Welcome to , 06 May 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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ORTHODOX CHURCH UNDER ATTACK: RUSSIAN PATRIARCH
from Reuters

Select to read the article (22 Apr) The head of the Russian Orthodox Church warned tens of thousands of believers on Sunday they were "under attack by persecutors" on a nationwide day of prayer intended to heal divisions over a protest at the altar by a women's punk band. The incident, and the arrest of three band members who face up to seven years in jail for their performance, has ignited a debate about the Church's role in politics and left Kirill open to criticism from inside and outside the Church. "We are under attack by persecutors," said the Patriarch, his bass voice booming out through speakers from an outdoor stage where he stood under the cathedral's steep white walls and golden domes, flanked by red- and gold-robed priests.

"The danger is in the very fact that blasphemy, derision of the sacred is put forth as a lawful expression of human freedom which must be protected in a modern society." Kirill depicts Christ the Saviour as a symbol of the resurgence of the Orthodox Church since the end of atheist Soviet rule in 1991. It was rebuilt in the 1990s after being razed in the Soviet era and converted into a swimming pool. But Kirill, who has steered the Church towards a more active role in politics, has faced criticism over his overt support for Putin, a former KGB spy whose 12-year rule has been described by the patriarch as a "miracle of God." [read more...]


AZERBAIJAN: COURT LIQUIDATES GREATER GRACE CHURCH
by Felix Corley, Forum 18 News Service

(26 Apr) A court in the Azerbaijani capital Baku has ruled to liquidate the Greater Grace Protestant Church, the Judge's assistant told Forum 18 News Service. At a 15-minute final hearing on 25 April in the Church's absence, Judge Tahira Asadova upheld the suit lodged by the State Committee for Work with Religious Organisations. Asked how the Judge could have taken a decision which means that any activity the Church engages in would be illegal and subject to punishment, Judge Asadova's secretary Sevinj Ahmedova told Forum 18: "The court has decided."

She said the decision will enter into force a month after the written verdict is issued, unless the Church lodges an appeal. Church members told Forum 18 they intend to challenge the decision through every court, even to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. Ilya Zenchenko, head of Azerbaijan's Baptist Union, says he is troubled by the decision. "I protest against it - it is not just," he told Forum 18. [read more...]


RUSSIAN CHURCH CALLS ON BELIEVERS TO UNITE FOR COUNTRY'S REVIVAL
from Interfax-Religion

(04 May) The Russian Orthodox Church has urged believers not to cede to pressure and actively participate in the country's life. "We need a peaceful army of Orthodox Christians - a spiritual, cultural, informative, political army, not sword-wielding, not frightening anyone, but showing the wise, good, unbending, strong-willed force of our people for revival, for independence, for praying, thinking and acting," the head of the Synodal Department for Church and Society Relations archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin said at the hearings of the World Russian People's Convention in Moscow on Thursday.

The event focused on the Time of Troubles and Patriarch of Moscow Hermogenes who inspired a popular uprising in the 17th century. The laity are performing a special service, and "that service is one of civil action," the priest said. Today the laity can and must participate in running the state "and no one has the right to deprive them of such an opportunity," they must be present in all spheres of social life, he said. [read more...]


KAZAKHSTAN: RESTRICTIONS ON AND PUNISHMENT FOR SPREADING RELIGIOUS LITERATURE AND FAITH
by Mushfig Bayram, Forum 18 News Service

(30 Apr) Six months after Kazakhstan's harsh new Religion Law and associated new punishments for exercising the right to freedom of religion or belief came into force, a growing number of religious communities are complaining of restrictions on and threats of prosecution for sharing their faith, Forum 18 News Service has learnt. Five Baptists in the northern Akmola Region who distribute Christian literature on the street were stopped twice within the space of a week in March. Their literature was confiscated, they were all questioned at the police and some were entered into police records. They may face prosecution, a police official told Forum 18.

On successive Saturdays - 3 and 10 March - police in Shchuchinsk in Akmola Region's Burabai District stopped members of the local Council of Churches [unregistered] Baptist congregation while they were offering Christian literature for free to passers-by in the town centre, church member Aleksandr Zhukov told Forum 18 from Shchuchinsk on 27 April. Police confiscated all their literature on both occasions, "roughly between 90 and 100 books and booklets" in total. Among the confiscated books were several Bibles in Kazakh and New Testaments in Russian, he said. Zhukov said that administrative cases may be opened against himself, Mikhail Milkin, Ruslan Yermakov, Vyacheslav Cherkasov and Zhasulan Alzhanov. [read more...]


CONFERENCE 'CHURCH IN THE INFORMATION SOCIETY' HELD IN LVIV
from Religious Information Service of Ukraine

(05 May) A conference "Church in the Information Society" has begun at the Ukrainian Catholic University (UCU) in Lviv. The event will end on 5 May. It is being attended by 150 persons from all over Ukraine and visitors from Russia and Belarus, journalists representing religious and secular media, students, priests and representatives of church press services.

