Welcome to , 07 Dec 2013
Fortnightly Report on Christianity in Former Soviet Bloc Countries,
by Dr. Robert D. Hosken
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FIRST, THE NEWS:

TATARSTAN OFFERS MILLION RUBLE REWARD FOR INFORMATION ON ARSON OF FOUR CHURCHES
from Russia Today

(02 Dec) A series of arson attacks on Christian churches in Russia's predominantly Muslim internal republic of Tatarstan has forced the authorities to offer a reward for information. The radical measure is because investigators suspect terrorist involvement. Tatarstan's President Rustam Minnikhanov chaired a special meeting on the investigation of the church fires and a suspected attempted terrorist attack. Regional officials say that anyone who could provide positive leads to the perpetrators would receive 1 million rubles (about $30,000), and Minnikhanov said he is taking the probe under his personal control.

The first attack took place on November 17 when a gang attempted to set fire to a Russian Orthodox church that is being built in the town of Chistopol. On the same day another fire destroyed a prayer house in the neighboring village of Lenino. On November 28 a fire was set at church in the Mamadysh district of the republic, and in the early hours of the next day the same happened at an abandoned church in the Rybnoslobodsk Region.

Law enforcers have started criminal investigations into vandalism, arsons and violation of the right to freely practice religions. Prosecutors want to classify the incidents as terrorist attacks, but so far this has not happened. Local authorities have reported that this year there have been fires at eight religious sites in Tatarstan (seven Christian churches and one mosque) and in 2012 there were none. Not all of the fires were caused by arson, but the latest incidents do appear to have been started deliberately. [read more...]


RELIGIOUS ACTIVISTS GATECRASH 'BLASPHEMOUS' THEATER PERFORMANCE IN MOSCOW
from The Moscow Times

(29 Nov) Orthodox Christian activists burst onstage during a rendition of Oscar Wilde's "The Ideal Husband" and berated the audience of Moscow theatergoers for tolerating blasphemy. In a video of the incident posted on LifeNews, Dmitry Enteo, leader of the Orthodox group God's Will, and a young female supporter are seen disrupting the Thursday evening performance at the Chekhov Moscow Art Theater before being dragged away by security. They were handed over to police afterwards. When the girl was led from the auditorium - still crying out "Why do you so hate Jesus?" - some of the audience members began to applaud.

Two people were detained for hooliganism at the theater and brought to a city precinct, a police representative told RIA Novosti, without naming the people in question. The authorities have not yet decided whether to charge them. The activists went to the theater to see if reports from shocked believers about the play's content were accurate but could not restrain themselves at a pivotal moment in the performance, Enteo said. "We went on stage and appealed to the hall's conscience. We explained that an infernal blasphemy was happening on stage: a naked woman was hung from the ceiling and representing the crucified Jesus Christ, and an actor playing a homosexual priest was worshipping her. This deeply offended us," Enteo said. [read more...]


RUSSIA: ALTERNATIVES TO "EXTREMISM" CHARGES TO PUNISH FREEDOM OF RELIGION OR BELIEF
by Geraldine Fagan, Forum 18 News Service

(02 Dec) Russian state officials have accused Baptists, Lutherans and Pentecostals of "extremism" in recent years, Forum 18 News Service notes. But such accusations are not at present routinely turning into "extremism" prosecutions of people exercising freedom of religion or belief. Currently, state moves against Protestants may feature informal accusations of "extremism" and/or the involvement of Counter-"extremism" Police, but prosecution usually continues under charges other than "extremism."

This situation is highly localised, with some officials supportive of Protestants exercising freedom of religion or belief and others hostile, Forum 18 finds. In the Black Sea coastal town of Taganrog (Rostov Region), a court case against Exodus Pentecostal Church has forced the congregation to stop its rehabilitation work with drug addicts and alcoholics due to alleged fire and sanitation violations, Forum 18 has learnt.

The Taganrog Pentecostal congregation is affiliated to Exodus Pentecostal Church in the regional capital, Rostov-on-Don. In 2010 prosecutors inspecting the Rostov-on-Don church found religious literature containing "a sharply negative evaluation" of Judaism and Islam and "direct and hidden" pejorative statements about Freemasons, Rostov Regional Public Prosecutor's Office reported in May 2010. This resulted in an "extremism" warning to Eduard Deremov, leader of the Southern Diocese of the nationwide Pentecostal Union headed by Sergei Ryakhovsky. [read more...]


