Welcome to , 08 Dec 2012
Fortnightly Report on Christianity in Former Soviet Bloc Countries,
by Dr. Robert D. Hosken
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FIRST, THE NEWS:

UZBEK PASTOR RELEASED FROM PRISON, GRANTED ASYLUM IN EUROPE
from Christian News Network

(06 Dec) A pastor from the central Asian country of Uzbekistan has been released from prison and granted asylum in Europe after being held for three months on charges that he practiced religion outside of state regulations. Pastor Makset Djabbarbergenov, 32, was first detained by police in Kazakhstan in September of this year after he fled to the country to seek refuge and religious freedom. Kazakhstan refused to assist Djabbarbergenov, however, but rather followed orders from the pastor's homeland of Uzbekistan, who sought to have him returned to face criminal charges for operating an illegal church. Officials stated that they were unable to locate any documents pertaining to Djabbarbergenov's application to be granted asylum in the nation, and therefore could not shield him from the Uzbek government.

During an October hearing, "one of the original Uzbekistan charges against Djabbarbergenov no longer was part of the record: a charge of storing and distributing religious literature that carries a 3-year maximum prison sentence," reports Open Doors USA. "In its place appeared a more serious charge of leading a 'religious extremist' group, which carries a 5 to 15-year sentence." Aigul Djabbarbergenov told reporters during her husband's incarceration, "I and our older children are praying for Makset. We all miss him very much, but [we] pray that we can follow God and He'll lead us to be where He wants us to be. We want Him to solve and resolve the situation and tell us what to do." [read more...]


UZBEKISTAN: PROTESTANTS FINED FOR DISCUSSING THEIR FAITH AND PRAYING TOGETHER
by Mushfig Bayram, Forum 18 News Service

(29 Nov) Uzbekistan continues to fine and raid people meeting to discuss their faith and pray together. In Tashkent Region a Protestant was fined 100 times the minimum monthly wage for allegedly illegally distributing religious literature, and books including Bibles and New Testaments were been ordered to be destroyed, Forum 18 News Service has learned. Legal procedures were violated, the official who produced "expert analyses" allegedly managing to within one working day read 1,300 books, 2,100 brochures, 450 leaflets, 50 magazines, watch 200 videos, and listen to 350 audio cassettes. "This beats the Guinness Book of Records," a local Protestant observed to Forum 18.

In the central Samarkand Region, three Baptists were given one fine of 50 times the minimum monthly wage and two fines of 10 times the minimum monthly wage for allegedly distributing religious literature. They deny this, telling Forum 18 that "we had some of our neighbours, friends, and relatives with us. About 10 people met to read the Bible and pray together." Legal procedures were also violated in this case. [read more...]


PATRIARCH KIRILL COMPARES CURRENT ATTACKS ON CHURCH WITH PRE-REVOLUTION ATTACKS
from Interfax-Religion

(06 Dec) Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia believes the recent attacks on the Church are reminiscent of the atmosphere in Russia before the revolution. "Attacks against the Church have recently intensified. This is all very reminiscent of the atmosphere in the Russian empire before the revolution. Like now, they were trying to find out what Orthodox people's reaction would be. Blasphemous acts and provocations were carried out," the Patriarch said while meeting with the leaders of the registered Cossack troops of Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus.

Speaking about the recent stage of the Church's regeneration, the patriarch said that people's turn to God has until now been "timid and has been regarded with interest and condescendence as some revival of folklore or national traditions. However, when they felt that Orthodox faith is not folklore and that it is becoming part of people's life, they started repeating the things that took place before," Patriarch Kirill said. The Patriarch said he is surprised by the "lack of inventiveness" among the opponents of the Church. "The same accusations are being made over and over again. Open up the magazines Bezbozhnik, read about the activities by the All-Union Society of Militant Atheists. The same techniques, the same goals, the same arguments!" the Patriarch said. [read more...]


