Welcome to , 20 Jul 2014
Fortnightly Report on Christianity in Former Soviet Bloc Countries,
by Dr. Robert D. Hosken
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FIRST, THE NEWS:

DONETSK CHRISTIAN UNIVERSITY FALLS TO SEPARATISTS
from
Mission Network News

Select to see full-size! (10 Jul) Pro-Russian separatists have taken over Donetsk Christian University, trapping more than 20 staff members and their families inside. The school is one of many public buildings the separatists are occupying in a desperate attempt to solidify their hold on the city. "This place is so dear to me. It's so close to me, and I know the people that are there," shares Russian Ministries president Sergey Rakhuba.

Until last spring, Rakhuba was a member of Donetsk Christian University's Board of Trustees. He's been in close contact with the school's president about the situation. "The concern is that when the Ukrainian army sees that insurgents [have] taken over the building and turned it into their stronghold... the Ukrainian army then starts going after [it] with military action," says Rakhuba. Taking over buildings like the Donetsk Christian University puts innocent people right in the line of fire.

Along with the school, separatists have reportedly seized several businesses. Separatists appear to be digging in their heels and preparing for a showdown with Ukrainian government forces, who warned rebels yesterday of a plan to re-take the city. "I cannot comprehend the magnitude of that tragedy that will happen" if urban warfare breaks loose in Donetsk, Rakhuba says. [read more...]


KYRGYZSTAN: ORTHODOX BISHOP BANNED
by Mushfig Bayram,
Forum 18 News Service

(18 Jul) Kyrgyzstan's State Commission for Religious Affairs (SCRA) on 14 July refused registration as missionary to Bishop Feodosy, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church in Kyrgyzstan, Forum 18 News Service has learned. Under the Religion Law, this prevents him from working as a religious worker in Kyrgyzstan. "This is a ban on the Bishop," Orthodox Church spokesperson Yuliya Farbshteyn told Forum 18. The SCRA claimed that the Bishop was denied registration as he "threatens the public security of Kyrgyzstan and sows religious discord among the population." Orthodox believers totally denied these claims to Forum 18.

The SCRA also claimed that registration was refused as the Interior Ministry's Anti-terrorism Department was investigating the Bishop. This Department, however, told Forum 18 that it has "nothing against the Church or the Bishop." Sunday school catechist Vakhtang Fyodorov continues to be threatened with deportation. Also, the State Property Fund is again seeking - this time through the Supreme Court - to confiscate the building of the Protestant Church of Jesus Christ in Bishkek. [read more...]


SUPPORT FOR SEPARATION OF UKRAINIAN CHURCH FROM MOSCOW PATRIARCHATE WEAK AMONG BISHOPS - METROPOLITAN HILARION
from
Interfax-Religion

(17 Jul) The camp of bishops supporting the separation of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church from the Moscow Patriarchate is not numerous, head of the Synodal Department for External Church Relations Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk believes. "I think that there are a handful of such people in the Ukrainian Church. I think that prudence always triumphs in such cases. Each bishop, member of the Church may have his own personal opinion, his own vision of history. It is unimportant for the Church that some one person or other expresses his own private opinion, but it is important what the Church is guided by when its common voice is expressed," he said in an interview with Interfax-Religion.

In his opinion, the common voice of the Church is not only the combination of the voices of the clergy and laymen, "it is also an act of the Holy Spirit that manifests itself in such historical decisions as the 1992 Kharkov Council when nobody else than blessed Metropolitan Vladimir was elected to the Kiev see." Speaking of the hostilities in Ukraine Metropolitan Hilarion said that first of all a ceasefire should be brought about "because every day that carries away human lives is a day lost for the peace process, for our future." [read more...]


KAZAKHSTAN: TWO CRIMINAL CASES CONTINUE AS NEW CRIMINAL CODE SIGNED
by Felix Corley,
Forum 18 News Service

(09 Jul) Retired Presbyterian Pastor Bakhytzhan Kashkumbayev and atheist writer Aleksandr Kharlamov - both in their sixties - are still being investigated on criminal charges, to punish them for exercising the right to freedom of religion or belief. Kashkumbayev, who has already been convicted in one criminal case, faces possible further punishment for allegedly harming a second church member's health. Kharlamov faces possible punishment for articles he wrote in defence of atheism.

