Welcome to , 16 Feb 2014
Fortnightly Report on Christianity in Former Soviet Bloc Countries,
by Dr. Robert D. Hosken
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FIRST, THE NEWS:

TWO KILLED, SIX INJURED IN RUSSIAN CHURCH SHOOTING SPREE
from
RIA Novosti

(09 Feb) A gunman opened fire in an Orthodox church on an island in Russia's Far East, killing two and injuring six people, the local church authority said on its website Sunday. The man broke into the Cathedral of the Resurrection in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, on Sakhalin Island, at around 7 a.m. Moscow time (3 a.m. GMT), and fired several shots, killing a nun and a worshiper. Others have been hospitalized with gunshot wounds in the legs, but their lives are not under threat, Archbishop Tikhon said.

The attacker was detained after the shooting at the scene by police. His motive is not yet known. An investigation is ongoing. Russia's Investigative Committee said Sunday the attacker in his 20s was a guard at a local agency. He faces life in prison if convicted. The suspect will undergo a mental evaluation. The Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, Kirill, held a prayer service in Moscow for the victims of the attack in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, saying they had "died like heroes and soldiers on the front line." He said the attacker was likely a mentally ill person and that people in the church had died as they tried to prevent him from desecrating the relics. [read more...]


UZBEKISTAN: NEW DECREE GIVES LEGAL BASIS TO EXISTING CENSORSHIP
by Mushfig Bayram,
Forum 18 News Service

(12 Feb) Uzbekistan has further curtailed freedoms of speech and religion by establishing a legal basis for the long-established de facto severe state restrictions on religion-related literature, films, recordings, websites and other materials, Forum 18 News Service notes. A new Decree, which came into force on 27 January, imposes sweeping controls on the production, distribution and import of all such materials. It bans their distribution anywhere apart from in fixed commercial points of sale equipped with cash registers. Such materials, including those for personal use, cannot be imported without prior state permission.

The Decree also bans the production, storage or distribution of religious materials intended to encourage people to change their faith or beliefs. It also bans works which, in the state's interpretation, "distort" religious canons. Shavkat Mirziyoyev, the Prime Minister, signed the Cabinet of Ministers Decree entitled "Measures to improve order in the production, import and distribution of religious materials" on 20 January. It came into force on its official publication on 27 January. [read more...]


BELARUS: LONG-AWAITED ALTERNATIVE SERVICE LAW ABANDONED?
by Olga Glace,
Forum 18 News Service

(03 Feb) Hopes of Belarusian human rights defenders and conscientious objectors to military service for the adoption of a long-awaited Alternative Service Law - however imperfect - have been set back. The draft Law was withdrawn from Parliament in mid-December 2013 almost as soon as it reached it, Forum 18 News Service has learned. It appears to have been returned for corrections to the Labour and Social Security Ministry which drafted it, though the Ministry spokesperson refused to confirm or deny this to Forum 18. No date for its return to Parliament has been given.

"It might take a long time before the Alternative Service Law is adopted and implemented," Yelena Tonkacheva, Head of the Minsk-based Lawtrend Legal Centre - which has campaigned for such a Law - lamented to Forum 18. However, she has concerns that the current proposed alternative service would not be open to non-religious conscientious objectors and its length -two-thirds longer than military service - would be punitive. All men between 18 and 27 (with a few exceptions or deferments on grounds of health or family circumstance) are required to do 12 or 18 months' military service. [read more...]


KIRILL'S KEY MAN IN KYIV
from
Religious Information Service of Ukraine

(30 Jan) As events in Ukraine are spinning out of the regime's control, and Ukrainians are trying to create a genuine democracy, how will Moscow react? Along with measures in the political and security areas, will it also take steps in the ecclesiastical field? In a recent article in the "Kyiv Post" Daniel Bilak, a Ukrainian-Canadian lawyer who works in Kyiv, links the Moscow Patriarchate's ambitions to lead the Orthodox world with Russia's policy of assuming political, economic, and cultural control over Ukraine.