CHINA: WEIBO AND ADVANCING FREEDOM OF RELIGION OR BELIEF
by Magda Hornemann, Forum 18 News Service

(26 Nov) Popular Chinese microblog Weibo has been used by people to express religious beliefs and to voice criticisms, for example of some local government actions. Indeed, the government may be using Weibo to monitor the behaviour of local authorities. Freedom of religion or belief has been a popular topic, Forum 18 News Service notes, as seen in discussions about connections between the Constitution and religious freedom. A Peking University scholar wrote: "Without religious freedom, there can't be a real Constitution!"

But there seem to be different levels of interest in discussing religious freedom from Weibo users of different beliefs. And criticisms of the state, especially of central political leaders, are limited and indirect. There is no indication that Weibo has been used to mobilise collective action to address specific religious freedom violations. But there is a freedom to express beliefs on Weibo that would have been unthinkable in China not very long ago. [read more...]


PRESIDENT SIGNS CONTROVERSIAL ALTERATIONS TO RELIGIOUS LAW DESPITE CALLS OF HEADS OF CHURCHES
from Religious Information Service of Ukraine

(06 Dec) Ukraine's President Viktor Yanukovych signed Bill 10221 which, in particular, introduces controversial alterations to the Law of Ukraine on Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations despite the calls of the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations (AUCCRO), human rights campaigners and public figures not to sign it, the Institute for Religious Freedom (IRF) reported with reference to a report published on the website of the Supreme Council on December 6. The decision of the president is dated to November 21 even though the bill was submitted to the president for his signature more than 30 days ago and was passed 50 days ago. According to IRF, the main danger of the alterations to the law is that it is impossible to interpret them unambiguously.

AS RISU reported earlier, the passed law considerably complicates the procedure of assumption by religious organizations of the status of a legal person as it introduces two unmatched registration procedures - that of statutory documents and state registration (entering in the unified register of legal persons). Bill 10221 also complicates the procedure for foreign religious ministers to obtain permissions to stay in Ukraine required for issuance of visas. Religious organizations are now to apply for such permissions in the Ministry of Culture in Kyiv which is in contradiction to Article 24 of the Law of Ukraine "On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations." [read more...]


OTHER NEWS HEADLINES:

PROTESTANTS FACE BRUNT OF AUTOCRACY IN BELARUS
from International Christian Concern

KAZAKHSTAN: "COMPLEX, ARBITRARY, UNNECESSARY AND EXPENSIVE" RE-REGISTRATION PROCESS
from Forum 18 News Service

MEDVEDEV DOESN'T BELIEVE IN THREAT OF RELIGIOUS FUNDAMENTALISM TO RUSSIA
from Interfax-Religion

DO PRIESTS HAVE RIGHT TO BE ELECTED? (VIDEO)
from The Voice of Russia

METROPOLITAN OF UOC-KP WARNS AGAINST BIOMETRIC PASSPORTS
from Religious Information Service of Ukraine

BAPTIST SUNDAY SCHOOL IN KRASNODAR BANNED
from SOVA

RUSSIAN GOVERNMENT CONTINUES TO RESTORE ORTHODOX HOLY SITES IN KOSOVO
from Russian Orthodox Church - Moscow Patriarchate

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


NOW, OUR VIEWS:

In this issue we see both positive and negative answers to our prayer requests: Pastor Makset Djabbarbergenov was not sent back to his native Uzbekistan for trial, but rather was granted asylum in Western Europe. On the other hand, the President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych signed Bill 10221 that limits freedom of religion in Ukraine. The Lord knows what He is doing, even when He answers our prayers with a "No."

Take a look at our Discover Original Christianity website: it now gives you a quick tour of several of the over 100 websites it links to, describing Original Christianity! And click on the heading "Ministry" to read the newly updated article on Agape Restoration Centers!

(You can now Support Our Ministry by credit/debit card or e-check: click on the "Donate" button there.)

Ministry as Servanthood (pais) and Bond-Service (douleuo) - Part 2

[This is an excerpt from Chapter 4 of my book The Ministry Driven Church, available HERE.]

