Welcome to , 21 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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SERBIAN ORTHODOX CHRISTIANS CELEBRATE PASCHA (EASTER)
from B92 Net

(15 Apr) The most important Christian holiday was marked on April 14 with midnight liturgies, and continued with more services in the morning. The resurrection of Christ - described as the greatest joy of the Christian world - were announced with readings from the Bible and prayers. The midnight liturgy served that night in St. Sava's Temple in Belgrade was broadcast live by the state television RTS. Easter church services were also attended on Sunday by Prime Minister Mirko Cvetkovic, FM Vuk Jeremic, Interior Minister Ivica Dacic, and other officials.

In his Easter message - which is being read in all churches as part of Easter liturgy - Patriarch Irinej called on fellow Orthodox Serbs to constantly pray for the their sisters and brothers in Kosovo and Metohija. Worshipers who observed 40-day lent will break their fast with cooked Easter eggs - the first dish from the holiday table. The eggs are prepared in Serbian homes on Good Friday, and traditionally colored red to symbolize the sacrifice of Christ and the new life brought with his resurrection. In Serbia, Easter is a four-day non-working public holiday that starts on Good Friday. Easter is also celebrated this day by other Orthodox Christians, most notably in Russia, Romania, Bulgaria and Greece. [read more...]


AZERBAIJAN: JUDGE "HAS ALREADY DECIDED IN HER OWN MIND TO LIQUIDATE US"
by Felix Corley, Forum 18 News Service

(13 Apr) A court in Azerbaijan's capital Baku is likely to decide on 19 April whether Greater Grace Protestant Church should be liquidated, a court official told Forum 18 News Service after the latest hearing on 12 April. If the court upholds the liquidation suit lodged by the State Committee for Work with Religious Organisations, all the Church's communal activity will become illegal.

"The conduct of the Judge during the hearing testifies that she has already decided in her own mind to liquidate us," church members complained to Forum 18. They note that the Judge has acted with the State Committee in trying to dismiss the Church's defence arguments. The authorities have already closed down Muslim mosques they do not like -mostly Sunni mosques. Police and the courts have raided and warned Muslims who continued to worship in private homes. Also, a "temporary" ban on Muslims praying outside mosques, imposed in 2008, is still being enforced. No text of the ban appears to have ever been made public. [read more...]


ALMOST 90% OF RUSSIAN CITIZENS SUPPORT BAN ON HOMOSEXUAL "PROPAGANDA"
from Interfax-Religion

(19 Apr) 6% of Russian citizens polled recently said they had been confronted with instances of homosexual "propaganda", the state-run pollster VTsIOM said after polling citizens in 46 regions on April 14 and 15. The figure for Muscovites and residents of St. Petersburg was 14% and for respondents with a higher education 10%. Respondents said that homosexual propaganda is most common on television (59%). 15% of those polled said it is discussed with friends and at recreation centers, on the Internet (12%) or in the media in general (10%). Another 8% said this issue is being intensively discussed. 92% of those polled said they had never been confronted by homosexual "propaganda", and most (96%) were rural residents.

86% of those surveyed said a ban should be imposed on homosexual "propaganda" among minors, while 89% of elderly respondents, 89% of Liberal Democrats ad 88% of Communists agreed. Only 6% of respondents oppose the measure and most were citizens aged under 35 (9%), supporters of unregistered parties (15%) and respondents who have friends with a non-traditional sexual orientation (16%). Russia has not passed a law banning homosexual "propaganda" among minors. But local legislative regulations were adopted in the Ryazan, Arkhangelsk and Kostroma regions and in St. Petersburg banning so-called propaganda. [read more...]


AZERBAIJAN: RELIGIOUS FREEDOM SURVEY, APRIL 2012
by Felix Corley and John Kinahan, Forum 18 News Service

(17 Apr) Ahead of Azerbaijan's hosting of the Eurovision Song Contest in late May, Forum 18 News Service notes that freedom of religion or belief and related human rights such as the freedom of expression and of assembly remain highly restricted. Violations of fundamental human rights are commonplace, officials often insisting that human rights can only be exercised with the specific permission of the state.

