Welcome to , 13 Apr 2014
Fortnightly Report on Christianity in Former Soviet Bloc Countries,
by Dr. Robert D. Hosken
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FIRST, THE NEWS:

RUSSIAN, UKRAINIAN BAPTIST LEADERS MEET IN KIEV
from
ABP News

Select to see full-size! (10 Apr) The heads of the Baptist unions in Ukraine and Russia met April 8 for the first time since a political crisis began last November putting the two nations on the brink of war. Presidents of the All-Ukrainian Union of Associations of Evangelical Christians-Baptists and the Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists issued a joint statement indicating the two groups want to continue their strong fraternal relations despite geopolitical differences. Tony Peck, general secretary of the European Baptist Federation, said the meeting demonstrates "that the gospel we believe in transcends political differences between nations and unites us in an overall concern for peace and reconciliation in Christ."

Vyacheslav Nesteruk, head of the 2,300-church and 125,000-member Ukranian Baptist Union and President Aleksey Smirnov of the 1,800-church and 76,000-member Russian Baptist organization, called on churches "to pray continually for peace between our peoples as well as for those who have suffered during the course of the recent political stand-off." The Baptist leaders pledged "our sincere willingness to pray and support deeds of fraternal dialogue and the promotion of peace in the Russian and Ukrainian societies." They appealed "to all who are responsible for the future of our countries to hold firmly to the principles of freedom of conscience and confession as well as the non-interference of the state and political forces in the internal life of religious organizations."

They condemned "acts of violence and brutality against persons as well as the resolution of political problems by military means" and appealed to members of various religious groups "to contribute to the process of forgiveness and agreement between our peoples." The statement said: "We mourn those killed in mass clashes on both sides of the conflict, both among the public and combatants. We call on our brothers and sisters in the churches of Russia and Ukraine to pray for a peaceful resolution of the political confrontation between our two countries." [read more...]


KYRGYZSTAN: 14 YEAR CHURCH OWNERSHIP ANNULLED
by Mushfig Bayram,
Forum 18 News Service

(08 Apr) Authorities in Kyrgyzstan's capital Bishkek are seeking to confiscate the building of a Protestant Church, the Church of Jesus Christ, Forum 18 News Service has learned. In January a court annulled the sales contract signed more than 14 years ago, claiming it was in violation of the law. The Church's appeal against the decision - and its separate appeal to have the whole case thrown out - are due to be heard in Bishkek City Court on 18 April.

Some Church members, and members of other Protestant churches in Bishkek, told Forum 18 that the authorities' legal moves to seize the building may be motivated by their dislike of the Church's activity and its members spreading their faith across Kyrgyzstan. However, other Church members speculate that a major incentive might be financial. "The authorities just want to take advantage of us," they complained to Forum 18 on 3 April. They point out that the building is in a "prestigious district" of Bishkek with a market price of "about one million US dollars" The authorities "just want to take it away from us because, we think, they have potential buyers." [read more...]


RUSSIAN PROSECUTORS ASK ISRAEL TO EXTRADITE PRIEST ACCUSED OF CHILD MOLESTATION
from
Interfax-Religion

(07 Apr) A request for the extradition of priest Gleb Grozovsky, who is accused of child molestation, has been sent to Israel, sources in the law enforcement agencies told Interfax. "The request was made by the Russian Prosecutor General's Office on the basis of materials obtained from the Investigations Committee's Investigations Department for St. Petersburg in connection with a case involving the molestation of two minors," the source said.

The source said Grozovsky was earlier put on the international wanted persons list, although it is known that he is in Israel, where he stayed after his business trip. Investigators believe that in June 2013 Grozovsky, 34, sexually assaulted a 9-year-old and 12-year-old girl in a hotel at a children's camp at the Orthodox travelers club Philadelphia, on the Greek island of Cos. Grozovsky, who was on a business trip at a center helping drug addicts in Israel and who remains in Israel now, has been put on the international wanted list and placed under arrest in absentia. [read more...]


COUNCIL OF CHURCHES CONDEMNS SEPARATISM AND ADVOCATES FOR INVIOLABILITY OF UKRAINE'S BORDERS
from
Religious Information Service of Ukraine

(04 Apr) The All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations (AUCCRO) has condemned manifestations of separatism and advocates for Ukraine's integrity within its internationally recognized borders. This is stated in a communiqué adopted at a meeting of the AUCCRO on April 3, 2014, at the St. Sophia of Kyiv National Reserve, chaired by Metropolitan Onufry, locum tenens of the Metropolitanate of Kyiv of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (in communion with the Moscow Patriarchate), the Institute for Religious Freedom reports.

The All-Ukrainian Council of Churches unanimously declared that in Ukraine there is no religious hatred or intolerance among believers. The heads of churches and religious organizations have condemned provocations and attempts to incite hatred on the basis of religious grounds, as some media outlets have tried to do. "Despite the social and political crisis that our country is experiencing, churches and religious organizations maintain interfaith and interreligious peace," the council emphasized in the communique. [read more...]


UNDERSTANDING A MORE RELIGIOUS AND ASSERTIVE RUSSIA
from
Patheos Blog

(02 Apr) In his widely analyzed March 18 speech to the Russian Parliament, Putin cited the baptism of Vladimir the Great over 1000 years ago in Crimea as the seminal event binding Ukraine and Russia. That baptism is considered the birth of Russian Orthodoxy. Orthodox faith has been key to Moscow's historic self-conceived role as defender of all Russians, of Slavs, and of Orthodox, wherever they are.

Putin has formed a close association with Russian Orthodoxy, as Russian rulers typically have across centuries. He is smart to do so, as Russia has experienced somewhat of a spiritual revival. Although regular church goers remain a small minority, strong majorities of Russians now identify themselves as Orthodox. Orthodoxy is widely and understandably seen as the spiritual remedy to the cavernous spiritual vacuum left by over 70 disastrous, often murderous years of Bolshevism.

