Welcome to , 01 Apr 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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SPIRITUAL RESETTING FOR RUSSIA AND U.S.
from Eurasia Review

(30 Mar) At a meeting with U.S. Ambassador Michael McFaul in Moscow on the 30th of March, Patriarch Kirill emphasized, this meeting can be called symptomatic because it took place in the year of the 145th anniversary of Russian Emperor Alexander II's selling Alaska and the Aleutian Islands to the government of the U.S. That deal signed in 1867 gave a strong impetus to the development of cultural and spiritual ties between these two nations.

"The Russian Church was the first to carry out an Orthodox mission on US territory, beginning with Alaska, followed by California and Fort Ross. Later, the Russian religious centre was moved to New York. As a matter of fact, the first Orthodox parishes in America were Russian. Greek and Arab ones appeared later. Today, the Orthodox Church of America, which has Russian roots, is autonomous but we maintain good relations with it and remember that our Russian ancestors stood at its foundation and were the first missionaries in America. This cannot be said about any other country of the world."

In his turn, Michael McFaul stressed that the U.S. is doing everything possible to find a balance between political realities and relations between our countries. "When we speak about resetting relations with Russia, we mean establishing relations with both state and civil organizations, including the Russian Orthodox Church. President Obama is convinced that both these aspects are important and will provide an opportunity of finding a balance in case of disagreement between the governments. If there is a balance in relations with civil organizations, political relations will also be long-lived." Michael McFaul also promised that the White House would "take a more objective attitude" when preparing annual reports on the situation of freedom of religion in Russia. [read more...]


AZERBAIJAN: 12 APRIL LIQUIDATION FOR BAKU CHURCH?
by Felix Corley, Forum 18 News Service

(30 Mar) Nearly nineteen years after gaining state registration with Azerbaijan's Justice Ministry and despite no complaints about its conduct, the Protestant Greater Grace Church in the Azerbaijani capital Baku could be liquidated within two weeks, Forum 18 News Service has learned. The Judge hearing the liquidation suit lodged by the State Committee for Work with Religious Organisations is to give her decision on the afternoon of 12 April when the case resumes, her assistant told Forum 18 from the court on 30 March. If the Judge rules to liquidate the church, all its activity will become illegal and its members will be liable to prosecution.

The Church's lawyer, Chingiz Zeynalov, countered that all the documentation on registered religious communities was handed to the State Committee when it was founded. He said the State Committee could have registered Greater Grace Church had it wished to, church members told Forum 18 on 30 March. The lawyer pointed out that the Church was registered with the Justice Ministry in accordance with the law, eight years before the State Committee was founded, adding that the law does not have retroactive force. The lawyer also pointed out that in eleven years of the State Committee's existence, not once had the Church received any request from it to change its legally-registered Statute or warning that it was violating the law. [read more...]


MOSCOW ORTHODOX COMMUNITY TELLS GAYS NOT TO PLAY WITH FIRE
from Interfax-Religion

(27 Mar) The Russian Orthodox community is determined to prevent rallies by gay and lesbian activists in reaction to the adoption of a law in St. Petersburg banning "homosexual propaganda". "According to our sources, gay and lesbian activists plan to organize rallies near children's establishments in Moscow and St. Petersburg. We will offer robust resistance. It looks like they need more than gay clubs and propaganda in the media and on the Internet. They are targeting our children now," Yury Ageshchev, the coordinator of the Union of Orthodox Brotherhoods, told Interfax-Religion on Tuesday.

"Russia differs from unbridled Europe. Here different values and traditions reign," he said. "This is our warning: We are a peaceful people, but we will stand tall to defend our children adequately. One should not play with fire," Ageshchev said. Hegumen Sergy (Rybko), a prominent missioner and senior priest at several Moscow churches told Interfax-Religion that he had blessed Orthodox believers to combat gay rallies. "The sins that these people popularize have no place in this country," he said. [read more...]


TURKMENISTAN: FOUR FINES FOR BIBLES, PRISONER TRANSFERRED
by , Forum 18 News Service

(27 Mar) After the local police officer in Turkmenistan's capital Ashgabad found Bibles in the possessions of three guests at a local Protestant's home, all four were taken to the government's Council for Religious Affairs for questioning, then held for an hour in an overcrowded detention cell, before being taken to court, Protestants told Forum 18 News Service. Although the judge refused to try them without proper documentation, they were brought back and fined by the same judge a week later for "violation of the law on religious organisations."

