Welcome to , 03 Nov 2012
Fortnightly Report on Christianity in Former Soviet Bloc Countries,
by Dr. Robert D. Hosken
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FIRST, THE NEWS:

RUSSIAN CHURCH HIGHLIGHTS PERSECUTION OF CHRISTIANS IN SYRIA
from RIA Novosti

Select to read full article! (24 Oct) The Russian Orthodox Church is worried about the persecution of Christians in Syria and other Arab countries where regimes have changed rapidly, a top Church official said. "We are deeply worried by what is going on in Syria, where radical forces are trying to come to power with the help of Western powers," Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, chairman of the Russian Church's Department of External Church Relations, told journalists. "Where they come to power, Christian communities become the first victims," he said.

Metropolitan Hilarion spoke on Tuesday at the UN General Assembly's social and humanitarian affairs committee and met with UN chief Ban Ki-moon. He also cited Iraq as an example, saying that 1.5 million Christians lived in the country 10 years ago, and adding that the number has significantly decreased since. Many have been killed or forced to escape to other countries, the metropolitan said. The current number of Christians, a minority in mainly Muslim Iraq, does not exceed 350,000, and it was above 1 million before the Gulf War in 1991, according to human rights watchdog Open Doors USA. [read more...]


15 YEARS' JAIL FOR UNHCR-RECOGNISED REFUGEE IF DEPORTATION TO UZBEKISTAN PROCEEDS
by Felix Corley, Forum 18 News Service

(29 Oct) Uzbekistan is now seeking to extradite detained UNHCR-recognised refugee Makset Djabbarbergenov from Kazakhstan on charges which carry a maximum 15 year jail term. The Protestant who fled to Kazakhstan is being sought by Uzbekistan for exercising freedom of religion or belief in his home town of Nukus. A Kazakh Almaty court decision on 15 October authorised further detention until 5 November. The Kazakh court also claimed that the Uzbek charges - which seek to prosecute exercising freedom of religion or belief - can be equated to terrorism-related charges in Kazakh law.

Djabbarbergenov's wife has been stopped by Kazakh authorities from visiting him, she told Forum 18 News Service, as has a human rights defender who found he is being held in solitary confinement. The Supreme Court claims it cannot find an appeal he lodged in August. Kazakhstan's current bid to join the UN Human Rights Council claims it would, if elected, "enhance the credibility and effectiveness of the Human Rights Council." [read more...]


PUTIN URGES TIGHTER CONTROL OVER "TOTALITARIAN SECTS"
from Interfax-Religion

(25 Oct) Russian President Vladimir Putin called for tightening control over the activity of totalitarian sects. Totalitarian sects "constitute a threat to society, to individuals - it's a hunt not only for people's souls, but also for their property," Putin said at a meeting with Samara region governor Nikolay Merkushkin and representatives of public organizations

Putin agreed that "regional and federal government bodies should consider how to improve the legislative base for work on that front and ensure its practical implementation." He promised, "We will do it by all means." The issue was brought up by Yelena Belchikova of the Samara Regional Institute for Professional Retraining. She said that a more effective struggle against totalitarian sects was needed and proposed creating a database containing brief information about such organizations for regional education authorities and schools. [read more...]


NEW BOOK BELIEVING IN RUSSIA - RELIGIOUS POLICY AFTER COMMUNISM
by Geraldine Fagan, Forum 18 News Service

(01 Nov) In two abridged extracts from the book by Geraldine Fagan, Forum 18's Russia and Belarus Correspondent, Believing in Russia - Religious Policy after Communism (Routledge, October 2012), we are presented with a comprehensive overview of religious policy in Russia since the end of the communist regime, exposing many of the ambiguities and uncertainties about the position of religion in Russian life and revealing how religious freedom in Russia has, contrary to the widely held view, a long tradition.

The Russian Orthodox Church asserts itself as the definitive expression of Russian nationhood. Alternative worldviews are marginalised. The gravest consequence of this antagonism is its exacerbation of separatist tendencies among Russian Muslims, who seek to establish Islam locally in opposition to Patriarchate hegemony nationally. Far from its mystical vision, the Orthodox-centred model of Russian identity is thus failing to consolidate the modern Russian nation.

Chechnya's bald imposition of Islamic norms in defiance of Russia's 1993 Constitution goes unchecked by Moscow. Regional disparity is now acute: in June 2008 the Koranic verse "There is no god but Allah" adorned the mountainside opposite Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov's palace. The same month, it was forcibly removed from the outer wall of a mosque in the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk. The Kremlin's failure to uphold its own constitutional commitment to religious freedom means there is no firm barrier against further decline.

