Welcome to , 22 Jun 2014
Fortnightly Report on Christianity in Former Soviet Bloc Countries,
by Dr. Robert D. Hosken
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FIRST, THE NEWS:

AN OPEN LETTER TO THE PATRIARCH OF MOSCOW
from
First Things

Select to see full-size! (18 Jun) George Weigel, a noted American columnist, has written an open letter to Patriarch Kirill of Moscow. An excerpt follows:

Your Holiness: Grace and peace in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Remembering with pleasure our meeting in Washington some years ago, I am prompted to write by what I once hoped was a common concern for the unity of Christ's Church and a shared commitment to bridging the chasm that opened between America and Russia during the Cold War. I say "once hoped," because, in all candor, some of your recent public comments on the trials of Ukraine have inflicted new wounds on the Body of Christ while exacerbating tensions in world politics.

I refer specifically to your charge that "the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church is engaging in direct political activities, unfortunately, using sharp Russophobic slogans and statements and making sharp statements against the Russian Orthodox Church in its public declarations." Your patriarchate's website also quotes you as expressing "regret that some of the national conferences of Catholic bishops, such as the German, Polish and American, also openly supported this position."

It is difficult for me to recognize the ring of truth in these statements, Your Holiness. The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church has been a voice for moderation, reconciliation, and nonviolence since the curtain lifted last November on the drama of a Ukraine seeking national moral renewal in the rebirth of civil society. Ukrainian Greek Catholic priests and bishops risked their lives to minister to civil society activists gunned down by snipers widely believed to be acting with the let and leave of Russia. [read more...]


KAZAKHSTAN: TEACHER FINED ONE MONTH'S AVERAGE WAGES FOR HOUSE CHURCH
by Felix Corley,
Forum 18 News Service

(17 Jun) Larisa Lange, a teacher, has been fined one month's average wages for exercising her right to freedom of religion and expression. Lange hosts meetings of a Baptist community in her home without state permission. Kordai District Prosecutor Zhasulan Yelamanov refused to explain to Forum 18 News Service why his officials had brought the case against Lange. Larisa Lange, a teacher, hosts a local Council of Churches Baptist congregation in her home in the village of Kaynar in Kordai District of the southern Jambyl Region. Trouble began for her and her community on 9 March when Kordai District Police raided the community's Sunday meeting for worship in what they called "operational-preventative measures."

Kordai District Prosecutor's Office brought a case against Lange under Administrative Code Article 374-1, Part 2. This punishes "Participation in the activity of an unregistered, halted, or banned religious community or social organisation." Council of Churches Baptists have a policy of refusing to apply for state registration in any of the former Soviet countries. Dozens of their members have been fined in Kazakhstan since the beginning of 2014 for exercising their right to freedom of religion or belief without state permission. The oldest, Yegor Prokopenko, was 87 when he was fined. [read more...]


LOCUM TENENS OF THE KIEV METROPOLITAN SEE AGAINST UKRAINE'S EUROINTEGRATION
from
Interfax-Religion

(19 Jun) The current level of morals in Europe won't bring anything good to Ukraine, Locum Tenens of the Metropolitan See of Kiev, Metropolitan Onufry of Chernovtsy and Bukovina believes. "Europe shows us a concrete example of life without Christ. They don't pay attention to the Lord's commandments, or to His bans. On the contrary, they promote permissiveness, and according to it, life is guided by human desires instead of God's law. But this way is not right. Unfortunately, not all human desires are holy," Metropolitan Onufry told Interfax-Religion in his interview.

Speaking about the West, he pointed to legalizing unisex marriages, euthanasia, and the tolerant attitude to abortions. "The laws, which the new European world is offering to us today, are not acceptable. We can't support and join this world. We should keep our unity with those who stick to the law of God. If there are no people on Earth who preserve divine order of life, human life will be doomed to death, humanity will go to self-destruction," the Metropolitan said. [read more...]


BELARUS: "I WANT TO READ THE LAST RITES OVER MY SON'S BODY"
by Olga Glace,
Forum 18 News Service

(12 Jun) Tamara Selyun, mother of executed prisoner Pavel Selyun, is battling to try to recover his body. "I want to read the last rites over my son's body and bury him as a Christian," she told Forum 18 News Service. "But I was told that the body could not be handed over." In a letter seen by Forum 18, prison head Colonel Vikenty Varikash told her: "Bodies are not handed over for burial and the place of burial is not communicated." Both she and Lyubov Kovaleva - who has been seeking the return of her executed son's body since 2012 - separately insisted to Forum 18 that they are not going to give up. Tamara Selyun first learned that her son had been executed on 18 April, when Pavel Selyun's lawyer tried to visit him in prison but was told he had "left."

