Welcome to , 11 May 2014
Fortnightly Report on Christianity in Former Soviet Bloc Countries,
by Dr. Robert D. Hosken
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FIRST, THE NEWS:

MASS GRAVE IN MOSCOW SUBURBS IS AMONG RUSSIA'S HOLIEST SITES
from
Moscow Times

Select to see the full article! (06 May) On May 10, the Russian Orthodox Church holds its annual special service in the Church of New Martyrs and Confessors in Butovo, a little-known site that is home to Russia's largest collection of holy relics. In the forest near old Butovo, about 5 kilometers south of the Moscow Ring Road, lies the largest burial place for victims of Stalin's purges in the whole Moscow region, a site of mass executions. At the small plot of land known as the Butovsky Shooting Range or "Butovsky Poligon," about 20,760 people were executed between August 1937 and October 1938. Among this were men and women, the old and the young, people from 70 different nationalities and many faiths and social classes.

Seventy-seven years ago, in August 1937, the head of the NKVD ordered a high fence be erected around a remote five-hectare patch of oak forest glade. The construction was largely ignored by locals, who were told the site would be a shooting range, a rumor that frequent gunfire seemed to verify. More than 20,000 people were executed at the site in a little more than a year - an average of about 50 people per day. The diversity of those executed was stunning, including South African communists, Polish nationalists, Germans, Hindus, Chinese, Tatars and Jews. However, the site "specialized" in executions of Orthodox Christian clergy, targeted by the Soviet Union as supposedly counter-revolutionary elements in their atheist state.

About 1,000 of the victims were clergy from the Russian Orthodox Church, and about 300 people from that number have since been beatified as saints. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Russian Orthodox Church began commemorating the site, establishing a small wooden church on the site in 1996 and a larger church that has been active since 2007. Since the year 2000, the patriarch has led an annual service in the church of the martyrs to commemorate those killed in Butovo. The most famous person killed at Butovo was Serafim, the Metropolitan of St. Petersburg. Known as Leonid Mikhailovich Chichagov prior to entering the church, in the 19th century he was considered one of Russia's greatest religious writers, best known for his extensive research on the life of Saint Serafim Sarovsky. Chichagov was also known for his secular social literature works, authoring the book The Glorious Deeds of the Russian Warriors in memory of the Russian-Turkish war of 1877 to 1878, in which Chichagov served as an artilleryman. [read more...]


AZERBAIJAN: OLD TESTAMENT AND OTHER RELIGIOUS TEXTS "BANNED"
by felix corley,
Forum 18 News Service

(06 May) Members of several religious communities in Azerbaijan have expressed concern to Forum 18 News Service over texts included in a list of banned books. The list includes "holy book - Old Testament", and as with other items on the list gives no details of the edition or language concerned, apart from in some cases a named author. The list of what Baku-based APA News Agency described as "some of the most radical and dangerous banned religious books" was published on by them on 5 May.

"We need to pray to God for wisdom as to how to respond to this ban on the Holy Scriptures in Azerbaijan," one Protestant noted. "It could be a mistake, a lack of attention by officials and irresponsible attitude to Sacred Scripture. Or it could be an intentional act." Azerbaijan has long imposed tight censorship on all religious literature and items, and the State Committee seems to be delaying permission for the Baptist Union to print New Testaments. Protestant literature, including personal Bibles, is also frequently confiscated as "illegal" in police raids on private homes. [read more...]


PATRIARCH KIRILL BLAMES THOSE WHO USE VIOLENCE INSTEAD OF DIALOGUE FOR EVENTS IN S.E. UKRAINE
from
Interfax-Religion

(05 May) Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia has blamed the tragic events in the Donetsk Region and Odessa on those who have gone to war with their own people. "Responsibility for these events now rests primarily with those who use violence instead of dialogue. We are especially concerned about the use of heavy military equipment in the civil conflict. The reason for the use of force is often political radicalism and denial of citizens' right to express their convictions," the patriarch said in a statement posted on the website of the Russian Orthodox Church. Patriarch Kirill believes it is impossible to call just one of the political positions the only possible and compulsory in modern Ukraine.

The patriarch said he is convinced attempts to use violence to assert one's viewpoint should stop once and for all. "I am calling on all parties to refrain from using weapons and resolve all issues through negotiation. Ukraine needs at least a truce in the short-term perspective and solid peace in the long-term perspective," he said. Patriarch Kirill believes Ukraine can only cure and provide a good life for its citizens "if it can be home to people of different political convictions, who are very different from each other," and "there is no alternative to dialogue."