CATHOLIC PRIEST SUSPECTED OF HIGH TREASON RELEASED FROM BELARUSIAN KGB CELL PENDING TRIAL
from Interfax-Religion

(04 Dec) Roman Catholic Priest Vladislav Lazar suspected of high treason (Belarusian Criminal Code Article 356 Part 1) has been released from a Belarusian State Security Committee (KGB) detention facility under certain restrictions pending trial, the Apostolic Nunciature of the Holy See (Vatican City) in Belarus reported. "The Apostolic Nunciature in Belarus has been informed by the country's competent [security] agencies that there are no more reasons to further hold Priest Vladislav Lazar at the KGB detention facility," it said.

"It has been decided that, during the investigation, which is still continuing, the priest should stay at a permanent place, having freedom of movement and action in line with certain regulations, with the obligation of daily registration with a local police department. The Apostolic Nuncio was asked to collect Priest Lazar from the KGB detention facility," it said. Lazar, who is posted in Borisov, was earlier detained by Belarusian special services and placed at the KGB pretrial detention facility in Minsk. He has been charged with "handing over money and material values to a man who is accused of espionage for another state," the Roman Catholic Church in Belarus said earlier. [read more...]


ARMENIA: BUILDING PLACES OF WORSHIP "NOT APPROPRIATE"
by Felix Corley, Forum 18 News Service

(06 Dec) Stepan Danielyan of the Yerevan-based Collaboration for Democracy Centre, who has long worked on freedom of religion or belief concerns, says refusals to permit building of places of worship are part of a pattern. "Officials try not to allow non-Armenian Apostolic religious communities to have officially-recognised visible places of worship," he told Forum 18 from Yerevan on 27 November. "If they exist at all, they want them to remain invisible." A member of a non-Christian organisation, who asked that the community not be identified, noted that while it can maintain a place of worship in Yerevan, the building has no notice or identifying signs outside which a passer-by might see.

One Armenian Catholic told Forum 18 of the "unwritten rule" that Catholicos Karekin, the head of the dominant Armenian [Orthodox] Apostolic Church, must give permission before non-Armenian Apostolic places of worship can be built. Danielyan pointed to the impossibility Yerevan's Armenian Catholic community faced trying to get permission for a building plot in the city centre several years ago. He said permission was denied and the community eventually settled for a plot in the northern city district of Kanaker, where building is yet to begin. Members of several religious communities, who asked not to be identified, said it was possible to get a building in an individual's name and then turn it into a place of worship. But getting permission to build a new place of worship was very difficult. [read more...]


ECUMENICAL PATRIARCH BARTHOLOMEW PRAYS FOR UKRAINE
from Religious Information Service of Ukraine

(06 Dec) Addressing the current difficult situation in the country, Patriarch Bartholomew asked the Almighty God to "calm and dispel the dark clouds of division and tribulation in Ukraine. In our historical and paternal love for our beloved people of Ukraine, especially after their recent joyous celebrations of the 1025th anniversary since the baptism of the Kievan Rus, we cannot but express our heartfelt sorrow as well as our compassionate concern at the unfortunate and painful events unfolding over the last days in Kiev. It is deeply heartbreaking for us to witness through the media how the festive joy that only months ago assembled the crowds in religious processions has been eclipsed by the shocking violence encountered today in the very same streets."

"Therefore, we appeal to God's mercy and grace that He may protect and illumine all people involved so that no further hurt might be inflicted and all disagreement may be peacefully resolved. Even as we are on pilgrimage at Myra of Lycea (in Asia Minor) for the commemoration of the feast of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker, who is celebrated for 'pacifying stormy seas, we pray that he might intercede to the almighty God that calm and reason may prevail in dispersing the dark clouds of division and tribulation in Ukraine," reads the statement published on his official web-page. [read more...]