Relatives of executed prisoners in Belarus have long campaigned in vain to be handed the bodies for burial or at least be told where they are buried. Nor are relatives told beforehand or afterwards when the executions take place. The 24-year-old Pavel Selyun was executed on about 18 April, apparently together with another death-row prisoner, 45-year-old Grigory Yuzepchuk. Both had been sentenced to death for murder and both were being held in Investigation Prison No. 1 in the capital Minsk. Belarus is the only country in Europe that still applies the death penalty. [read more...]


DEPARTMENT FOR RELIGIONS AND NATIONALITIES STRONGLY OPPOSED THE VISIT OF PATRIARCH KIRILL TO UKRAINE
from
Religious Information Service of Ukraine

(19 Jun) Volodymyr Yushkevych, Director of Religious Affairs and Nationalities Ministry of Culture of Ukraine, in his official statement on June 19, declared the firm position of the authorities that it is not appropriate for Patriarch Kirill to visit any territory of Ukraine, including the temporarily occupied. The Department for Religions and Nationalities of the Ministry of Culture of Ukraine called that proposed visit during the Russian military aggression carried out against Ukraine "undesirable, provocative and politically motivated."

"Ukraine within the framework of law and the rule of law, will ensure that the visit is not carried out in any area of our country, including the temporarily occupied [area]. In my opinion, a visit of the Russian Orthodox Church can only generate a wave of inter-confessional conflict, and therefore is only possible after the cessation of the aggression and the return of all seized territories to Ukraine," Volodymyr Yushkevych said in a statement. [read more...]


RUSSIAN TAKEOVER OF CRIMEA LEADS TO TENSIONS WITH NON-RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHRISTIANS IN CRIMEA AND EASTERN UKRAINE
from
Christian Post

(18 Jun) In the wake of the politically contentious March 16 referendum that integrated Crimea into the Russian Federation, churches in Crimea and beyond find themselves at the center of a political maelstrom. Stories of violence and intimidation against non-Russian Orthodox Christians in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine by pro-Russian groups are already surfacing. Orthodox churches in Crimea have experienced a bitter divide between pro-Ukrainian and pro-Russian sympathizers.

Churches with a pro-Ukrainian stance have experienced discrimination since the referendum. Ukraine's Liga News website reported a disturbing incident on June 1 in which a group of armed men in traditional Cossack clothes attacked the Holy Virgin Ukrainian Orthodox Church - Kiev Patriarchate. The attackers smashed through the door, ransacked the church and attacked the priest, Ivan Katkalo, and parishioners, including a pregnant woman who came to the priest's aid.

Many Koreans have lived in Crimea since World War II when Stalin, fearing that ethnic Koreans in Russia would support Japan, deported many who lived in eastern U.S.S.R. to Central Asia. In the face of persecution from Islamic groups when they arrived, many fled further west to Crimea. Prior to the referendum, Ukrainian Pastor Edward Dolzhikiv had been ministering to a predominantly Korean New Light Presbyterian Church in Crimea since 2009.

Amid growing fears of civil war in Ukraine, Dolzhikiv and his family fled to their hometown on Ukraine's western border on February 17. The terrified family left everything they could not fit into their car. Dolzhikiv returned alone to Crimea on February 25, just days after the ousting of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. His visit was abruptly cut short due to the hastily arranged March 16 referendum. Since he is pro-Ukrainian, and has no interest in joining the protected Russian Orthodox Church, life in Crimea became too dangerous for Dolzhikiv and his family. "People threaten you, call you names and they became reluctant to help. My kids could not continue studying in school because it became Russian, and it became impossible to pay for the utilities when the Russian currency was implemented," he said. [read more...]


