Welcome to , 17 Jun 2012
Fortnightly Report on Christianity in Former Soviet Bloc Countries,
by Dr. Robert D. Hosken
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FIRST, THE NEWS:

YOUNG PEOPLE PLAY KEY ROLE IN MINISTRY TO FORMER SOVIET UNION
from Christian Post

(13 Jun) "In Soviet Union it used to be one big empire, with its own religion - which is called atheism ... All the ideology was built around that," Sergey Rakhuba, president of Russian Ministries, told The Christian Post. He was born and raised in the Ukraine when it was still part of the Soviet Union. Now Russian Ministries is on a mission to saturate the former Soviet Union with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and they are doing so through the creativity and passion of young Christians.

After the Iron Curtain fell, suddenly the countries that had been a part of the Soviet Union were left scrambling to find their own identities. As a result, Rakhuba says, each of these nations now has its own set of issues relating to religious freedom today. Soccer camps organized in Ukraine by those involved with Russian Ministries are a fun place where children living in the former Soviet Union can learn about Jesus Christ.

While the Ukraine is somewhat easy to access for Evangelicals, for example, the Russian Orthodox Church holds a "monopoly" in Russia, making it difficult for evangelicals to do ministry there. Missionaries flocked to Russia 20 years ago, Rakhuba says, but when Vladimir Putin came to power many of them weren't permitted to stay because he had given the Orthodox church a great deal of influence. "Orthodox churches are given all the power. In politics, basically, they enjoy this comfortable relationship with the Kremlin, while evangelicals are very much in the background," said Rakhuba. [read more...]


KYRGYZSTAN: "WE NEED TO PROTECT THE RIGHTS OF THE MAJORITY"
by Mushfig Bayram, Forum 18 News Service

(15 Jun) Following an attack on himself and four other Baptists in his home village of Ak-Kya in Ak-Talaa District of Naryn Region, Kyrgyzstan, Narsbek Sydykov told Forum 18 on 6 June that the Ak-Talaa District Police are "slow" to investigate the attack. He also complained that police brought charges of "petty hooliganism, and want to at most fine our attackers and let them go."

Sydykov told Forum 18 that he was visiting relatives in the village on 11 April, from his current home in the city of Naryn, with four other Protestants. He had been given a list of poor families by fellow villagers, and had brought presents for their children which he intended to distribute with the consent of the parents. He took the gifts - which had no religious material in them - to the local school with the consent of the Head Teacher. They had no intention of undertaking any identifiably specifically Christian activity.

At the school, "Kylych Abashakirov, the local Imam and some robust young men arrived," Sydykov recounted. "They threw the presents around, and then began to hit and kick me and my friends." He was stunned and fell down, and the five Baptists "decided to leave the village quickly before anything serious happened." Sydykov told Forum 18 that on that day they went to a hospital in Naryn for medical examination, which said that he received "bruises in his head and body, as well as had been concussed." [read more...]


TAJIK AUTHORITIES RESTRICT UNAUTHORIZED CONTACTS WITH FOREIGN RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATIONS
from Interfax-Religion

(06 Jun) The lower house of the Tajik parliament approved amendments to the Code of Administrative Offenses, banning proselytism and any unauthorized ties with foreign religious organizations. Tajiks who want to get a religious education abroad will now be required to notify the authorities. Such a notice will also be required if a Tajik religious organization maintains links with a foreign organization. "Propagandist and educational events conducted by religious organizations and persons on the grounds of the national general-education institutions or at houses can entail a fine of up to 2,000 somonis," First Deputy Chairman of the Governmental Committee for Religions Dzhumakhon Giyesov told parliament before the voting. The exchange rate on June 6 is 4.7673 Tajik somonis per $1.

"Tajik religious societies and organizations will be fined between 1,200 and 1,600 somonis for establishing international ties with foreign religious organizations without duly notifying the authorities," Giyesov said. Students who travelled abroad to study at foreign religious schools without getting permission from the Committee for Religions could be fined between 2,000 and 4,000 somonis, he said. In late August 2010, Tajik President Rahmon expressed his fears over Tajiks studying at foreign religious schools, who come back home as "terrorists and extremists." He urged the parents of such students to immediately get their children back home. The repatriation campaign saw 1,950 religious students coming back to Tajikistan, which is around 80% of their total number, according to the authorities. About 99% of the Tajik population are Muslims. [read more...]


UZBEKISTAN: ARREST AND TRIAL FOR BAPTIST TRAVELING TO TURKEY
by Felix Corley, Forum 18 News Service

(11 Jun) Tereza Rusanova, a 25-year-old Baptist originally from the central town of Jizak [Jizzax], and who has lived in Kyrgyzstan's capital Bishkek for more than three years since 2009, is facing criminal prosecution, Protestants who asked not to be identified for fear of state reprisals told Forum 18. She had returned to Uzbekistan as she needs to renew her passport having reached the age of 25.