During his visit, the police officer found one Bible in each of the visitors' bags. The Bibles were confiscated, together with at least one mobile phone, and all four Protestants were taken to the Gengesh. There they were questioned about their religious activity. The Gengesh official reportedly shouted at them, accusing them of having brought "illegal" religious literature into Turkmenistan. However, the official had a copy of the same Bible in his office. The Gengesh official then threatened to have drugs planted on the four. "Then you'll be in on another charge," he warned them. [read more...]


PROPAGANDA OF HOMOSEXUALITY MAY BE PROHIBITED IN UKRAINE
from Religious Information Service of Ukraine

(26 Mar) The Parliament's committees have begun to consider a bill prohibiting homosexual propaganda in Ukraine. According to the head of the Committee on Family, Youth Policy and Sports and Tourism, Pavlo Kostenko, the committee supported the bill, the Christian Megaportal invictory.org reported. "At its session, the committee supported the approval of the bill as the basis. We informed the specialized Committee on Freedom of Speech and Information about our decision," reads the letter of Pavlo Kostenko regarding Bill 8711 on Protection of Children From Dangerous Information Space.

The deputies of the Parliament propose to prohibit the propaganda of homosexuality in Ukraine by this document. The explanatory note says that the spread of homosexuality is a threat to the national security as it leads to the spread of AIDS, ruins the institute of family and deepens the demographic crisis. Over one hundred thousand signatures have been gathered to support the bill in Ukraine. Earlier, the State Committee pn Radio and TV expressed its support for the bill. [read more...]


OTHER NEWS HEADLINES:

THE TRAGEDY OF RUSSIA'S ABANDONED WOODEN CHURCHES
from Open Democracy

UZBEKISTAN: RELIGIOUS LITERATURE ONLY FOR "INTERNAL USE BY REGISTERED RELIGIOUS ORGANISATIONS"
from Forum 18 News Service

RUSSIAN ARMED FORCES TO HAVE MORE THAN 200 MILITARY CLERICS
from Interfax-Religion

A PROTESTANT HAS BEEN ELECTED MAYOR OF A MAJOR RUSSIAN CITY, DEFEATING "UNITED RUSSIA" CANDIDATE
from Russian Evangelical Alliance

JOB TRAINING AND THE GOSPEL TARGETS ORPHAN GRADUATES TO CURB SEX TRAFFICKING
from Mission Network News

PASTOR SUNDAY ADELAJA DISAPPEARS
from Religious Information Service of Ukraine

PROTESTANT MAYOR IN RUSSIAN FAR EAST SLANDERED IN MEDIA
from Religia i Pravo

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


NOW, OUR VIEWS:

What did U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul mean when he promised - "the White House would 'take a more objective attitude' when preparing annual reports on the situation of freedom of religion in Russia"? It means that the U.S. State Department will pay less attention to news services like Forum 18 that may provide a more conservative, balanced analysis of events concerning freedom of religion in the former U.S.S.R., and more attention to leftist news agencies that write "fluff" articles about the "amazing progress" of democratization and the "desparate plight" of gay rights groups there. Wait and see if this proves true.

(Let us know what you think! Please post your comments online in our Hosken-News Blog!)

Should the Church be Apolitical?

Select to see full-size!Here's an interesting follow-up on our previous issue: Graphic: A demographic breakdown of the world of religion, which shows that the number of Orthodox Christians in the world exceeds that of Conservative Protestants. (Liberal Protestants are hardly Christian any longer, having denied many of the basic [generic orthodox] Christian doctrines such as the divinity of Christ, His resurrection, salvation only through Christ, etc.)

A few errors in the graphic, however, appear the description of Orthodoxy: "The Orthodox Church split from the Catholic Church in the 11th century over theological and political issues, but adherents believe in a similar doctrine." In fact, Orthodoxy has never accepted celibacy of the priesthood, transubstantiation, the reverencing of statues, the immaculate conception, sinlessness and worshipping of Mary, indulgences, and the infallibility of the Roman pope (or any church hierarch), among other doctrines. Also, it was the patriarch (pope) of Rome who split from the other four patriarchs, not vice-versa, claiming to be the top patriarch because Rome was militarily stronger. Thus began the sad history of splits, from Catholics to Lutherans to Calvinists to Anglicans to Pilgrims to Puritans to Presbyterians to Baptists to Methodists to Pentecostals, etc. - now over 20,000 denominations and countless non-denominational congregations splitting off from original Orthodox Christianity.

How many times have you heard that the church must stay out of politics? Two issues ago I wrote -

With the rise of Islam in the seventh century, the Church was forbidden by Muslim rulers 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.