Azerbaijan is the largest country in the South Caucasus region and with over 9 million people has the largest population. It includes the exclave of Nakhichevan [Naxcivan], which borders Iran, Armenia and Turkey, where the human rights situation is worse than in other parts of the country. A bitter territorial dispute continues about the currently Armenian-controlled entity of Nagorno-Karabakh, which led to open war between 1988 and 1994. Well over 90 per cent of Azerbaijan's population are ethnic Azeris (regarded as being of mostly Shia Muslim background), with around 2 per cent of the population being Lezgins (who are regarded as being of Sunni Muslim background). Around 2 per cent of the population are Russians or other Slavs (regarded as being of Russian Orthodox or other Christian background), with smaller percentages of Jews and other ethnic minorities. [read more...]


RECTOR OF UZHHOROD THEOLOGICAL ACADEMY ASKS AUTHORITIES TO PROTECT IT FROM RAIDERS
from Religious Information Service of Ukraine

(18 Apr) The rector of the Uzhhorod Academy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Archimandrite Viktor (Bed), addressed the Ukrainian authorities with a call to protect the educational institution from raiders, reported Religion in Ukraine. The address of the academy was spread by the rector on April 16. "Our Academy, the Uzhhorod Academy of St. Cyrill and Methodius of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which is subordinated directly to Blessed Metropolitan Volodymyr, is under a shameful attack of certain corrupt persons of the Uzhhorod City Council," noted the rector.

"Since the fall of 2011, contrary to the terms of the Lease Agreement (according to Patent for the right of rent and contract concluded for the period until 2047), we have been literally driven out of the premises at 5,7 Theatre Square in the city of Uzhhorod and undergone persecution, blackmail and obstruction of the normal working mode, etc. Recently, a series of blackmail and various provocations against us have been organized with the involvement of people who are actually bandits and, in some cases, the police," reads the statement. [read more...]


OTHER NEWS HEADLINES:

RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH GIRDS FOR BATTLE
from Eurasia Review

UZBEKISTAN: CONTINUING FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT BANS
from Forum 18 News Service

RUSSIA ON VERGE OF MORAL "CATASTROPHE" - FILMMAKERS
from Interfax-Religion

WORLD BAPTIST LEADERS JOHN UPTON AND HANS GUDERIAN MEET PATRIARCH KIRILL
from Russian Evangelical Alliance

ORTHODOX EASTER FOSTERS OPEN AIR EVENT AND FLASH MOB OUTREACH IN MOSCOW
from Mission Network News

4TH CONGRESS OF EVANGELICAL CHRISTIAN BAPTISTS TO BE HELD IN LVIV
from Religious Information Service of Ukraine

UKRAINIAN RELIGIOUS LEADERS INTERCEDE FOR JAILED POLITICIAN JULIA TIMOSHENKO
from Portal-credo.ru

METROPOLITAN HILARION: POLITICAL CORRECTNESS MANIA IS DESTROYING EUROPE
from Russian Orthodox Church - Moscow Patriarchate

HEAD OF RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH TO MEET WITH KAZAKH PRESIDENT
from Kyiv Post

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


NOW, OUR VIEWS:

The last of our news articles above, "RECTOR OF UZHHOROD THEOLOGICAL ACADEMY ASKS AUTHORITIES TO PROTECT IT FROM RAIDERS," all too clearly shows the precarious position of churches and other religious organizations in the former Soviet Union. Although Ukraine has more religious freedom than Russia, even in the Ukraine religious organizations can suffer from the whims of criminals who are receiving support from corrupt officials. We also witnessed this in Russia, when a real estate developer or other businessman would forge documents and bribe city officials so that he could seize a church's property. In the above case, we note that the theological academy prepares priests for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. It is no secret that Ukraine's new president Viktor Yanukovich is pro-Russian and in favor of the Russian Orthodox Church taking over all the dioceses and properties of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. One of the ways to guarantee the demise of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is to deprive it of new priests, just like during the Soviet era, when the communists shut down almost all Orthodox and other seminaries.