The author points out that Russia's bid to lead world Orthodoxy depends on the Patriarchate's retention of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. That, he argues, may depend on the succession to the ailing Metropolitan of Kyiv, Volodymyr (Sabodan). Since none of the likely candidates from Ukraine is entirely acceptable to Moscow, the Moscow Patriarchate, according to Bilak, may appoint Metropolitan Hilarion, the current head of the Russian Church's Department of External Church Relations, to that post.

The Church of Moscow has long seen itself as the leader of Orthodoxy. It saw the attempts of the besieged Patriarchate of Constantinople to conclude a union with the Roman church at the Council of Florence in 1439 in exchange for aid against the Ottoman Turks as evidence of the Greeks' unreliability. After Constantinople fell to the Turks in 1453, Moscow appeared to be the great hope of the Orthodox faith, and the well-known theory of the Third Rome, launched in the early 1500s, bolstered that claim. The attainment of autocephaly in 1589 strengthened Moscow's position. [read more...]


RUSSIANS DISAPPROVE OF CRITICISM OF RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH - POLL
from
Interfax-Religion

(13 Feb) Sixty-three percent of Russian citizens recently interviewed by the Public Opinion Foundation (FOM) believe that it is unacceptable to criticize the Russian Orthodox Church. The public opinion survey, which was conducted in 43 Russian regions on February 1-2 and involved 1,500 people, showed that only 15% of respondents are skeptical towards the Church. Ten percent of those polled said they had recently come across media reports criticizing the Church, as compared with 19% in 2013.

However, 3% of respondents said that representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church can be criticized for their attempts to accumulate wealth, 2% of those polled mentioned clergymen's inappropriate conduct, and 1% referred to the church's involvement in politics and remarks made by Archpriest Andrey Kurayev. Another 1% of respondents believe that patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia deserves fierce criticism. A mere 25% of those polled believe that Orthodox believers have a right to criticize the Russian Orthodox Church. [read more...]


RUSSIANS RETURN TO RELIGION, BUT NOT TO CHURCH
from
Pew Research

(10 Feb) Over the past two decades, since the collapse of the Soviet Union, there has been an upsurge in affiliation with Orthodox Christianity in Russia. Between 1991 and 2008, the share of Russian adults identifying as Orthodox Christian rose from 31% to 72%, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of three waves of data (1991, 1998 and 2008) from the International Social Survey Programme (ISSP) - a collaboration involving social scientists in about 50 countries. During the same period, the share of Russia's population that does not identify with any religion dropped from 61% to 18%.

The share of Russian adults identifying with other religions, including Islam, Protestant and Roman Catholic Christianity, rose in the 1990s and then leveled off. (Estimates of the size of Russia's Muslim population vary. The most recent ISSP survey finds that Muslims make up 5% of Russia's population, but other surveys and studies have somewhat higher estimates. For more information, see "Sochi Olympics shine spotlight on Russia's Muslim population.") There also has been a modest increase in some measures of religious commitment. For example, the share of Russian adults who said they are at least "somewhat" religious rose from 11% in 1991 to 54% in 2008. And the portion of adults who said they believe in God rose from 38% to 56% over the same period.

But for most Russians, the return to religion did not correspond with a return to church. Across all three waves of ISSP data, no more than about one-in-ten Russians said they attend religious services at least once a month. The share of regular attenders (monthly or more often) was 2% in 1991, 9% in 1998 and 7% in 2008. This suggests that although many more Russians now freely identify with the Orthodox Church or other religious groups, they may not be much more religiously observant than they were in the recent past, at least in terms of attendance at religious services. [read more...]