OTHER NEWS HEADLINES:

ANTI-EUROPE DEMONSTRATORS PROTEST LIBERAL VALUES, GAYS
from The Columbus Dispatch

ORTHODOX TO CONDUCT PROCESSION AGAINST "EUROSODOMY" IN KIEV
from Interfax-Religia

KIEV PROTESTERS SEE POTENT ALLY UNDER A CHURCH SPIRE
from New York Times

ST. NICHOLAS COMES TO PROTESTERS
from Religious Information Service of Ukraine

RUSSIA: CATHOLIC AND PROTESTANT "EXTREMISM"?
from Forum 18 News Service

PATRIARCH KIRILL: THE BIBLE SHOULD BE TRANSLATED INTO MODERN RUSSIAN
from Interfax-Religion

CONFERENCE ON "THE FUTURE OF CHRISTIANITY IN EUROPE. THE ROLES OF CHURCHES AND PEOPLES OF POLAND AND RUSSIA"
from Russian Orthodox Church - Moscow Patriarchate

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


NOW, OUR VIEWS:

Our last news article, "ECUMENICAL PATRIARCH BARTHOLOMEW PRAYS FOR UKRAINE," and the first four news headlines all are concerned with the demonstrations in Ukraine for and against integration with the European Union. The Ecumenical Patriarch, head of the Orthodox Church in Constantinople, has canonical authority to settle disputes between various Orthodox Churches. This was a viable approach 800 years ago, but now the Church in Constantinople is subject to Muslim control and is reduced to just a few hundred people and a few acres of territory, so its Patriarch has little practical authority. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church - Kiev Patriarchate (UOC-KP), which broke off the Moscow Patriarchate when Ukraine became independent in 1991, has asked the Ecumenical Patriarch to recognize it as the legitimate Orthodox Church of Ukraine.

The Ecumenical Patriarch has recognized the Estonian Orthodox Church and the Carpatho-Rusyn Orthodox Church as legitimate. But to recognize the UOC-KP would cause huge problems with the Moscow Patriarchate that continues to assert its leadership over the Ukrainian Orthodox Church - Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP). Why? Mainly because the majority of Moscow's parishes are in the Ukraine: even though Ukraine's population is much smaller, its people are far more religious and have many more churches than Russians do. So the UOC-KP is on the side of the pro-EU group, and the UOC-MP is on the side of the pro-Russia group.

We in the West learn very little from our main-stream media about the pro-Russia side, because of course the West is pro-EU and doesn't give the other side a fair hearing. But the majority of Ukrainians, especially those in the eastern parts of Ukraine, lean toward Russia and are opposed to the EU trying to force post-Christian, pagan "Eurosodomy" on Ukraine. In addition, about 60% of Ukraine's foreign trade is with Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, and Russia has offered $40 Billion in economic assistance to Ukraine, a massive sum compared to the tiny $1 billion the EU offered. So the EU, with its own current economic woes, had relatively little to offer Ukraine.

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Ministry as Truth (aletheia) and Light (fos) - Part 2

[This is an excerpt from Chapter 16 of my book The Ministry Driven Church.
It's also on our website as an online course, and you can try out the course's interactive questions HERE.]

How does truth relate to light? The Apostle John links truth (aletheia) together with light (fos) in 1 John 1:6 and 8 as we saw in our study of koinonia, and again in ch. 2:8-11 -

Again, I write a new commandment to you, which is true (alethes) in him and in you; because the darkness is passing away, and the true (alethinos) light (fos) already shines. He who says he is in the light (fos) and hates his brother, is in the darkness even until now. He who loves his brother remains in the light (fos), 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.

It shouldn't surprise us that truth and light are used synonymously. We have already seen them together in John 3:21 - "But whoever does what is true (aletheia) comes to the light (fos), so that all may see that his actions have been done in God." In both of these passages, St. John tells us that truth and light describe what we do, not merely what we know. The Apostle Paul also emphasizes the idea that our "walk" must match our "talk," as we see in our central passage, Eph. 4: 1 and 17-18 -

I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to walk worthily of the calling with which you were called. This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardening of their hearts.

In contrast to walking in darkness, we are to put on the new man and relate to one another in truth, as we have already seen in Eph. 4:25. Then St. Paul continues to describe how Christians ought to behave or "walk," and in Eph. 5:2 he writes - "Walk in love, even as Christ also loved you." And in Eph. 5:8-9 we find - "For you were once darkness, but are now light (fos) in the Lord. Walk as children of light (fos), for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth (aletheia)." Thus Paul develops the concept of light (fos) in the context of ministry (diakonia). Next, Paul describes in Eph. 5:11-15 the specific actions we should take when we encounter darkness and evil:

Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather even reprove them. For the things which are done by them in secret, it is a shame even to speak of. But all things, when they are reproved, are revealed by the light (fos), for everything that reveals is light (fos). Therefore he says, "Awake, you who sleep, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you." Therefore watch carefully how you walk, not as unwise, but as wise.