Resurgent religious traditionalism has fueled Russia's new law against proselyting homosexual orientation to minors and its new anti-abortion law. Both laws also respond to Russia's demographic struggle with plunging birth rates and monstrously high abortion rates that date to Soviet rule. Some American religious conservatives have looked to Russian religious leaders as allies in international cooperation on pro-family causes. It remains to be seen whether geopolitical tensions over Putin's moves in Russia temper this alliance.

A few liberal commentators have predictably denounced it as toxic. A few conservative commentators have cautioned against saber-rattling against Russia, whose religious revival they hope might counter Western secularism. A realistic perspective should welcome Christian vitality in Russia while recognizing it won't necessarily mitigate and may in fact reinforce Russia as a strategic competitor with the West. East-West rivalry predates Soviet Communism by a millennium, when the Church in Rome broke with the Churches in the East. [read more...]


OTHER NEWS HEADLINES:

MORE DIOCESES POSSIBLE IN BELARUS
from
BELTA

PATRIARCH KIRILL COMPARES EVENTS IN UKRAINE TO 1917 REVOLUTION
from
Interfax-Religion

AMID GOSPEL OPPORTUNITIES, CONCERN AND TENSIONS GROWING IN UKRAINE
from
Mission Network News

SUMY POLICE ARREST UOC-MP PRIEST FOR BRANDISHING PISTOL
from
Religious Information Service of Ukraine

OCCUPIED CRIMEA FACES QUESTIONS OF RELIGIOUS LIBERTY
from
Institute for Religious Liberty

RUSSIAN FLIGHT FROM NON-RUSSIAN REPUBLICS UNDERCUTTING PUTIN'S RUSSIFICATION PROGRAM
from
Window on Eurasia

CELEBRATIONS IN ULAN BATOR MARK 150TH ANNIVERSARY OF FIRST ORTHODOX LITURGY IN MONGOLIA
from
Russian Orthodox Church - Moscow Patriarchate

LATVIAN PRESIDENT ASKS PATRIARCH KIRILL TO POSTPONE VISIT
from
The Baltic Times

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


NOW, OUR VIEWS:

The nice, comfy photo in our article about Vyacheslav Nesteruk and Aleksey Smirnov, heads of the Ukrainian and Russian Baptist Unions, makes no mention of the fact that Russia has instructed its Baptist Union to annex all the Baptist churches in Crimea. Nonetheless, it's good that Ukrainian and Russian evangelicals are talking with each other calmly, and not struggling for control.

It is also refreshing to see that the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations (AUCCRO), led by the head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church - Moscow Patriarchate, has come out wholeheartedly for peace and the integrity of Ukraine's borders. These moves hopefully foretell a peaceful settlement of the ongoing Ukrainian crisis.

The following article, UNDERSTANDING A MORE RELIGIOUS AND ASSERTIVE RUSSIA, gives us helpful background information about the historical roots of the current crisis. Ukraine, and specifically Crimea, is the birthplace of Slavic Christianity, the place where in A.D. 988 Prince Vladimir of Kyiv was baptized. Noteably, this was before the Great Schism that separated the Pope of Rome from the Patriarchs in the East. Ever since then, Ukraine has been a key battleground between Church and State in East and West.

How could the various Christian confessions in Ukraine come together to help unite their country? The main groupings are the Ukrainian Orthodox Church - Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP), the Ukrainian Orthodox Church - Kyiv Patriarchate (UOC-KP), the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC), and the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC) - sometimes referred to as the Uniates. These four all celebrate the Liturgy using the "Eastern Rite" coming from Constantinople. The Greek Catholic Church priests can even be married, as is the case for Orthodox priests.

So there is very little difference in their worship - mainly the fact that the Orthodox commemorate the Eastern Patriarchs in their prayers, whereas the Greek Catholics commemorate the Pope, and the Catholics insert the phrase "and from the Son" in the Nicene Creed. Here's my suggestion: have the Pope and Patriarch Bartholomew get together and agree that Ukraine is a special case, and re-unite the UAOC and UGCC, so these Christian groups would commemorate both the Pope and Patriarch in their prayers, drop "and from the Son" from the Nicene Creed, and pray for peace and reconciliation in their country, then invite the UOC-KP and UOC-MP to join in. Then all four Churches should work together in the social sphere to help the poor, the maimed, the lame and the blind, to restore them and the entire country to wholeness and fullness of life. This is what all Christians ought to be doing anyway!

This might seem farfetched to some, but keep in mind that last year, for the first time in history, the Patriarch of Constantinople attended the inauguration of the new Pope, and had a long private audience with him before the inauguration. It is not inconceivable that the two could meet again, this time in Kyiv. This could rescue Ukraine from the brink of disaster.


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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 that
the Ukrainian and Russian Baptist Unions will dwell together in Christian harmony and unity.
Mon. - Ask God that authorities in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan will not confiscate a Protestant church's building there.
Tue. - Pray for the extradition of Fr. Gleb Grozovsky, who is accused of child molestation, from Israel to Russia.
Wed. - Thank the Lord that AUCCRO has condemned separatism and advocates for Ukraine's territorial integrity.
Thu. - Pray for a continuing spiritual awakening in Russia and the other countries of the former Soviet Union.
Fri. - Praise God for the 150th anniversary of the first Orthodox liturgy in Ulan Bator, the capitol of Mongolia.
Sat. - Ask God for Christians in East and West to be the catalyst to avoid the ticking time bomb of demographic decline.

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. We have laws against murder, rape, theft, slavery and child molestation. Who says you can't legislate morality?


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