Welcome to , 03 Mar 2012
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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RUSSIAN CHURCH URGES TOUGHER BLASPHEMY LAWS AFTER 'PUNK PRAYER'
from Ria Novosti

Punk Rockers in Cathedral (22 Feb) Russia should make blasphemy a criminal offense, a leading Orthodox Church official said on Wednesday, the day after notorious all-female punk rock group performed a protest song laced with vulgarities at the altar of Moscow's largest cathedral. "Yesterday's escapades at the Christ the Savior Cathedral pose a serious problem," Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin wrote in an Orthodox Church collective blog. "We cannot and will not live in a state where such acts are possible. We are talking here about deeds that could seriously inflame the situation in our country," said Chaplin, who oversees relations between Russia's influential Orthodox Church and society. "We need to make this a criminal matter."

"If the Church hierarchy showed some Christian asceticism and did not praise the authorities so, we would be more understanding of the Church as an institution," the punk rock group said in a Twitter statement. "It is a big mistake to think we are all atheists. Some members of the group go to church every Sunday." The group was briefly detained after their performance, which took place in the presence of several worshippers. And on Wednesday, the rector of an Orthodox school in Moscow asked state prosecutors to bring charges of inciting religious hatred against the group. The charge carries a maximum jail term of three years. Current penalties for "offending the religious sentiments of citizens" are limited to fines of up to 1,000 Rubles (about $33). The following Monday, 27 Febrary, a criminal case under article "hooliganism" was initiated against these girls who penetrated to the ambon of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, reports the Chief Administration of the Interior Ministry in Moscow. [read more...]


BELARUS: RAIDS, THREATS, WARNINGS FOR RELIGIOUS MEETINGS
by Olga Glace, Forum 18 News Service

(27 Feb) Religious communities in various parts of Belarus have faced visits, threats and warnings for holding meetings for worship which officials regard as illegal. On one Sunday in January, officials visited three Pentecostal services in separate villages. Pastor Vasili Raptsevich - who led worship in a church-owned house in a village in Brest Region for about ten disabled church members unable to travel to the main congregation in a nearby town - was summoned to the police station. There he was told that he had violated the law by conducting a religious service away from its legal address without permission from the Regional Executive Committee. Police threatened him with court proceedings and threatened to strip his Pentecostal church of state registration, he told Forum 18 News Service.

Also in February, police in the capital Minsk - among them masked riot police -launched a mass raid on a cultural meeting being held in a Pentecostal pastor's home. 34 participants were taken to a police station, but were released two hours later without any explanation and without any official record being drawn up. Police refused to comment to Forum 18. [read more...]


NEMTSOV CHALLENGES PRIEST'S VIEW ABOUT FORGIVENESS DAY NOT BEING BEST DAY FOR RALLIES
from Interfax-Religion

(24 Feb) The opposition has disagreed with the opinion of the head of the Synodal Department for Church and Society Relations Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, who said that February 26 (Forgiveness Sunday) will not be the best day for holding massive demonstrations in Moscow. "As regards the Sunday, it would be interesting to hear Mr. Chaplin, were it a pro-Putin rally," one of the leaders of the non-registered People's Freedom Party Boris Nemtsov told Interfax on Friday.

The opposition is planning to hold a flash mob called Big White Circle on the Garden Ring in Moscow on Sunday. Yet another flash mob in the form of a street party will be held on the same day by Left Front on Revolution Square. Earlier, archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin told journalists that the last Sunday before Lent is "not the best" day for a rally. This is first and foremost a day of forgiveness. If demonstrators forgive all those divided from them by grievances and frictions, it will be the best thing to happen on Forgiveness Sunday," he told a press conference in Moscow on Friday. [read more...]


KAZAKHSTAN: SMALL RELIGIOUS COMMUNITIES "BANNED UNDER NEW LAW"
by Mushfig Bayram, Forum 18 News Service

(22 Feb) Kazakhstan's senior state religious affairs official, Kairat Lama Sharif, has described the 13 per cent fall in the number of registered religious communities as a "positive dynamic" after 579 small religious groups (with fewer than 50 adult citizen members) were stripped of registration. He said the number of registered communities "will probably" fall further in the wake of the controversial new Religion Law.