The erosion of religious freedom is not due to deliberate federal preference for the Russian Orthodox Church. Rather, it is the symptom of a disinterested Kremlin absenting itself from the religious policy sphere. Few top officials yearn for Orthodox Christianity's restoration to the status of national ideology as under the tsars. The driving impulses of today's Russian rulers are the pursuit and retention of personal wealth and influence, and it is these that determine the areas in which President Vladimir Putin's "power vertical" (vertikal' vlasti) operates. Since religious freedom (among other human rights and public concerns) is not one of them, it is left unregulated to the extent that it does not encroach upon the strategic interests of the elite. [read more...]


UKRAINIAN COUNCIL OF CHURCHES ASKS PRESIDENT TO VETO ALTERATIONS TO LAW ON FREEDOM OF WORSHIP
from Religious Information Service of Ukraine

(26 Oct) "On behalf of our churches, which unite tens of millions of believing citizens of Ukraine, we are earnestly calling on Ukraine?s President as the guarantor of the constitutional rights and freedoms of citizens to use his right of veto regarding Bill 10221 passed by the Parliament on October 16, 2012, in the part of the prevention of making alterations to the effective Law of Ukraine 'On freedom of conscience and religious organizations'," reads the Address of representatives of Christian Churches of Ukraine to the President signed by the Chairman of the Council, Bishop of the Church of Christians of the Evangelical Faith, Mykhailo Panochko, reported the Institute for Religious Freedom (IRF).

The address says that after the meeting of President Yanukovych with the Heads of churches and religious organizations on October 17, it became known that some ministries and agencies seek to propose to the presidential administration an alternative solution according to which the law will be elaborated and alterations will be made upon signing of the law. The address was supported by the heads and authorized representatives of:
The Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kyivan Patriarchate;
The Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate;
The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church;
The Church of Christians of Evangelical Faith of Ukraine;
The All-Ukrainian Union of Associations of Evangelical Christians Baptists;
The Brotherhood of Independent Churches and Missions of Evangelical Christians Baptists of Ukraine;
The Roman Catholic Church in Ukraine;
The Ukrainian Christian Evangelical Church;
The Ukrainian Lutheran Church.
[read more...]


OTHER NEWS HEADLINES:

CHURCH AND STATE COLLIDE IN UKRAINE
from Prague Post

KAZAKHSTAN: PRESSURE ON GRACE PROTESTANT CHURCH FOUNDERS TO DENY RE-REGISTRATION
from Forum 18 News Service

PUNK ROCK GIRLS HAVE DONE THEIR TIME, COULD BE RELEASED - MEDVEDEV
from Interfax-Religion

'MARCH OF REMEMBRANCE' IN NEW YORK CITY TO COMMEMORATE 80TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE GENOCIDE IN UKRAINE
from Religious Information Service of Ukraine

CAUCASUS OFFICIAL WARY OF TEACHING RELIGION IN SCHOOLS
from Rossiiskaia Gazeta

PATRIARCH IRINEJ OF SERBIA EXPRESSES CONCERN OVER HOSTILITY TOWARDS THE RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH
from Russian Orthodox Church - Moscow Patriarchate

PATRIARCH KIRILL: PEOPLE OF BELARUS, RUSSIA, UKRAINE HAVE COMMON PAST AND FUTURE
from News of Belarus

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


NOW, OUR VIEWS:

In the above news we see efforts on several fronts to limit religious freedom in Russia and other former Soviet bloc countries: Uzbekistan is attempting to extradite the from Kazakhstan Protestant Makset Djabbarbergenov who would then face a 15-year sentence for "terrorism" (exercising his freedom of religion). Russian President Putin is urging tighter control over "totalitarian sects" - groups such as Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons, but this also can be applied against "non-traditional religions" such as Baptists and Pentecostals. Kazakhstan's state officials are pressing the founders of Grace Church to remove their names as founders, thus causing the church's re-registration to fail. Religious leaders from nearly all Christian confessions in Ukraine have petitioned the President of Ukraine to veto a bill limiting religious freedom. It seems the clock is turning back to where it was 25-30 years ago, before the Gorbachiov era.

As I have been recently reading through the books of the prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel, I was struck by how hard and seemingly hopeless a task these two prophets had: continually telling the nation of Israel that bad things were about to happen - war, destruction, exile, famine and plague. And yet, these two prophets kept going. For over 40 years now, I've been involved in telling the world about bad things that are going on. Thank the Lord, there have been some bright spots, and I try to point them out when they happen. You can encourage me to keep going by providing me some feedback in the "Comments" form below, right after the Prayer and Praise list. Thanks!

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Ministry as Worship (latreia) and Divine Service (leitourgia) - Part 2

[This is an excerpt from Chapter 3 of my book The Ministry Driven Church, available HERE.]

