Welcome to , 30 Jun 2012
Fortnightly Report on Christianity in Former Soviet Bloc Countries,
by Dr. Robert D. Hosken
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FIRST, THE NEWS:

RUSSIA TO CRUMBLE WITHOUT ORTHODOX CHURCH - PATRIARCH
from RIA Novosti

Select to see full-size! (28 Jun) Russia would crumble without its Orthodox Christian Church, which is why the country's enemies always target it, Patriarch Kirill said on Thursday. The sermon appeared to be an implicit reply to the criticism of the Church by liberal media and educated urbanites sparked by its support of the Kremlin during the presidential elections in March.

"The Church is maintaining the unity of our Fatherland," Kirill, the formal head of the church, said in a sermon in a Moscow cathedral. "Destruction of the entity that is the Church will immediately ruin our Fatherland," he said.

The church was the prime target for foreign invaders including the Polish forces in the 17th century, Napoleon's army in the 19th century and the Nazis in World War II, Kirill said. Russian society has been growing polarized on its most influential church after Kirill endorsed Vladimir Putin for president last winter, alienating supporters of the opposition. [read more...]


AZERBAIJAN: NOT ARRESTED, MERELY "DETAINED"
by Felix Corley, Forum 18 News Service

(28 Jun) Police in Azerbaijan have threatened six Baptists with criminal prosecution for sharing their beliefs with others, Forum 18 News Service has learned. Passports of three of the Baptists, Christian literature and a car were confiscated. Deputy police chief Misir Imamaliyev, who interrogated one group held at a police station, claimed to Forum 18 that they were not arrested but merely detained. "Distribution of any religious books without state permission is illegal," he stated. Elsewhere, Baku's Greater Grace Protestant Church is awaiting its appeal against a court ruling that it be liquidated.

Three Baptists - Timofei Aparshev, Nadezhda Ryzhkova and Stepanida Sheludyakova - members of the Council of Churches Baptist congregation in the port of Sumgait - were visiting the northern Khachmaz Region when they were detained by police on the morning of 23 June and held until 1 am the following morning, after they offered Christian literature to passers-by, church members told Forum 18. They have been threatened with criminal charges and await possible prosecution at home. "They handed out at most five or six items of literature," church members told Forum 18 on 28 June.

Khachmaz Deputy Police Chief Imamaliyev insisted that the three Baptists had not been arrested, but merely detained while their identity was being established. "They didn't have their documents with them," he told Forum 18 from Khachmaz on 28 June. He stressed that they are now back at home. Imamaliyev defended the detention. "Our Criminal Code was recently amended, and you need permission to distribute any religious literature, whether Muslim or Christian." [read more...]


IRANIAN AYATOLLAH PROMISES RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH TO SOLICIT PARDON FOR PASTOR ON DEATH ROW
from Interfax-Religion

(27 Jun) Iran will probably pardon Protestant pastor Jusef Nadarkhani, sentenced to death for his recantation of Islam and coming to Christianity, Secretary General of the World Assembly for Proximity of the Islamic Schools of Thoughts Ayatollah Mohammad-Ali Taskhiri told Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, the head of the Synodal Department for External Church Relations, in Moscow. "We are aware that Nadarkhani's life depends on the Iranian supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, who is to pass the final verdict," Metropolitan Hilarion said.

Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia asked the Iranian spiritual leader in September 2011 to pardon the pastor, he said, adding the he himself had referred the same request to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. "Ayatollah Taskhiri said in a reply, citing his sources, that the death sentence on the Iranian pastor had been overturned and assured Metropolitan Hilarion that after his return to Iran he would hand over the Russian Patriarch's request for the pastor's pardon to the office of the Iranian spiritual leader," the External Church Relations Department stated. [read more...]


KYRGYZSTAN: TIGHTENED CENSORSHIP STARTING IN SEPTEMBER
by Mushfig Bayram, Forum 18 News Service

(29 Jun) After President Almazbek Atambayev refused on 13 April to sign amendments to tighten censorship under Kyrgyzstan's Religion Law, it was sent back to the single-chamber parliament, the Zhogorku Kenesh. The main proposer has told Forum 18 News Service that the amendment is being considered by parliament's Education, Science, Culture and Sport Committee.