Meanwhile, President Nursultan Nazarbayev has signed into law Kazakhstan's new Criminal Code. Forum 18 News Service notes that a proposed possible broadening of the "crimes" people might be accused of for exercising the right to freedom of religion or belief is not in the final text. But the same "offences" seem likely to be in the new Code of Administrative Offences. [read more...]


UOC-MP AND UOC-KP READY TO DISCUSS INTEGRATION IF IT IS GOD'S WILL
from
Religious Information Service of Ukraine

(18 Jul) The spokesmen of both patriarchates of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church emphasize the importance of establishing a local church in Ukraine, but rely on the will of God. Similar responses were given to journalists' questions during a press conference in Kyiv. "We are ready to hold negotiations tomorrow, but we understand that for our brothers this is much more complicated. The present time gives us answers to the question. Could we have imagined Russia's attack on Ukraine a year ago? Or that former president Yanukovych would be hiding in Rostov? If today's news feed had been read a year ago, it would have seemed to be just incredible," said Chairman of the UOC-KP Information Department Yevstratii Zoria.

Spokesman for the UOC-MP George Kovalenko believes that God's will is for everything and not only external circumstances are of importance for further union of the Churches. "All things are possible by God's will. It is important that this is happening not only externally but also internally, because it is only half of the battle. But the other half is to know the decision that will be accepted by all the religious community. It is important that it shall be supported and confirmed by the international clergy and the Eucharistic communion, they will convene for this end at the meeting in Istanbul," he said. [read more...]


RUSSIA'S MEDDLING MIGHT BACKFIRE WITH AN EMPOWERED, UNIFIED UKRAINIAN CHURCH
from
The New Republic

(16 Jul) There has long been talk of forming a united Ukrainian church in Kiev, but only now is it beginning seem like a real possibility, what with the conflict fueling antagonism between the Moscow and Kiev churches. This year, for the first time in recent memory, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Rus will not visit Kiev to celebrate the anniversary of the founding of Kievan Rus. Nor did he attend the funeral of Metropolitan Volodymyr, the former head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate.

"We suggest uniting the two Ukrainian churches and separating from Moscow altogether," Patriarch Filaret of Kiev said earlier this year. "They [Moscow] propose that we unite and subordinate the whole church to the Moscow patriarchate. Hence, the Ukrainian church of the Moscow patriarchate is standing in the way of unity of the whole Ukrainian church.... The Ukrainian state will continue, and this state will have only one Orthodox Church." There's an ongoing dialogue among church leaders to work toward that end.

"We have one problem that we haven't been able to overcome, and that's the division of the Orthodox Church between an independent Kiev Patriarchate and a dependent Moscow Patriarchate," Bishop Evstratii Zoria, of the Kievan Patriarchate, told me last month. "We've seen in the events of the last few weeks, why having a church that is dependent - and 80 percent of Ukrainians consider themselves to be Orthodox - why having a church that is dependent on Russia is, in fact, a threat to our national security and a threat to our existence as Ukrainians." [read more...]


OTHER NEWS HEADLINES:

THE WORLD EVANGELICAL ALLIANCE AND THE WORLD COUNCIL OF CHURCHES FRIDAY GRIEVE THE TRAGIC LOSS OF LIFE
from
Ecumenical News

RUSSIAN CHURCH CHAGRINED BY CHURCH OF ENGLAND VOTE ALLOWING WOMEN TO BE BISHOPS
from
Interfax-Religion

"THEOLOGY IS NOT OUR SPECIALITY" - A REMNANT OF RACU, MOSCOW'S BYGONE PROTESTANT UNIVERSITY, SOLDIERS ON
from
Russian Evangelical Alliance

CHRISTIAN COUNSELLING TEACHES BULGARIANS TO ASK DEEP QUESTIONS
from
Mission Network News