In a letter seen by Forum 18 News Service, Akmola Region's senior state religious affairs official wrote to District officials that "the activity of small religious groups in the territory of Kazakhstan is now banned since there is no such form of religious association of citizens." Regional officials of the state Agency of Religious Affairs are now warning such groups that they must stop any activity. Leaders of Greater Grace, Baptist, Seventh-Day Adventist and independent mosques have been summoned to be stripped of registration and warned not to meet. "Now our believers are afraid each time they gather for worship," one church leader told Forum 18. [read more...]


METROPOLITAN VOLODYMYR ASSURES THAT HE GOVERNS THE CHURCH
from Religious Information Service of Ukraine

(2 Mar) In an interview to Radio Freedom, Metropolitan Volodymyr, the head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP), said that he governs the church according to the established rules. "It is being governed by the ruling bishop, the Primate, that is by me," said the metropolitan. He also stressed that he governs the Kyivan Eparchy.

"The Kyivan Eparchy as well as all the last eparchies of the UOC are subject to the common laws governing the whole church. One cannot single out a particular eparchy enjoying autonomy. The final word rests with the governing bishop," stated Metropolitan Volodymyr. Last October, the Primate was hospitalized. In the beginning of last December, he was transferred from the intensive care unit to a rehabilitation ward where he is staying now. In February, a session of the Holy Synod of the UOC-MP was held despite the Primate's prohibition. The Synod, in particular, decreed to dismiss the Primate's secretary, Archbishop Oleksandr Drabynko, from his positions in the church. [read more...]


OTHER NEWS HEADLINES:

UKRAINE: ARCHBISHOP OF LVIV DECRIES BREAKDOWN OF FAMILIES
from Aid to the Church in Need

TURKMENISTAN: PASTOR ILMURAD NURLIEV FREED, OTHER RELIGIOUS PRISONERS OF CONSCIENCE REMAIN JAILED
from Forum 18 News Service

PERCENTAGE OF RUSSIANS WHO VISIT CHURCH REACHES 71% - POLL
from Interfax-Religion

RUSSIAN PROFESSOR: ABORTION AND DIVORCE RATES MAY BE MUCH HIGHER THAN OFFICIAL STATISTICS
from Mission Network News

EVANGELICALS IN UKRAINE DON'T NEED TO HIDE IN THEIR LITTLE COMMUNITIES
from Religious Information Service of Ukraine

RUSSIAN CHURCH SUPPORTS ADOPTION OF LAW IN ST. PETERSBURG PROHIBITING ADVOCACY OF HOMOSEXUALITY
from Interfax-Religia

METROPOLITAN HILARION LECTURES ON 'AN ERA OF NEW MARTYRDOM. DISCRIMINATION OF CHRISTIANS IN VARIOUS PARTS OF THE WORLD'
from Russian Orthodox Church - Moscow Patriarchate

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


NOW, OUR VIEWS:

The desecration of Russia's national cathedral by a girls' punk rock group singing lewd songs right in front of the altar goes far beyond the bounds of decency. In this instance we stand with the Church and against Human Rights Watch that says punishing them would be a violation of their human rights. Religious believers of all faiths should be able to expect that the state will protect their freedom to worship without having their places of worship invaded and desecrated. But this holds true also for Pentecostal Pastor Vasili Raptsevich in Belarus whose worship services for disabled people is being threatened by state authorities.

(Our feedback form has changed: it's now part of our new Hosken-News Blog! Your responses can now appear immediately, instead of waiting for us to upload them to the website.)