The proposed Religion Law amendments add a new provision, Article 22, Part 9: "Control on the import, production, acquisition, storage and distribution of printed materials, film, photo, audio and video productions, as well as other materials with the purpose of unearthing religious extremism, separatism and fundamentalism is conducted by the plenipotentiary state organs for religious affairs, national security and internal affairs." [read more...]


ORTHODOX IN CRIMEA DESTROY A TENT WITH ADVENTIST BOOKS
from Religious Information Service of Ukraine

(28 Jun) In the village Orlyne, Crimea, representatives of the Orthodox community destroyed a tent with religious books established by the Seventh-Day Adventists Hope Channel. As we see on the video posted on YouTube on June 26, which raised a storm of comments in social networks among Ukrainian Protestants.

At present RISU does not know the details and there are no official statements from the Orthodox and Adventist side, only this video: http://youtu.be/Lr3Wof-QUs8.

[read more...]


PATRIARCH KIRILL CONCERNED ABOUT DECLINE OF THE ECONOMY AND DEMOCRACY IN THE WEST
from Interfax-Religion

(26 Jun) Orthodox countries are urged to give the world an example of how to come out of the global economic crisis, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia believes. "I am convinced that it is possible to successfully overcome the crisis only if based on spiritual moral values. Countries where Orthodox believers make a majority should give the world an example of building the economy and government according to Christian principles and ideals," the Patriarch said in his message to the 19th Interparliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy dedicated to problems of democracy in conditions of the global crisis.

The patriarchal press service cited the Primate as saying that economic stagnation is expressed not only in mathematical formulas, or the fall of stock exchange quotations, but in increasing number of the unemployed and general decrease of people's living standards. The Primate believes that stagnation in productive relations is an exterior sign of the deep crisis of values we are going through and it roots in neglecting Gospel principle: "Treat others the same way you want them to treat you."

"Ignoring this norm stimulates egotism, a consumerist attitude and hedonism, makes many of our contemporaries incapable of reasonably restricting their ambitions for the sake of the whole society. The problems in the world economy witness to the decline in the whole democratic system of government," the document says. [read more...]


OTHER NEWS HEADLINES:

3 MONTHS AFTER PROTEST IN CATHEDRAL, RUSSIAN PUNK ROCKERS STILL JAILED
from NPR News

BELARUS: NON-EXISTENT OFFENCES STILL PROSECUTED
from Forum 18 News Service

SECRETARY OF A CATHOLIC CHURCH KILLED IN KRASNOYARSK
from Interfax-Religion

BAPTIST LEADER: THE GOSPEL IS THE ISSUE, NOT DENOMINATIONS
from Russian Evangelical Alliance

RUSSIAN MINISTRIES DISTRIBUTING 1,000 NEW TESTAMENTS PER DAY IN EURO 2012 HUB
from Mission Network News

PATRIARCH SVIATOSLAV SHEVCHUK: IN EASTERN UKRAINE UGCC FULFILLS MISSION OF EVANGELIZATION
from Religious Information Service of Ukraine

BAPTISTS AND ADVENTISTS FIGHT FOR THEIR CHURCH BUILDING IN VLADIVOSTOK
from Komsomolskaia Pravda

BAPTIST HOUSE OF MERCY IN BELARUS OPENS TO ITS FIRST RESIDENTS
from Word & Way

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


NOW, OUR VIEWS:

In our third news article we read good news of a possible pardon for Jusef Nadarkhani, the Protestant pastor in Iran who was condemned to death for "apostacy" - converting from Islam to Christianity. This is the same man for whom Florida pastor Terry Jones last year burned a Koran in protest, causing widespread anti-Western rioting in Muslim countries. The quiet diplomacy and soft words by Patriarch Kirill and Metropolitan Hilarion likely will achieve more good than harsh words and violent actions. The video above, on the other hand, shows some misguided Orthodox in the Crimea using violent actions to "defend their faith" against a religious minority. What would be the world-wide outcry if Protestants in the U.S. were to ransack and disrupt a gathering of Orthodox Christians, a minority in the West?