MILITANTS IN SLAVIANSK TORTURED TO DEATH TWO DEACONS AND TWO LAYMEN OF EVANGELICAL CHURCH
from
Religious Information Service of Ukraine

ATTEMPT TO SEIZE UOC-MP CHURCH BY DECEIT AND FORCE IN TERNOPOL REGION
from
UNIAN

HIS BEATITUDE METROPOLITAN VLADIMIR OF KIEV AND ALL UKRAINE IS BURIED IN KIEV AFTER FUNERAL SERVICE
from
Russian Orthodox Church - Moscow Patriarchate

HUMAN DIGNITY COUNCIL TO PROBE RESTITUTION OF HUNGARIAN CHURCH PROPERTY IN ROMANIA
from
POLITICS.HU

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


NOW, OUR VIEWS:

Select to see full-size!Our first news article tells of the takeover of Donetsk Christian University, and this photo shows a couple of Russian tanks just up the street from DCU, presumably driven by pro-Russian separatists. They have comandeered DCU and are using it to house their soldiers, so the DCU campus may become a target if and when Kiev's military attempts to encircle and re-take the city. Although Cheryl and I haven't been in Donetsk, we've been in Ukraine and have several Russian, Ukrainian and American friends from our years as former Protestant missionaries who have taught at DCU.

One of our aquaintenances from Donetsk writes: "I had a meeting with the president of Donetsk Christian University, which has been taken over by pro-Russian terrorists. They desperately need financial help for faculty and staff members who have fled from the campus, leaving their belongings behind. These people need financial support for at least several months, so that they will have time to move to a safe place and find new jobs. If you have any information regarding how DCU might be assisted at this time, please let me know. It is my alma mater, where I spent 11 years, and my heart is broken by what is going on with this school."

Our last news article, RUSSIA'S MEDDLING MIGHT BACKFIRE WITH AN EMPOWERED, UNIFIED UKRAINIAN CHURCH, illustrates the risk being taken by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate: the percentage of Orthodox believers in Ukraine is split roughly evenly between the UOC-MP and the UOC-KP (Kiev Patriarchate) together with the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC). Also, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC) that uses the Orthodox liturgy might possibly be drawn into a united Christian Church of Ukraine. Many UOC-MP local parish priests (some say up to two-thirds), however, are in favor of Ukraine's independence. Unless the Moscow-controlled UOC-MP treads very lightly and appears to take a neutral position, it may well completely alienate these parishes and cause them to break away.

Terrible tragedies happen in the heat of military conflict. The horror of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 being shot down by a Russian guided missile, apparently being launched by pro-Russian separatists, currently dominates the news headlines. The airline was possibly mistaken for a Ukrainian military jet: the separatists had downed several Ukrainian aircraft in the past few days. This tragic situation is eerily similar to the July 1988 shoot-down of Iranian Air Flight 655 by the USS Vincennes: when military personnel in the heat of battle believe they are under attack, their instinctive self-preservation response is to shoot first and think rationally later. Also recall the Soviet Union's August 1983 shoot-down of Korean Air Flight 007 in which U.S. Congressman Larry McDonald was killed. Just as the USSR denied and Russia is denying responsibility, in 1988 the U.S. denied responsibility. Sadly, history repeats itself.


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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
Donetsk Christian University's Christian staff will be freed and able to re-establish their lives.
Mon. - Ask the Lord that Bishop Feodosy of the Russian Orthodox Church in Kyrgyzstan will be granted a visa.
Tue. - Pray for courage and wisdom as Ukrainian Orthodox clergy decide whether to remain in the Moscow Patriarchate.
Wed. - Intercede for Pastor Bakhytzhan Kashkumbayev in Kazakhstan, who is facing possible further punishment.
Thu. - Pray that God's will may be known as the UOC-MP and UOC-KP consider establishing a local church in Ukraine.
Fri. - Ask God to heal the division of the Christian Church in Ukraine, split between East, West and the Uniates.
Sat. - Pray that we as Christians will bring the Kingdom of God back down to earth, practicing our faith in society.

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. No armor? Unclean life? Then don't mess with dragons, for you are crunchy and taste good with ketchup.


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