Closely related to latreia is the Greek word leitourgia, which by the first century had come to mean "divine service" in its New Testament usage. In Luke 1:23 the KJV translates it as "ministration" as it relates about Zecharias after he had seen the Angel: "And it came to pass, that, as soon as the days of his ministration (leitourgia) were accomplished, he departed to his own house."6 But as Bruce Winter points out in his book Seek the Welfare of the City,7 the word leitourgia was used in ancient Greece to mean service to the politeia, to society in general. Strong's Dictionaries define it as "public function (as priest ['liturgy'] or almsgiver): - ministration (-try), service."8 Thus we see that the term also has a definite sense of public service or practical ministry to meet human needs.

This is clearly indicated in Rom. 15:27 - "Yes, it has been their good pleasure, and they are their debtors. For if the Gentiles have been made partakers of their spiritual things, they owe it to them also to serve (leitourgeo) them in fleshly things." Paul teaches us here that because the Jews have provided the Gospel of Christ ("spiritual things") to all the nations, the Gentiles have a debt, a social obligation, to provide materially for the Jerusalem church (v. 25), where Paul was about to travel in order to deliver the offering he had collected in Macedonia and Achaia (v. 26). We see the same usage in 2 Cor. 9:12 - "For this service (leitourgia) of giving that you perform not only makes up for lack among the saints, but abounds also through many givings of thanks to God." So leitourgia includes providing very practical, material help.

Accompanying this practical aspect of leitourgia is a self-sacrificial aspect. Worship under the Old Testament involved sacrifices of animals, but under the New Testament it involves the sacrifice of oneself. Acts 13:2 illustrates this - "As they served (leitourgeo) the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, 'Separate Barnabas and Saul for me, for the work to which I have called them.'" Notice how fasting, the self-sacrifice of foregoing food, accentuates worship. But even more powerful illustrations of self-sacrificial worship are found in Phil. 2:17 - "Yes, and if I am poured out on the sacrifice and service (leitourgia) of your faith, I rejoice, and rejoice with you all" and speaking of Epaphroditus in v. 30 - "because for the work of Christ he came near to death, risking his life to supply that which was lacking in your service (leitourgia) toward me." Here Paul indicates he himself is ready to become a sacrifice in service to the faith of the believers at Philippi, and that Epaphroditus had already risked his life in service to them.

The priestly aspect of this word is shown in Rom. 15:16 - "that I should be a servant (leitourgos) of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles, serving as a priest the Good News of God, that the offering up of the Gentiles might be made acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit." The author of the letter to the Hebrews also writes that Jesus is "a servant (leitourgos) of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle" (Heb. 8:2), and that "now he has obtained a more excellent ministry (leitourgia), by so much as he is also the mediator of a better covenant" (v. 6). In Heb. 9:21 we read how Moses "sprinkled the tabernacle and all the vessels of the ministry (leitourgia) in like manner with the blood." This was a figure or foreshadowing of Christ offering His own blood: "But now once at the end of the ages, he [Christ] has been revealed to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself" (v. 26b). Finally and very powerfully the author of Hebrews writes: "Every priest indeed stands day by day serving (leitourgeo) and often offering the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins, but he [Christ], when he had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down on the right hand of God" (Heb. 10:11-12). Thus we see both in the letter to the Philippians and the letter to the Hebrews that the ministry of liturgy (leitourgia) is much more than performing rituals: the minister must be ready and willing to sacrifice himself.

Endnotes to Chapter 3:

6. King James Version, op. cit.

7. Winter, Bruce, Seek the Welfare of the City, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1994), 22.

8. Strong's Hebrew and Greek Dictionaries, op. cit.


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Prayer and Praise:

Sun. - Pray for Christians in Syria, Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan who are being driven from their homes, beaten or even martyred.
Mon. - Intercede for Makset Djabbarbergenov, who Uzbekistan is trying to extradite from Kazakhstan and sentence him to 15 years.
Tue. - Ask the Lord for continuing freedom of religion in Russia, in light of calls for tighter controls over "totalitarian sects."
Wed. - Thank God for the new book Believing in Russia, and ask that it may have a positive impact and enlighten many people.
Thu. - Pray that the President of Ukraine will veto Bill 10221 that alters the law 'On freedom of conscience and religious organizations.'
Fri. - Ask the Lord that people will remember the "Holodomor" - the man-made famine in 1932-1933 causing genocide in Ukraine.
Sat. - Ask God that people will understand and begin to practice true worship (latreia) and divine service (leitourgia).


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. Live simply. Love generously. Care deeply. Speak kindly. Leave the rest to God.


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