"While we still have such an opportunity, we need to hear each other and try to resolve the current contradictions and reconfirm our adherence to Christian spiritual and moral values, which formed the people of Ukraine and enriched them with wisdom and love for the truth," the patriarch said, adding that he believes that these values can now held find a way to peace and justice, "without which the country's decent future is unthinkable." [read more...]


UZBEKISTAN: "LET HIM PAY THE FINE AND WE'LL RETURN THE CAR"
by Mushfig Bayram,
Forum 18 News Service

(09 May) Court bailiffs in Uzbekistan's central Samarkand Region admit they confiscated a car, a vacuum cleaner and other household items from two families beyond the legally-defined deadline. "We and our colleagues can't keep up with the volume of work, so we were a bit late with these confiscations," bailiff Sadriddin Salahuddinov admitted to Forum 18 News Service. The seizures came after the two Baptists refused to pay fines imposed in 2012 to punish them for exercising the right to freedom of religion or belief.

"Let him pay the fine and we'll return the car to him," the bailiff added about Veniamin Nemirov. Meanwhile, 15 police and other officials raided a church's Sunday meeting for worship in a home in Syrdarya. "When the officials broke in they were preparing a dinner, and getting ready to celebrate the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem," Baptists lamented to Forum 18. Police officer Oybek Turdiyev, who took part in the raid, told Forum 18 that they "received an instruction from above to go to check up on the gathering." [read more...]


"THE MISSION OF THE CHURCH IS NEITHER POLITICAL NOR SOCIAL-ECONOMIC, BUT ABOVE ALL RELIGIOUS" - BISHOP BOHDAN
from
Religious Information Service of Ukraine

(02 May) Given that the Presidential elections in Ukraine will take place on May 25th, Bishop Bohdan (Dziurakh), Secretary of the UGCC Synod of Bishops, reminded the clergy about the code of conduct for priests during the election campaign, UGCC Information Office reports. In a video blog of Live TV, he noted that the Instructions, approved on April 4th by the Synod of Bishops, are meant to provide priests with "general norms which are generated by the Social Doctrine of the Catholic Church and UGCC experience," concerning behavior during the pre-election period.

Bishop Bohdan noted that the priests themselves had asked for such guidelines since "sometimes it is difficult to withstand the pressure and the manipulations of the technologies which are undertaken by the candidates for election to the organs of the government. The mission of the Church is neither political nor a social-economic one, but, above all, it is a religious one." A religious view does not mean that the Church escapes from the reality of the world; it views this reality from a different perspective - the perspective of the Gospel, God's Commandments. "And in the light of God's Law, it evaluates the political phenomena, processes, and the behavior of the relevant authorities." [read more...]


YATSENYUK COULD BE CONTROLLED BY CIA THROUGH SCIENTOLOGY
from
The Voice of Russia

(30 Apr) The Voice of Russia is attempting to look at the hidden agenda of the Ukrainian crisis. Mr. Turchinov, the acting President of the country, is a Baptist pastor with links to the neo-Pentecostal religious group; the acting Prime Minister Mr. Yatsenyuk, is said to belong to the Scientology movement; Greek Catholics have been prominent in Maidan and have played a prominent role along with a number of the so-called new religious movements.

It is no secret that Scientology as of 1994 has been cooperating very closely with the CIA of the United States of America. The State Department of the USA lobbies the interests of Scientology in all the countries of the world. And Scientology, apparently, shares some of the information it gathers with the Central Intelligence Agency. So, it means that, at least in Yatsenyuk's case, he could be controlled by the CIA. Alas, but cults became a very important factor in the international politics. And it is used by several governments, first of all, and mostly by the US as a factor of international pressure, as an attempt to apply pressure to those governments that they disagree with and as their agents of influence. [read more...]