This is one of those difficult passages, not because it is hard to understand, but because it is difficult to obey! In our modern live-and-let-live culture, we are taught to think that we should simply ignore other people's immoral and even criminal behavior. If a neighbor or coworker is continually breaking the law and refuses to change his actions when we mention it to him, these verses teach us that we ought to reprove, i.e. expose them to the light. Unconditional love for our neighbor means that we accept the sinner as a human being Christ died for, but we do not accept his sins. Instead, we try to help him overcome them by the grace of God, who accepted me just as I am, but does not expect me to remain just as I am.

One former worker, a Christian I recruited for a responsible position, when I would try to counsel him about his problems of behavior, would say to me - "God accepts me just as I am, so you must accept me just as I am too!" He would come to work an hour or two late, then sit at his desk drinking tea and eating cookies all day. Try as I might, I could not bring him to understand that God expected him as a disciple of Christ to lead a disciplined life, to come to work on time, to accomplish his assigned tasks, and to control his appetite for food. Finally I had to terminate our working relationship, after having invested several thousand dollars in him.

Another former coworker often bragged to me how he had received so many traffic tickets for speeding and drunk driving that the police revoked his driving license, but he continued to drive his car! After I talked with him several times about how he was risking the lives of other people by his drunk and reckless driving, he still kept on driving without a license. Finally I felt obligated to report him to the police, who arrested him as he was starting to drive his car.

On a certain consulting assignment I was managing a project for rewriting a software system that processed about one billion dollars per year of insurance claims. As I was finishing the project (it balanced to the penny), I was made aware that the insurance company where I was consulting was falsely coding government health insurance claims for abortions as "miscellaneous procedures." This meant that I was in effect sharing a common purse with murder, as well as helping that company violate U.S. law that prohibited government funding of abortions. When I confronted them, they denied falsely coding any claims, so I had to end that consulting assignment and refused to take another assignment with that company when they asked me to return. Afterwards my consulting firm offered me a couple more consulting assignments that they knew would violate my morals: I refused to accept them and therefore resigned from the firm to return to full-time mission work.

Christians have become so intimidated by phrases such as "You can't legislate morality" and "Don't force your religion down other people's throats" that we often hide our faith and our morals. But look at what the Lord Jesus says about this - "You are the light (fos) of the world. A city located on a hill can't be hidden. Neither do you light a lamp, and put it under a measuring basket, but on a stand; and it shines to all who are in the house. Even so, let your light (fos) shine before men; that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven" (Mat. 5:14-16). If we let our light shine, it will overcome the darkness - "In him was life, and the life was the light (fos) of men. The light (fos) shines in the darkness, and the darkness hasn't overcome it" (John 1:4-5). If, however, we hide our light under a basket due to social pressure, the darkness will overcome the light. Light must be allowed to shine in the darkness! It will then expose the evil works of darkness, as we read in John 3:19-21 -

This is the judgment, that the light (fos) has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light (fos); for their works were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the light (fos), and doesn't come to the light (fos), lest his works would be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light (fos), that his works may be revealed, that they have been done in God.

There exists a struggle between light and darkness, good and evil. We already saw in Eph. 5:14 - "Therefore he says, 'Awake, you who sleep, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine (fos) on you.'" St. Paul wrote similarly to the church at Thessalonica -

But you, brothers, aren't in darkness, that the day should overtake you like a thief. You are all children of light (fos), and children of the day. We don't belong to the night, nor to darkness, so then let's not sleep, as the rest do, but let's watch and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep in the night, and those who are drunk are drunk in the night. But let us, since we belong to the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and, for a helmet, the hope of salvation (1 Thes. 5:4-8).

Here Paul is clearly connecting our being "children of light" to leading our lives in the daytime, not staying up late into the night. Children of light sleep at night, but "those who are drunk are drunk in the night." Mark writes about Jesus - "Early in the morning, while it was still dark, he rose up and went out, and departed into a deserted place, and prayed there" (Mk. 1:35). Staying up late at night virtually guarantees that we won't be able to rise up early to pray. We may feel we ought to rise early to pray, but as we learned in our study of koinonia about walking in the light, if we try to go to bed early when we're not tired so that we can get up early, it often won't work. We just lie in bed wide awake because our body clock isn't set to feel tired. So we don't get to sleep until past midnight, then we sleep past 8am - and feel even guiltier!