Rusanova crossed from Kazakhstan into Uzbekistan at the Gisht Kuprik crossing point in Zangiota District of Tashkent Region on 8 April. Border guard Captain A. Pozyubarov detained her after checking her passport. He said she did not have the required exit visa that she needed every two years for visiting any other countries apart from most former Soviet republics.

He justified his claim by stating that she had visited Turkey in March. Uzbek citizens, however, do not need a Turkish entry visa for short visits to Turkey. Tashkent Region National Security Service (NSS) secret police launched a criminal case under Article 223, Part 1 ("Illegal travel abroad or illegal entry to the Republic of Uzbekistan"). Protestants expect her trial to begin later in June. [read more...]


PATRIARCH FILARET: FAILURE TO RECOGNIZE AUTOCEPHALY NOT A GREAT MISFORTUNE
from Religious Information Service of Ukraine

(13 Jun) Patriarch Filaret of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kyivan Patriarchate (UOC-KP) believes that the only difference between the UOC-Moscow Patriarchate and Kyivan Patriarchate is that the Kyiv Patriarchate has not yet been recognized by other national Orthodox Churches. However, this phenomenon is temporary, because sooner or later the Ukrainian Churches will unite. "Today it is not recognized, but in the future it will be recognized," he said during his visit to Donetsk, the UOC-KP website reports. "All the Orthodox Churches, which arose after the collapse of empires, took a long time to be recognized - Serbian, Georgian, Greek, Bulgarian ... and Russian!" said the head of the Kyivan Patriarchate.

Patriarch Filaret said that the Russian Church was not recognized for longer than any other - 141 years. However, the spiritual life was not affected. "But during those one hundred and forty years it existed as a Church and had a spiritual life, had monasteries, ascetics, saints. Therefore, not recognizing the church is not a great misfortune for the Church. And we are not recognized temporarily. It depends on how quickly it will unite with the MP in a single Ukrainian Orthodox Church," he said. The head of the UOC-KP reported that they began to prepare for negotiations with the UOC-MP when Patriarch Alexy II was the leader, but when the Russian Orthodox Church was headed by Kirill, all negotiations stopped. [read more...]


OTHER NEWS HEADLINES:

EURO 2012 PRAYER: UKRAINIAN PRIEST TURNS CHURCH INTO FAN-ZONE
from Russia Today

RUSSIAN CHURCH HOPES COUNCIL FOR ETHNIC RELATIONS TO RESPOND TO MOST COMPLEX INCIDENTS
from Interfax-Religion

RUSSIAN PARLIAMENT VOTES FOR PROTESTING FINES TO INCREASE 150 TIMES
from Mission Network News

UGCC HEAD: TRAGEDY OF ORTHODOX CHURCH IN WESTERN UKRAINE NOT CAUSED BY OUR EXISTENCE
from Religious Information Service of Ukraine

CITY AUTHORITIES PROHIBIT RUSSIAN PENTECOSTALS' OPEN-AIR MEETING
from Slavic Legal Center

MERCY MISSION TO MOLDOVA AGAINST SEX TRAFFICING
from Christian Chronicle

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


NOW, OUR VIEWS:

The first three news stories contain the same underlying theme: foreign religious workers coming into a country in an effort to spread their faith (and culture). The first article is about young Evangelicals, likely university students who aren't in classes during the summer and who come over to help "children living in the former Soviet Union... learn about Jesus Christ." This plays well to the home audience, but how is it perceived in the host country? The authorities may see it not as helping their children, but as an attempt by these foreigners to win over their children to a Western worldview and culture, implicitly undermining the host country's government and its majority religion and culture.

The second and third news articles bring out this point again: a government has a duty to protect its majority - the people who define its culture, not just to cater to the minorities. Social cohesion and stability depend on a government protecting most of all the majority from destabilizing forces. This does not, of course, excuse violence toward or other unjust treatment of religious minorities. As in the third news article, though, some of these Muslims returning from abroad might have been trained as "terrorists and extremists," and when Christians operate in a clandestine manner they may be lumped together with the former.

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Holiness and Love

The first thoughts that might pop into our minds when we hear the phrase "Holiness and Love" is that these two things are polar opposites: we may envision a "holy" person as a stern, black-robed, narrow-minded, skinny old man; and on the other hand we might see "love" as warm and fuzzy, all-inclusive hugginess and acceptance. One church I read about recently boasted of its "radical inclusiveness," which almost certainly means that it includes practicing homosexuals and all sorts of theological viewpoints.