OTHER NEWS HEADLINES:

RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH SAYS IT'S NOT TAKING SIDES IN UKRAINE CRISIS
from
Reuters

BISHOP SEEKS INTERNATIONAL PROTECTION OF ORTHODOX COMMUNITY IN UKRAINE
from
Interfax-Religion

BELIEVERS MOBILIZE AS VIOLENCE PUSHES UKRAINE CLOSER TO WAR
from
Mission Network News

POPE FRANCIS: APPEAL TO ST. MARY FOR UKRAINE
from
Religious Information Service of Ukraine

ARCHBISHOP ARSENY DENIES REPORTS OF CLOSING OF SVIATOGORSK LAVRA AND ITS USE AS A BASE FOR REBELS
from
Portal-credo.ru

MISSIONARIES PRINT GOSPELS IN UKRAINE AMID FEARS OF WORLD WAR III
from
BosNewsLife

MESSAGE FROM UOC-MP METROPOLITAN ONUFRY ON THE RECENT EVENTS IN UKRAINE
from
Russian Orthodox Church - Moscow Patriarchate

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


NOW, OUR VIEWS:

The current events in Ukraine are almost too awful to continue writing about. On this weekend the Russian Orthodox Church commemorates those 20,000 executed at Butovo just outside Moscow where we lived for 11 years: it is ironic to note that among those executed were Tatars. Stalin "relocated" tens of thousands of Tatars from Crimea during World War II to Siberia, Kazakhstan and other remote areas of the USSR, also killing many outright. For several hundred years, the Tatars on the Crimean Peninsula - descendants of Ghengis Khan's "Golden Horde" - had special privileges on Crimea. This WWII "relocation" also marks the time when tens of thousands of Russians were moved to Crimea to replace the Tatars, resulting in the present majority of Russians there.

Crimea had become part of Russia in 1783 under Tsarina Catherine the Great when Russia captured Crimea from the Ottoman Turkish Empire. But before that, Catherine had moved 18,000 Crimean Greeks to the then-Russian city of Mariopol (where some of the worst recent bloodshed has taken place), presently part of Ukraine, at least for the time being. Descendants of these Greeks were later persecuted and driven out under Stalin's collectivization. Under Catherine's rule many Russians were also settled into eastern Ukraine, then part of the Russian Empire. Western Ukraine at that time was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

So as you can understand, this part of the world has experienced frequently shifting borders, from Greek to Tatar to Turkish to Austro-Hungarian to Russian hands over the last several centuries. Only briefly after WWI and again after the dissolution of the USSR has Ukraine been a self-governing country. It is reminiscent of how ancient Israel was dismembered piece-by-piece and the people were relocated to the Assyrian, Babylonian and Egyptian empires, as described in the latter chapters of 2 Kings (4 Kings in the eastern Bible). In 2/4 Kings 25:11 it mentions "those who fell away," in Russian "peremiotchikov" ("traitors"), who had betrayed Israel and switched sides to join the Babylonian army. Sound familiar?

Click to see the video!On the home front, Cheryl and I continue working with the homeless and poor at FOCUS+Pittsburgh, helping them set goals, prepare resumes, and find homes and jobs. The medical clinic has opened, but Cheryl is still awaiting insurance paperwork so that she can start volunteering as a clinic nurse. The video linked to in this photo tells the fascinating story of Eric, a formerly-homeless man, who received a home after "Rahat the Magician" raised $44,000 through crowdfunding for him. Eric now has a job and a home, at least for one year.

Our goal in Agape Restoration Society is not just to provide one man one home for one year, but to create a revolving construction fund to build several efficiency, one-, two-, three- and four-bedroom homes for "the poor, the maimed, the lame and the blind" ...for the rest of their lives! When they purchase shares in our co-operative housing center, the construction fund will be replenished, and then we can go on to build another... and another... and another Agape Restoration Center! (Click to read more and see our four sketches in full-screen mode.)


(Please Support Agape Restoration Society by e-check or credit/debit card: click on the "Donate" button there.)


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 horrors of the Butovo Shooting Range will not be repeated again in the Russian-speaking world.
Mon. - Ask the Lord that Azerbaijan's pending decision to ban the "radical" Old Testament won't come into force.
Tue. - Join Patriarch Kirill in praying that those using violence to get their own way will fail in their attempt.
Wed. - Intercede for Baptist Veniamin Nemirov in Uzbekistan whose car and some household items were confiscated.
Thu. - Thank God for Bishop Bohdan saying the Church's mission is not political or socio-economic, but religious.
Fri. - Pray against absurd propaganda such as accusing Ukraine's PM of being controlled by the CIA via Scientology.
Sat. - Pray that Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants will all receive one another as brothers and sisters in 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. There is all the difference in the world between treating people equally and trying to make them equal. - F.A. Hayek


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