OTHER NEWS HEADLINES:

RUSSIANS CONVERTED DURING OLYMPIC OUTREACH
from
Mission Network News

HEAD OF UKRAINE'S CATHOLIC CHURCH WARNS AMERICA: WE COULD BE ON THE VERGE OF A "NEW COLD WAR"
from
The Blaze

UOC-MP PRIEST BLESSED BERKUT TO FIGHT TO THE DEATH AGAINST EUROMAIDAN PROTESTERS
from
Religious Information Service of Ukraine

PUTIN "WELCOMES" UKRAINE-EU TIES AMID GERMAN MEDIATION EFFORTS
from
BosNewsLife

UZBEKISTAN: ANTI-TERRORISM PASSPORT CHECK - BOOK RAID
from Forum 18 News Service

SAKHALIN CHURCH SHOOTER ADMITS HIS GUILT
from Interfax-Religion

ARCHPRIEST VSEVOLOD CHAPLIN SUSPECTS ARCHDEACON ANDREI KURAEV OF RENOVATIONISM
from Portal-credo.ru

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


NOW, OUR VIEWS:

While the Winter Olympics are in full sway, all is "friendly competition" as the world's attention is turned away from events in Ukraine. One evangelical mission is focused on saving souls in Sochi rather than saving the nation of Ukraine. The effort by Russia to extend "political, economic, and cultural control over Ukraine" by granting a huge $15-billion bailout is obvious, and the Russian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate (ROC-MP) needs to keep its Ukrainian dioceses (UOC-MP) in its fold in order to maintain its claim as the leader of Orthodox Christianity.

Ukraine, home to over half of all Eastern-rite Christians (including UOC-MP, UOC-KP [Kievan Patriarchate] and the "erstwhile Orthodox" Eastern-rite Ukrainian Catholic Church) is a veritable hotbed of spirituality, even sending missionaries to Russia. In contrast, although Russians mostly favor the Russian Orthodox Church, they are "spiritual but not religious," according to a recent survey: less than 10% of Russian citizens attend church at least once a month.

But much is happening in Ukraine behind the scenes, not reported in the mainstream media: a UOC-MP archpriest blessed the Ukrainian "Berkut" commandos to kill Maidan protesters, threatening these commandos with eternal damnation if they do not. Meanwhile, Patriarch Sviatoslav of the UCC spoke with U.S. Vice President Biden at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington D.C., reminding him - "the United States promised under a trilateral agreement signed in 1994 to provide security assurances to the Ukraine after it transferred all strategic warheads on its territory to Russia for elimination." Will Washington step up and help?

Some sort of secret deal is in the works, as Russian President Putin stated: "steps towards economic convergence between the EU and Ukraine were welcome." I expect that after the Olympics are over, we will see a resolution of the Ukrainian crisis, with Germany - the EU's leading nation - and Russia sharing the spoils between them.

On a personal note, Cheryl and I are volunteering three mornings per week at FOCUS+Pittsburgh's inner-city ministry to the poor, helping people write resumes and search for jobs and housing: see FOCUS+Pittsburgh: Homes and Jobs. It's a challenging but spiritually rewarding experience!

Let's keep the comments coming! When you've finished reading, leave your COMMENTS in our Hosken-News Blog below. Thanks!


Prayer and Praise:

Sun. - Pray for the souls of
those killed in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, for those wounded, and for the drunken shooter.
Mon. - Intercede for Christians in Uzbekistan, where a new decree legalizes censorship of religious literature.
Tue. - Ask God that an Alternative Service Law for conscientious objectors will eventually be passed in Belarus.
Wed. - Pray for a fair resolution to the efforts of Eastern-Rite Christians to have their own Church in Ukraine.
Thu. - Ask God to stimulate Russians who favor Orthodoxy to actually start attending worship services regularly.
Fri. - Pray that Ukraine will avoid an all-out civil war that could bring the entire world into a "new Cold War."
Sat. - Ask the Lord that genuine Christians will understand and practice the right relation of church and state.

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 majority of the mob outvotes the prudence of the wise.


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