A podcast about saints that I listened to last night emphasized the idea that all Christians are "called to be saints," as St. Paul wrote in the salutation of some of his epistles. All too often we slip into the popular mindset that there are three tiers in Christianity: you can be "just a Christian," i.e., attend church a few Sundays each month, be faithful to your spouse (except when your mind or eyes wander), and not lie or cheat... unless you really must. The second tier are those who are "into religion" - they call it "discipleship" - they're at church whenever the doors are open, they say their prayers and read the Bible every day. And those third-tier folks intimidate the rest of us with their self-denial, asceticism, prayer and fasting, working miracles, etc.

The fact is, that podcast speaker is right: there's only one kind of Christian. In Acts 11:26b we read; "The disciples were first called Christians in Antioch." In other words, before the term "Christian" was invented (sometime around A.D. 60 by Evodius, the second bishop of Antioch - look him up!), all believers in Christ were called "disciples," which meant followers of The Way - Jesus the Christ. And all of those "disciples" understood that they were called to be saints, to "strive for peace with everyone, and for holiness without which no one will see the Lord" (Heb. 12:14, see also 2 Cor. 7:1): unless we are striving toward holiness (saintliness - the same word in Greek), we won't see the Lord. All Christians are to be disciples, called to be saints. This doesn't mean "instant sanctification" - as soon as a person believes in Christ he's completely holy - that's a delusion. Sanctification is a life-long process, a struggle.

But the Second Great Commandment, after loving God, is to "love your neighbor as yourself" (Mt. 22:39, and six other places in the NT). Jesus said: "By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:35). If you really want people to know that you're a disciple of Jesus Chist, The Way, love all your brothers and sisters in Christ, not just the ones who think exactly like you! As I wrote at the outset, there's a tendency to be hard-nosed about holiness, to claim to be "enlightened" and know all the truth. Of course, it's important to seek the truth, not to fall into theological relativism. However, as the Apostle John wrote later, "He who says he is in the light and hates his brother, is in the darkness even until now. He who loves his brother remains in the light, and there is no occasion for stumbling in him. But he who hates his brother is in the darkness, and walks in the darkness, and doesn't know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes" (1 John 2:9-11).

The basics of our Christian faith are that Jesus is the Christ, God incarnate, the pre-eternal Son of God the Father: "Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the Antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. Whoever denies the Son, the same doesn't have the Father. He who confesses the Son has the Father also" (1 John 2:22-23). And "By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit who confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit who doesn't confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God, and this is the spirit of the Antichrist, of whom you have heard that it comes. Now it is in the world already" (1 John 4:2-3). The spirit of Antichrist urges us to "tone down" our faith, to "be inclusive" of Muslims, Mormons and others who deny the unique pre-eternal Sonship of Christ. These are offshoots of the ancient Arian heresy, which taught that Jesus was merely a good, godly man or a prophet, but a created being like us. There can be no compromise with such heretical ideas.

Yet at the same time, "if a man says, 'I love God,' and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who doesn't love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? This commandment we have from him, that he who loves God should also love his brother" (1 John 4:20-21). And remember, there were no chapter breaks in the original manuscripts: the very next passage states - "Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God. Whoever loves the Father also loves the Child who is born of Him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. His commandments are not grievous" (1 John 5:1-3). Genuine agape-love isn't just warm and fuzzy, all-inclusive hugginess; it is keeping God's commandments, holding to the true faith, and loving our brothers and sisters in Christ... all of them.

By the way, I've finally produced a printable PDF version of the English "God's Plan for Your Life" - click the link, and go to the end of the online interactive version to see how to print the PDF version. (The Russian has been available for many years.)


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Prayer and Praise:

Sun. - Pray that Western Evangelical young people will be culturally sensitive in sharing their faith in the former USSR.
Mon. - Uphold in your prayers Narsbek Sydykov in Kyrgyzstan, who was beaten by thugs while distributing gifts to orphans.
Tue. - Ask the Lord that Christians in Tajikistan will be able to legally receive a Christian higher education in their country.
Wed. - Pray for Baptist Tereza Rusanova in Uzbekistan, arrested for "illegal travel abroad" and scheduled to go to trial soon.
Thu. - Thank God for Ukrainian Orthodox Patriarch Filaret's attitude toward Ukraine's autocephaly eventually coming to pass.
Fri. - Ask the Lord to lead us to strive toward true holiness - not "instant sanctification" - so we can ultimately see the Lord.
Sat. - Pray that we will love all our Christian brothers and sisters in spirit and in truth, so the world will know we are disciples.


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 greatest advantage of speaking the truth is that you don't have to remember what you said.


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