The Church and the Kingdom of God

Over the centuries ever since the beginning of the Christian era, the Church has struggled to communicate and live out the Gospel in a world that is often hostile to the Christian message. This should not surprise us, because the same world crucified Christ, and the Church is His Body present on earth after Christ, the Head, ascended into heaven. "If they persecuted Me, they will persecute you," Christ told His disciples. Just as Christ is the visible, incarnate image of the invisible God, so the Church ought to be the visible incarnation of Christ on earth. For the first ten centuries of Christianity, all believers understood that the Church was one distinct, visible entity. The Church cared for the poor, disabled, elderly and refugees, often building hostels, hospitals and schools as part of the church building complex. Even for five more centuries after the Great Schism in AD 1054, each of the two divided halves were considered the visible Church. Only after the Protestant Reformation was the notion of an "invisible" Church developed. Before that, such an idea would have been considered absurd and unthinkable.

With the rise of Islam in the seventh century the Church was forbidden to have any role in public life. And with the Protestant Reformation accompanied by the rise of secularism during the Enlightenment and the Age of Reason, the notion developed of the Church being invisible, separating the Church from the state. The revolutions in America, France, Mexico, Russia and other countries began to push the Church to the fringes of society and in some cases even executed or exiled tens of thousands of pastors, priests, bishops and monks. In less severe instances, a "wall of separation" between Church and state was erected: the Church was only allowed to practice its religious rites and ceremonies, but not to have any social ministry in secular society. The phrase in the Lords Prayer - "Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as in heaven" - became meaningless mumbo-jumbo.

The state began to take over the social functions of the Church: education, social security, welfare programs, food stamps and socialized medicine are all aspects of this. The question isn't whether or not to help those who are truly in need, but whether Christians should have delegated to the state the social aspects of the Gospel. It has led to the current situation that churches and individual Christians are asked to assist secular agencies in helping the poor, but aren't allowed to "preach at them" - to show them how to overcome the spiritual and moral causes of poverty. We aren't allowed to say: "You shouldn't smoke, drink, overeat, commit adultery, abortion, homosexual acts," etc. - that's not politically correct. This is how the state has co-opted the church and has made it a subservient organ of the state's political machine.

To make real the Kingdom of God on earth, all Christians need to join together to take back from the state these social ministries, these aspects of the Gospel that we have previously abdicated to the state. Even though we may not be members of one visible Church, all who confess Christ as Lord are citizens of His Kingdom. We can and must accept one another, love one another, and work together to realize the Kingdom of God in practical ways, without quarreling over secondary issues. When the various ecclesiastical hierarchies see the people of God cooperating together, perhaps the hierarchs and theologians will do the same and work together to resolve their theological differences. Perhaps those theological differences weren't so great after all, perhaps it was more about power, wealth and real estate.

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


Prayer and Praise:

Sun. - Pray that the punk rock band girls who defiled the Church of Christ the Savior with lewd music will be brought to justice.
Mon. - Ask the Lord to protect Pastor Vasili Raptsevich who led worship in a house church for about ten disabled people.
Tue. - Pray for believers in Kazakhstan whose small congregations have been disbanded under orders from state officials.
Wed. - Ask God to bring about peace and harmony in the Ukrainian Orthodox Church under its duly appointed leadership.
Thu. - Praise the Lord that the percent of Russians who visit, worship or are active in churches has grown to as much as 71%.
Fri. - Pray that Evangelicals in Ukraine will not hide in their little communities, but take an active role in their society.
Sat. - Ask the Lord that Christians around the world will join together to take back from the state the Church's social ministries.


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. No armor? Unclean life? Then don't mess with dragons, for you are crunchy and taste good with ketchup.


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from Phyllis, 03/11/2012, 1:17pm:
I'm still thinking about Patriarch Krill"s support of Putin. This simply doesn't seem right to me. Am I missing something? I've prayed about what follows in this latest e-mail. Bob. There is so much that seems wrong, unethical and downright frightening. It seems there is little hope for those who desire to worship God in any kind of open manner. It leaves me feeling very discouraged though I know God will prevail. Question is to me: HOW? Well gotta sign off. Greeting to you and Cheryl, Phyl


Hi Phyllis,
Thanks for your email, and please forgive my late reply: I'm working at 3 jobs now, including my online teaching and webmaster work. To solve this problem of my delay posting people's replies, you may have noticed a new online comment form that lets people post comments immediately. Try it next time!
In Christ, Bob