"This is the second time we are organizing this event. Last year, the conference was held in Odesa with the partnership support of various Christian churches and organizations. This year, the conference is also interdenominational and the main stress is on professional training. There is no longer a need to convince journalists working in church mass media that their work is useful, but one should draw their attention to the professional level," said one of the organizers of the conference, Director of RISU Taras Antoshevskyi.

The event began with a prayer and a brief introductory address by Deputy Bishop of the Church of Christians of Evangelical Faith Mykola Syniuk. "We live in a complicated time. Therefore, representatives of Christian mass media should not simply repulse the attacks against their communities and churches but be aggressive, in measure, in a good sense, in order to tell people the truth," said Mykola Syniuk. [read more...]


OTHER NEWS HEADLINES:

KAZAKHSTAN: METHODIST CONGREGATION NEXT TO BE CLOSED DOWN?
from Forum 18 News Service

ST. PETERSBURG COURT ISSUES FIRST GUILTY VERDICT IN GAY PROPAGANDA CASE
from Interfax-Religion

SGA PASTORS REACH THE FORGOTTEN AND REJECTED ROMA (GYPSY) PEOPLE IN SERBIA
from Mission Network News

ATTEMPT MADE TO SEIZE MONUMENT OF KYIVAN RUS IN KYIV
from Religious Information Service of Ukraine

FOUR STEPS YOU CAN TAKE TO FIGHT CHURCH LIQUIDATIONS AND PERSECUTION OF CHRISTIANS IN THE FSU
from Russian Ministries

RUSSIAN PATRIARCH RECOGNIZES BULGARIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH AS THE OLDEST AMONG SLAV PEOPLES
from Standart News

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


NOW, OUR VIEWS:

The first news article above, the Orthodox Church is defending itself against criticism for standing by Vladimir Putin, due to be inaugurated on Monday, 7 May, for a third term as president of Russia. This doesn't seem to be working: tens of thousands of people demonstrated on Sunday against Putin's third term, not provided for in Russia's constitution - On Eve of Inauguration, Mass Protest Ends in Violence. We remember the swimming pool that was built on the site of the demolished original Church of Christ the Savior, and the construction of the new Church of Christ the Savior. These developments are heartbreaking for us to see....

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

Form and Substance

Many in the liturgical-oriented churches focus on doing the services "just right," while others in the less-structured churches the casual-dressed leader is sitting on a stool chatting about all that's needed is to "just believe." The former claim that the form is primary, whereas the latter insist that the substance is what counts. They seem to be polar opposites. But in reality, when the liturgical folks stand up and state, "I believe in God the Father almighty... And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God... And I believe in the Holy Spirit..." it is impossible to claim that they don't "believe." And on the other hand, the less-structured folks have their own de-facto standard dress and standard form of service that changes very little - a "non-traditional" tradition.

Years ago, Marshall MacLuhan wrote, "the medium is the message," meaning that the form of a medium embeds itself in the message, creating a symbiotic relationship by which the medium influences how the message is perceived (Wikipedia). In other words, form and substance are inseparable. The medium (form) directly influences how the message is perceived. And the message (substance) must be communicated using some sort of form. It's like a pipe or pitcher used to convey water from one place to another: without the medium of a pipe or pitcher, the water would simply seep into the ground and disappear.

So it's clear that both form and substance are necessary. To convey the Gospel message, we need the right medium - a medium that presents the message in the best light. The wrong medium can distort the message, making it totally misundersood, just like a mistranslation or archaic language can make it incomprehensible. At the same time, a "plain vanilla" conveying of the Gospel can come across like a grade school child's hand-printed note that only a mother could love, instead of a well-formatted document. Although we can theoretically distinguish between form and substance, in the real world the message is always wrapped in a cultural-social-political-linguistic medium: "We have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the excellency of its power may be of God and not of us" (2 Cor. 4:7).

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


Prayer and Praise:

Sun. - Pray for healing in the relationship between the Russian Orthodox Church and Russian society.
Mon. - Intercede for peace and calm in Moscow and all of Russia as Putin is inaugurated for a third term as president.
Tue. - Continue to pray for the Greater Grace Protestant Church in Baku, as it appeals the court's ruling to liquidate it.
Wed. - Uphold the unregistered Baptist congregation in Akmola, Kazakhstan, whose literature was confiscated by police.
Thu. - Thank the Lord that churches of various confessions in Ukraine met to learn about the "Information Society."
Fri. - Praise God for SGA's outreach to the forgotten and rejected Roma (Gypsy) people in Serbia.
Sat. - Pray for Christians to grasp the fact that form and substance, the medium and the message, are inseparable.


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. There is all the difference in the world between treating people equally and trying to make them equal. - F.A. Hayek


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