Contemporary western society has conditioned us to believe that the Church should be apolitical, that it should stay out of politics. The U.S. internal Revenue Service has even gone so far as to revoke churches' tax-exempt status if their preachers endorse any political party from the pulpit. We are conditioned to believe that politics is the answer to everything. But the truth is, politics isn't the answer - it's the problem. Politicians will say anything to get elected: promising free medical care, free education, job security, economic growth, respect for freedom of belief, etc., but these promises often evaporate after the election. This occurs on both sides of the political spectrum. Vladimir Lenin, however, was the one who brought such stock-in-trade lying to previously unheard-of levels when he and his fellow revolutionaries promised "Land, Peace and Bread" to the war-weary Russian peasant soldiers and disillusioned aristocrats at the end of World War I. Lenin called these people "useful idiots." By appealing to their sense of injustice, he was able to co-opt their Christian-based values for his 1917 Bolshevik Revolution.

Now we accept it as normal when Christ's teaching that His followers should care for "the poor, the lame, the maimed and the blind" has been co-opted by the state. And we accept as normal the notion that the Bible's teachings against fornication, gluttony, homosexual behavior and lying have been pushed aside, even denigrated, by the now politically-correct views on these "lifestyle choices." How did this happen? My undergrad university major was "Central and Eastern European Studies," and part of it was to study every communist revolution in that part of the world from 1848 through 1948. How many people know there were failed socialist revolutions in 1848 in what is now Germany, Austria and several other European countries, or that there was a failed Marxist revolution in Hungary at the end of World War I?

But the revolutions we focused on were those in Russia after World War I and in Central Europe World War II. In each instance, the Marxists started by forming political alliances with "progressive" or "democratic" parties. These alliances were called "united fronts" when the Marxists went undercover and merged with these parties to gain control of their policies, or "common fronts" when the Marxists formed coalition governments with those parties. Then the Marxists began installing their own people in leading positions of the universities, press, courts, police and military. By making it seem that intelligent, educated people hold secularized leftist views, this becomes the acceptable position. Next, laws are passed through the legislature or legal interpretations are issued by the courts favoring socialist control, and these decisions are enforced by the police. Finally, the military is called up to carry out a coup d'etat, banning all other parties and arresting or killing their leaders. This is how most of those countries became communist.

Thus you can see the dangers of yielding to the popular viewpoint that the Church should stay out of politics, that we should allow the secular state to co-opt our beliefs and values, deceiving us into becoming "useful idiots" to advance their ultimate goals. What will be the final result? Widespread persecution of Christians, but then the King of kings will conquer the evil one: "By his cunning he shall make deceit prosper under his hand, and in his own mind he shall become great. Without warning he shall destroy many. And he shall even rise up against the Prince of princes, and he shall be broken, but by no human hand" (Daniel 8:25). We must not fall for this deception of their using our beliefs and values, or our wants and needs, to seize control of society.

Just before His crucifixion, Jesus foretold this - "So be careful, or your hearts will be loaded down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that day will come on you suddenly. For it will come like a snare on all those who dwell on the surface of all the earth. Therefore be watchful all the time, asking that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will happen, and to stand before the Son of Man" (Luke 21:34-36). How should we then live? - "For though we walk in the flesh, we don't wage war according to the flesh; for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but mighty before God to the throwing down of strongholds, throwing down imaginations and every high thing that is exalted against the knowledge of God, and bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ; and being in readiness to avenge all disobedience, when your obedience will be made full" (2 Cor. 10:3-6). Our battle is spiritual, against godless ideologies and worldviews, throwing down their strongholds that are "exalted against the knowledge of God."

What are the specific steps Christians should take in order to play an active role in society and in the political process? Watch for Part 2 in the next issue!

(Let us know what you think! Please post your comments online in our Hosken-News Blog!)

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


Prayer and Praise:

Sun. - Pray for a genuine spiritual "reset" of relations between western religious groups and the Russian Orthtodox Church.
Mon. - Ask the Lord that any such "reset" will not involve downplaying the discrimination against religious belief in the former USSR.
Tue. - Intercede with God that the Greater Grace Church in Baku, Azerbaijan will not lose its legal registration and be closed.
Wed. - Pray that Russian and Ukrainian Christians will take a strong stand against propagandizing homosexuality among children.
Thu. - Uphold in prayer the four Protestants in Ashgabad, Turkmenistan who were arrested and whose Bibles were confiscated.
Fri. - Praise God that a program of job training and the Gospel targeting orphan graduates in Ukraine is curbing sex trafficking.
Sat. - Pray that Christians in the West will be aware of and guard against the deceitful politics of godless ideologies and worldviews.


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 doctor gave a man six months to live. He couldn't pay his bill, so the doctor gave him six more.


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