The trick is to reset our body clock by going to bed at the regular time, setting the alarm clock for 6am, and get up then, don't hit the snooze button. Then we will begin to feel tired earlier the next evening and it will gradually reset our body clock. It will take at least three or four weeks to learn this new habit, so be consistent in getting up when the alarm goes off, and then simply go to bed in the evening when you feel tired. Remember, the starting point should always be getting up early in the morning on schedule. God wants to have fellowship with you, and I'm sure you want to have fellowship with him. This is just a simple technique to help that happen.

In Mat. 17:1-2 we read of Jesus' transfiguration - "After six days, Jesus took with him Peter, James, and John his brother, and brought them up into a high mountain by themselves. He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his garments became as white as the light (fos)." Peter, one of those three disciples who witnessed this transfiguration, writes - "seeing that his divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and virtue; by which he has granted to us his precious and exceedingly great promises; that through these you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world by lust" (2 Pet. 1:3-4). And Paul writes that as we spend time in His presence, we too are transfigured and begin to reflect His glorious light - "But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are transformed into the same image from glory to glory, even as from the Lord, the Spirit" (2 Cor. 3:18). Choose this glorious light!

Jesus said - "I am the light (fos) of the world. He who follows me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the light (fos) of life" (John 8:12). And we read in John 12:35-36 that He said - "Yet a little while the light (fos) is with you. Walk while you have the light (fos), that darkness doesn't overtake you. He who walks in the darkness doesn't know where he is going. While you have the light (fos), believe in the light (fos), that you may become children of light (fos)." Every human being is born with a spark of light in him from Jesus, "the true light (fos) that enlightens everyone was coming into the world" (John 1:9). This is God's part. But much also depends on each one of us: will we decide to seek the light - goodness - and become children of light, or will we choose to seek the darkness - evil - and become children of darkness who hate the light? God has done His part, now the choice is ours. Choose light and life!

When Saul of Tarsus was on the road to Damascus in order to seek and destroy followers of the latest false (in his thinking) Messiah, he was struck with a blinding light and a voice - "As he traveled, it happened that he got close to Damascus, and suddenly a light (fos) from the sky shone around him. He fell on the earth, and heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" He said, "Who are you, Lord?" The Lord said, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting" (Acts 9:3-5). Just as we read in John's Gospel, we see here that Jesus is the light! We might think that in this case God chose Saul, but Saul also chose to acknowledge Jesus as Lord and obey His voice. Later renamed Paul, he reiterates this story in Acts 22 and 26, testifying before religious and secular authorities that Jesus is this dazzling light.

While in exile on the Island of Patmos, the Apostle John received the revelation to the seven churches of Asia, introduced by a vision of the exalted and glorified Christ -

I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. Having turned, I saw seven golden lampstands. And among the lampstands was one like a son of man, clothed with a robe reaching down to his feet, and with a golden sash around his chest. His head and his hair were white as white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire. His feet were like burnished brass, as if it had been refined in a furnace. His voice was like the voice of many waters. He had seven stars in his right hand. Out of his mouth proceeded a sharp two-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining at its brightest (Rev. 1:12-16).

When I was a new Christian, one morning as I was praying the exalted Christ appeared to me in a vision in dazzling light, just as He appeared to St. John. Christ became so very real to me that I myself faded into insignificance. Later, while studying philosophy in university and beginning to question the existence of God and my Christian faith, I remembered the awesome, overwhelming reality of that vision I had experienced and decided once and for all that I would rather doubt my own existence than to doubt the existence of Christ as God. I sincerely hope and pray that this awesome, glorious light of Jesus will be just as real to you!


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Prayer and Praise:

Sun. - Pray that the arsonists of four churches in Tatarstan will be apprehended and be given a fair trial.
Mon. - Intercede with God against the blasphemous theatrical event performed at Moscow's Chekhov Art Theater.
Tue. - Ask God that the frivolous charges of "extremism" against non-Orthodox Christians in Russia will cease.
Wed. - Thank the Lord that Catholic Priest Vladislav Lazar, arrested for treason in Belarus, is now out of prison.
Thu. - Pray that Christian groups not in the Armenian Apostolic Church will be allowed to construct buildings.
Fri. - Intercede for peace and religious freedom in the Ukraine, now wracked by pro- and anti-EU demonstations.
Sat. - Ask the Lord that all Christians would abandon relativism, be transformed by and walk in the light of Christ.

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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