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

Should the Church be Apolitical? (Part 2)

Perhaps a better way to phrase the question would be: "Can the Church Not be Political?" If we take the teachings of Christ seriously, we cannot help but become involved in society: caring for the poor, the maimed, the lame and the blind, visiting widows and orphans in their need, setting the captives free, showing hospitality to the wayfaring stranger, etc. "Politics" is from the Greek word "polis", which means a city or town inhabited by people. Wherever people gather together is where Christians should minister in the name of Christ. Thus, the Church cannot help but be "political."

The history of Israel teaches us many things about the relationship between religious and civil authority. The Exodus from Egypt was the formative act for Israel as a religiously-oriented nation. Living under their oppressive Egyptian slave masters, the children of Israel longed to be free to establish their own national identity. Moses and Aaron led them out of Egypt by God's miraculous signs and wonders, and then Moses received from God the Law containing both religious and social rules of behavior. Some people consider the land of Israel to have been a "theocracy," governed by religious leaders. But this was often far from the case. During the times of the Judges, the tribes of Israel frequently came under bondage to surrounding nations and gave themselves over to idolatry and immorality. When they asked for a king, Saul tried to assert his authority over the prophet Samuel.

Only when David became king do we see an extended period of harmony between priestly and royal authority. But even under the kingdom of David a rebellion rose up against authority. David's son Absalom secretly plotted to overthrow his father: "The king said to him, Go in peace. So he arose, and went to Hebron. But Absalom sent spies throughout all the tribes of Israel, saying, As soon as you hear the sound of the trumpet, then you shall say, Absalom is king in Hebron. With Absalom went two hundred men out of Jerusalem, who were invited, and went in their simplicity; and they didn't know anything" (2 Samuel 15:9-11). These two hundred men were the same sort of "useful idiots" that Lenin later spoke of: people who weren't necessarily stupid, but were ignorant of what that crowd organizer had in mind. He had appealed to their sense of justice: "Absalom said moreover, Oh that I were made judge in the land, that every man who has any suit or cause might come to me, and I would do him justice!" (v. 4). But what Absalom really sought was power for himself, not justice for the people. Thus began the decline of the nation of Israel.

When Christ the Son of David came and began preaching "the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand," healing the sick, feeding the multitudes and cleansing the lepers, the Jewish religious authorities who were cozy with the Roman civil authorities had Him put to death. And for three hundred years the civil authorities fought against the Kingdom of Heaven being established on earth. Even after Emperor Constantine recognized Christianity and later made it the official religion, there were many periods of persecution by pagan and heretical civil rulers. Thus the ideal of a harmonic "symphony" between Church and state has rarely been achieved. But it still remains an ideal to strive toward.

There are times, however, when civil authorities will pretend to seek harmonious relations with the Church and appeal to the sense of justice in Christians, but in reality they are only seeking power for themselves. Christians must be careful and watchful, not merely listening to their words, but examining their character and background. Knowing the history of individuals and understanding history in general can give us a good idea of how these people will act in the future.

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


Prayer and Praise:

Sun. - Praise God for the Resurrection of His Son Jesus! Christ is risen! Indeed He is risen! And pray this Good News will spread.
Mon. - Continue praying for the Greater Grace Church in Baku, Azerbaijan, that they will be able to retain their registration.
Tue. - Thank the Lord that a large majority of Russians, about 90%, support a ban on homosexual "propaganda" among youth.
Wed. - Pray for religious freedom in Azerbaijan, especially for Christians who are a small minority, only 2%, in that country.
Thu. - Intercede for the Uzhhorod Academy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, that bandits will not steal its property.
Fri. - Thank God for the relative religious freedom in the West, and pray that it will continue to spread throughout the world.
Sat. - Pray that Christians will be careful and watchful in dealing with civil authorities, and not be deceived by empty words.


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. This life is preparation for eternity. When we fully grasp this fact, we will live only for eternal values.


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