOCH
from Russian Orthodox Church - Moscow Patriarchate

PERSECUTION OF CHRISTIANS TODAY
from Russian Ministries

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


NOW, OUR VIEWS:

It's quite interesting that Christians of various churches and denominations continue working with orphans, homeless people, the elderly, etc., as we see in the first news article, and at the same time we see serious efforts by anti-religious forces to limit the scope of churches' social activity and even rob and desecrate church buildings, as seen in the following news articles. This illustrates a powerful anti-religious force at work in the world, which is the topic of this issue:

Spiritual But Not Religious

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

It has become commonplace, even fashionable today for people, when asked about their beliefs, to reply - "Well, I'm spiritual, but not religious." This often is used as a brush-off, or to imply that they have no use for organized religion, but still have some sort of unfulfilled spiritual hunger that needs to be satisfied. Many alternatives to "organized religion" (usually meaning Christian churches, and usually those with hierarchical organizations) have popped up in recent decades, most notably eastern religions such as yoga, transcendental meditation, various forms of Buddhism, channeling, magic crystals or pyramids, etc. Much of this "non-religious" (anti-Christian) spirituality thus borders on or even dives right into the occult. This was especially evident in the Soviet Union, which adopted anti-religious policies, but officially sponsored experimentation in "parapsychology," that is, communication with "the other world."

For us as Christians, the question arises: "How should we respond to the objection - "I'm spiritual, but not religious"? We might say - "If you're down on organized religion, we invite you to our church: it's quite disorganized!" That might be rather tongue-in-cheek, but it gets to the point: any sort of serious spiritual search will eventually settle upon some form of organization, formal or informal, spoken or unspoken. Even if a person - if he's at all serious about his search - indulges in his own cafeteria-style, smorgasbord, do-it-yourself spirituality, he will eventually organize his thoughts into a more or less systematic worldview. Thus it is not really anti-organizing, but rather anti-establishment (usually anti-Christian) religion.

Where did this "spiritual but not religious" tendency come from? I believe it is a result of the Renaissance and the Age of Reason that turned the western man's mind away from organized religion that was enforced on society as a whole, in which an entire principality, kingdom or empire was forced to adopt the religious beliefs of the prince, king or emperor. The Renaissance and the Age of Reason emphasized human freedom and autonomy, or the right of national self-determination in which each ethnic group within a kingdom or empire was supposed to affirm its own language, culture and religion. This led to the rise of the modern nation-state. Together with this historical movement was the rise of anti-establishment Protestant denominations that have little or no hierarchy, some have no requirements of theological education of their pastors, and some even have a great aversion to any form of ordained clergy. Civil wars were fought in England and on the European continent over these very issues.

We've seen this anti-established-religion trend among non-Slavic peoples in the former Soviet Union, who prior to the 1917 Russian Revolution were assimilated (sometimes forcibly) into the Russian Orthodox Church, now asserting their old pagan beliefs and customs. We lived for three years in the Mari Republic of Russia, the only government in modern Europe that has declared paganism as its official state religion. Before that, just after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, we lived for three years in the Udmurt Republic of Russia, where an upsurge of old pagan beliefs was also taking place. And yet, these neo-pagans will erect their pagan temples and select their pagan priests! But we see this phenomenon as well in the trend among native Americans and Afro-Americans to research and assert their old pagan beliefs and customs.

So the "spiritual but not religious" phenomenon is often essentially a rebellion against God's authority or any higher authority. To some extent it's a valid reaction by certain minority ethnic groups against being forced into the religion of their rulers. Sincere religious faith cannot be forced on a person. But on the other hand, this phenomenon evidences a very tangible spirit of anarchy and rebellion. This was the very same motivation that drove Lucifer, who said - "I will be like the Most High," to rebel against God the Father. Today it is man's effort to become his own god. However, "he whose absolute can fit into his own head... either has a very small absolute, or a very big head!"

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


Prayer and Praise:
Sun. - Thank the Lord for the efforts of various Christian groups to help "graduated" orphans adjust to larger society.
Mon. - Pray against anti-religious laws in Kazakhstan that seriously restrict people's ability to exercise freedom of religion.
Tue. - Praise God for statements by Russian leaders recommending that the media should be guided by moral principles.
Wed. - Pray that those criminals who robbed and desecrated church buildings in Russia and Ukraine will be apprehended.
Thu. - Ask the Lord to help various Christian churches to work together in forming a common Christian social doctrine.
Fri. - Pray for Christians who are being persecuted today in Tatarstan, Central Asia, and the North Caucusus of Russia.
Sat. - Ask God to help us give an answer for our faith to those people who say they're "spiritual but not religious."


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. God promises a safe landing, not a calm passage.


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from Anatolii, 11/21/11, 9:16am:
To call yourself "spiritual," but not in any way religious - this is a method of asserting your own carnal selfishness, your own pagan nature, your own right to not submit to God's will. In this case "spirituality" represents the most primitive notions of the true spiritual world and the elevation of human nature (inborn pride).


Dear Anatolii,
Thank you for your feedback! You understand the situation quite well, because as I know, you have lived among the same sort of pagan Finno-Ugric peoples of Russia as we did. Paganism in its essence is an effort to make God submit to man's will, to use magic and manipulations to make Him do what we want, instead of man submitting to God's will.
In Christ, Robert