OTHER NEWS HEADLINES:

UKRAINE'S UNITED, DIVIDED CHURCHES
from
Deutsche Welle

KYRGYZSTAN: "I DON'T SEE POLITICAL WILL ON HIGHER LEVEL" TO RESOLVE BURIAL PROBLEMS
from
Forum 18 News Service

PATRIARCH KIRILL DOES NOT WANT TO STAY ON "TITANIC" AND SIGNALS PUTIN
from
Religious Information Service of Ukraine

UNIDENTIFIED CRIMINALS SET ON FIRE ORTHODOX CHURCH IN KHERSON, UKRAINE
from
Interfax-Religion

HUMAN TRAFFICKING VICTIMS TRANSFORMED FROM RAGS TO BEAUTY
from
Mission Network News

DONETSK TERRORISTS SEIZED CHRISTIAN REHABILITATION CENTER AND TOOK HOSTAGE ITS PATIENTS
from
Religious Information Service of Ukraine

METROPOLITAN HILARION'S FILM "ORTHODOXY IN THE BRITISH ISLANDS" PREMIERES ON KULTURA TV CHANNEL
from
Russian Orthodox Church - Moscow Patriarchate

FIRST "NIGHT OF CHURCHES" IN LATVIA GATHERED MORE THAN 20,000
from
The Baltic Course

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


NOW, OUR VIEWS:

When our first news article, AN OPEN LETTER TO THE PATRIARCH OF MOSCOW, appeared in First Things, the comments of some people implied that the author, George Weigel, a Distinguished Senior Fellow of Washington's Ethics and Public Policy Center, is just a right-wing hack harping away on an outdated anti-communist rant. But we need to examine carefully Patriarch Kirill's statement that the Greek Catholic Church uses "sharp Russophobic slogans... against the Russian Orthodox Church." However, just the opposite is true. Yes, Ukrainians both in the Greek Catholic Church and in other churches, rightly are phobic of pan-Russian expansionism. They react with fear when the ROC-MP repeatedly uses expressions such as "the Russian world" and "Holy Rus" that imply Russian hegemony over all areas where native Russian speakers and Slavic Orthodox peoples live.

If you, our readers, have been carefully following the news in our last 12 or more issues, you will recall that the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church has indeed been in the forefront with calls for cease-fire, peace and reconciliation. And Mr. Weigel is correct in saying that UGCC "priests and bishops risked their lives to minister to civil society activists gunned down by snipers widely believed to be acting with the let and leave of Russia" - see our 16 Feb 2014 issue: a UOC-MP archpriest blessed the Ukrainian "Berkut" commandos to kill Maidan protesters, threatening these commandos with eternal damnation if they do not. This backs up Mr. Weigel's statement.

We as Christians should agree fully with our third news article, LOCUM TENENS OF THE KIEV METROPOLITAN SEE AGAINST UKRAINE'S EUROINTEGRATION, in our opposition to "legalizing unisex marriages, euthanasia, and the tolerant attitude to abortions." But the article infers that homosexual acts, euthanasia and abortion are more rampant in the West than in Russia and that Ukraine's joining the EU will force it to legalize these behaviors - quite a stretch of logic, and contrary to what Cheryl and I learned from our 17 years in Russia. As we've shown many times, the percentage of practicing Christians in Russia is no greater than in Western European countries, and is much higher in Ukraine, so I believe Ukraine will be able to maintain its level of morality if and when it joins the EU.

On the home front, our volunteer work with the inner-city poor at FOCUS+Pittsburgh and its new Free Medical Clinic is growing! We're still learning and working the bugs out of the new software system at the Free Medical Clinic, and more doctors, nurses and pharmacists are volunteering. In two weeks we're scheduled to have a meeting on merging our Agape Restoration Center vision with the desire at FOCUS+Pittsburgh to provide low-cost co-op housing for Christians among the inner-city poor. Pray with us for these items!


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!


For a daily reminder to pray for the items below, go to My Daily Prayer Guide and click on the "H-N pr." link!


Prayer and Praise:

Sun. - Pray that
the Moscow Patriarchate will recognize the UGCC efforts for a cease-fire, peace and reconciliation.
Mon. - Intercede for Larisa Lange in Kazakhstan who was fined one month's average wages for holding church at home.
Tue. - Pray that Ukraine will steer clear of unisex marriage, euthanasia and abortion as it moves toward joining the EU.
Wed. - Ask the Lord that Tamara Selyun will be allowed to give her son Pavel a proper Christian burial ceremony.
Thu. - Pray that Patriarch Kirill will postpone any visits to the Ukraine until the current conflict is resolved.
Fri. - Ask God for relief of the tensions with non-Russian Orthodox Christians in Crimea and eastern Ukraine.
Sat. - Pray that we as Christians will actively work to realize the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in Heaven.

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. Taking a middle-of-the-road position is dangerous. You can get knocked down by the traffic from both ways.


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