Believers of every religious confession, even religious minorities, deserve the right to peacefully practice and share their beliefs, but not to force their beliefs on or harm others. At the same time, beliefs and practices of the majority should not be pushed aside out of respect for the beliefs of minorities. This is true toleration, not the notion that it doesn't matter what you believe. It does matter ultimately what a person believes, but the way to defend and promote one's beliefs is not by violence, but by doing good to all people.

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Love in Deed and Truth

The goal of many religions is to find eternal life after death. In Luke 10:25-37 we read about a certain expert in the law of Moses asking Jesus, "Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?" Jesus turned the question around, asking him what the Mosaic law stated. The law expert replied, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself." If the story ended there, it would teach a powerful lesson: sincerely adhere to your belief in God with all your heart, and at the same time love your neighbor, those people around you.

But the story continues: the law expert asked, "Who is my neighbor?" And you know the rest of story of the Good Samaritan - a Jew was on his way to Jericho when he was robbed and beaten up by thieves and left for dead. Three men passed by: a priest, a Levite and a heretic Samaritan. The first two wouldn't defile themselves by touching that bloody body. But the heretic Samaritan stopped, picked him up and gave him a ride on his vehicle, getting the seat all bloody. Then he took the true believer Jew to a hotel, put ointment on the wounds and bandaged him up. The next day, he paid his bill and gave his credit card number to the hotel clerk, telling him to spend whatever was needed to take care of the Jew.

"Now which of these three do you think seemed to be a neighbor to him who fell among the robbers?" - Jesus asked. The law expert couldn't bring himself to utter the words "the Samaritan" because they were theological outcasts, heretics and half-breeds. So he replied - "He who showed mercy on him." Then Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise." So we learn that loving our neighbors is not just exchanging pleasantries with the people next door who happen to be our socio-economic, cultural and ethnic peers: our neighbors are any people we encounter who need help, and we must offer it.

Our December 31, 2011 issue of Hosken-News was about "The Dumbest Idea In The World" - just as it's dumb for a company to disregard customers' best interests in order to "increase shareholder value," so it is foolish for the Church to neglect those who need our help: the beaten, the poor, the disabled and the elderly, in order to build up its territory and its real estate holdings. Here's what Jesus Christ commanded -

He called to himself his twelve disciples, and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every sickness. As you go, preach, saying, "The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!" Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers and cast out demons. Freely you received, so freely give. Don't take any gold, nor silver, nor brass in your money belts. Take no bag for your journey, neither two coats, nor shoes, nor staff: for the laborer is worthy of his food. (Matthew 10:1,7-10)

How will people recognize that the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand? When we care for the sick, the diseased, the poor, the lame, the maimed and the blind. How will people know we are Christ's disciples? When we start loving each other - even those Christians of a different theological orientation or cultural heritage - and when we love our neighbors as ourselves.


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Prayer and Praise:

Sun. - Pray for stability, peace and social harmony in Russia, as the Church tries to be a light on a lampstand in a dark place.
Mon. - Intercede for Timofei Aparshev, Nadezhda Ryzhkova and Stepanida Sheludyakova who were "detained" in Azerbaijan.
Tue. - Praise God that Iran will probably pardon pastor Jusef Nadarkhani, sentenced to death for becoming a Christian.
Wed. - Pray against tightened censorship in Kyrgyzstan starting in September, if the legislature amends the Law on Religion.
Thu. - Uphold in your prayers the Seventh-Day Adventists in Crimea whose literature display and tent were ransacked.
Fri. - Ask the Lord that Christians will be a good example of Biblical economic and political behavior to the world.
Sat. - Pray that all believers will love our neighbors: those around us in need, not merely in words, but in deed and in truth.


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 are two kinds of pain: the pain of discipline, and the pain of regret. The choice is yours.


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