Another doulos parable is found in Lk. 14:16-24, the parable of the wedding feast. Here Jesus defines the role of the doulos: three times He commands the doulos-servant to bring people in to the wedding feast. The first group of people, being caught up with their wealth and their families, make excuses, so the master tells the servant to "bring in the poor, maimed, blind, and lame" (v. 21). But there is still room for more, so the master commands his servant: "Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled" (v. 23).

The ordinary usage of doulos in the New Testament is that of a servant or bondservant who is entrusted with his master's affairs, similar to that of a steward: Eph. 6:5; Col. 3:22; 1 Tim. 6:1 and Tit. 2:9 are just a few instances. A doulos in the first century was often given great responsibility, but the master was still in charge of strategic planning. This is an important concept for Christians in the twenty-first century to grasp: we want to plan; we want to attain success (as we ourselves define it). But a doulos of the Lord Jesus is not necessarily called on to plan or to achieve certain goals; he is called to do only what his Master has instructed him to do, leaving the "big picture" to his Master.

In the opening salutation of several of his letters, St. Paul takes upon himself the title doulos to show his willing subjection to his Master, the Lord Jesus Christ: Rom. 1:1; Gal. 1:10; Phil. 1:1 and Tit. 1:1. James places himself in subjection as doulos to the Lord Jesus in Jam. 1:1; Peter does the same in 2 Pet. 1:1; and John does the same in Rev. 1:1. But perhaps the most striking usage of doulos is found in the beautiful words:

Have this in your mind, which was also in Christ Jesus, who, existing in the form of God, didn't consider equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant (doulos), being made in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, yes, the death of the cross. (Phil. 2:5-8)

If Jesus Christ, God incarnate, our Lord and Master, took upon Himself the form of a doulos, a bondservant, so should every disciple of Christ do the same!

The attitude of servanthood runs counter to the philosophy of unbridled freedom that is prevalent today. But St. Paul explains in Rom. 6:14-22 that there is no such thing as unlimited, absolute freedom. God's grace does not imply that we can do whatever we want; rather it frees us from the bondage of sin that leads to death, to willingly become bondservants (doulos) of Christ, with the end result of our sanctification and eternal life:

For sin will not have dominion over you, for you are not under law, but under grace. What then? Shall we sin, because we are not under law, but under grace? May it never be! Don't you know that to whom you present yourselves as servants (doulos) to obedience, his servants (doulos) you are whom you obey; whether of sin to death, or of obedience to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that, whereas you were bondservants (doulos) of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching whereunto you were delivered. Being made free from sin, you became bondservants (doulos) of righteousness. I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh, for as you presented your members as servants (doulos) to uncleanness and to wickedness upon wickedness, even so now present your members as servants (doulos) to righteousness for sanctification. For when you were servants (doulos) of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. What fruit then did you have at that time in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now, being made free from sin, and having become servants (doulos) of God, you have your fruit of sanctification, and the result of eternal life.

St. Peter echoes this idea in 1 Pet. 2:16 - "as free, and not using your freedom for a cloak of wickedness, but as bondservants (doulos) of God." So our freedom in Christ means the ability to freely choose to become bondservants of God. In reality, nobody is absolutely free, but we are able to choose whom we will serve: sin which leads to death, or God which leads to eternal life.


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Prayer and Praise:

Sun. - Thank the Lord that Uzbek Pastor Makset Djabbarbergenov was granted asylum in a Western European country.
Mon. - Pray for Uzbek Protestants fined 10, 50 and 100 times the monthly wage for allegedly distributing religious literature.
Tue. - Ask God that the attacks on churches in Russia might not signal a return to communist-era persecution of Christians.
Wed. - Thank God that there seems to be a growing discussion of religious freedom in the Chinese Internet blogosphere.
Thu. - Pray for Christians in Ukraine as Bill 10221 which restricts religious freedom was signed into law by their president.
Fri. - Pray against Kazakhstan's "complex, arbitrary, unnecessary and expensive" re-registration process for churches.
Sat. - Keep praying that we all will experience what it means to be a pais and a doulos together with Christ and the Apostles.


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. Communism doesn't work because people like to own stuff. - Frank Zappa


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