||FIRST, THE NEWS:
REMEMBERING THE PRIEST WHO FOUGHT CORRUPTION IN THE RUSSIAN CHURCH
from Daily Beast
(28 Dec) On Western Christmas Day, the world lost an extraordinary man of faith who once went to prison for his Christian beliefs under an atheist state and later challenged both his church and the repressive entanglement of church and state under a regime that claims to celebrate religious values. When the Russian dissident and priest Father Gleb Yakunin died, outside the small circle of the liberal opposition and its sympathizers, he was almost as unknown in his homeland as in the West.
His journey, which ended at the age of 80 after a long illness, is not only the story of one man’s lifelong battle; it is also the story of the complicated relationship between religion and power in 20th and 21st-century Russia, with all its ironic twists. Raised in the Soviet Union, where atheism was a part of the communist civil religion, Yakunin converted to Christianity in college under the influence of the charismatic pastor and theologian Alexander Men and entered a Russian Orthodox seminary in 1958; only a year later, however, he was expelled, apparently having run afoul of the KGB.
In 1965, Yakunin and fellow priest Nikolai Eshliman sent an open letter to the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Alexei, decrying not only the persecution of believers but de facto church collusion in this persecution. Among other things, churches routinely complied with a requirement that all baptisms, church weddings, communions, and religious funerals be reported to the communist authorities—often with dire consequences for the participants. The letter, drafted by several lay writers, was originally meant to be a collective statement by as many as two dozen clergymen, including an archbishop. But everyone except Yakunin and Eshliman backed out. Copies of the letter were sent to senior members of the church hierarchy and to the Soviet government. The reaction was predictable. In May 1966, Yakunin and Eshliman were defrocked by the Moscow patriarchate until they repented their criticism of church leadership; their appeal to the Synod was rejected. [read more...]
DEFENDING THE RIGHTS OF CHRISTIANS IN RUSSIA
from American Center for Law & Justice
(30 Dec) 2014 has been a successful year for the Slavic Center for Law & Justice (SCLJ), the ACLJ’s affiliate in Russia. The SCLJ has obtained positive results in many cases. Such victories include the following cases: Recently, after a seven-year-long battle, the SCLJ won a major victory for the Biblical Center of the Chuvash Republic, a Pentecostal religious organization located in Novocheboksarsky, Chuvash Republic. In 2007 the City of Novocheboksarsky filed suit to strip the Biblical Center of its legal entity status, alleging that the organization was engaged in educational activities without having an appropriate state license.
The Biblical Center established a Sunday school for children and a Biblical college for adults teaching the History of Christianity, overview of the Scriptures, Christian Pentecostal theology, evangelism, and discipleship. Through the SCLJ’s persistence and legal expertise, in 2014, the European Court of Human Rights held that the government had violated Article 9 and 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees every individual the freedom of thought, conscience, religion, assembly, and association. As a result, the government was ordered to correct its violations against the Biblical Center.
In another case, the Church of Evangelical Christians, also known as the Sochi Gospel House, fought a long battle with the City of Sochi and the Russian State Department for the right of ownership of the building housing the Sochi Gospel House church, which had been reconstructed at the church’s own expense. For two years the City failed to act on the church’s petition for title to the building. With the help of the SCLJ, the church sued the Russian State Department for the City’s failure to act on their petition. After several appeals, the Arbitration Court of Krasnodar found that the City’s actions were unlawful and ordered the Russian State Department to transfer the rights of ownership of the building to the Sochi Gospel House free of charge.
In 2013, Angela Michelle Stoda, a United States citizen, entered the Russian Federation on a visa for the purpose of pursuing religious work. Stoda was accused of teaching at the Groky Public Library without having a proper work permit – a violation of law punishable by fine and deportation. The SCLJ sought to prove that Ms. Stoda was never employed by the library, was solely a volunteer, and thus, could not be in violation of the law. Through SCLJ efforts, the Russian Constitutional Court clarified that humanitarian work of foreign citizens does not constitute employment without the proper permit, establishing mandatory precedent for all other courts. [read more...]
PATRIARCH KIRILL ALARMED BY ATTEMPTS TO CREATE A LOCAL CHURCH IN UKRAINE
(24 Dec) Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia has said the attempts to create a local Church in Ukraine are odd. "Also alarming are the ever increasing attacks on the Church, including forced handover of churches to schismatics, forced conversion into non-canonical entities or building, along with them and the Greek Catholics, of some "local Church" as if Ukraine did not have one already," the patriarch said at an Eparchial meeting in Moscow. He urged the clergy to pay attention to their words, "be mindful that these words can be a drop of oil in the fire of the feud on the Ukrainian land."
"Let us think and pray how to find words filled with Christian love for those who suffer from the atrocities of war and for those who, without being asked, are called up to the army, on the basis of their soldier's duty. In this fratricidal war, both victors and losers, the dead and survivors are victims because they have seen the horrors of death and homicide," he said. He also recalled that he had earlier blessed a Moscow initiative to raise funds for Donbas refugees, saying that a total of 57.65 million rubles (about $250,000 U.S. Dollars) have been raised to date. [read more...]
ORPHANS IN THE UKRAINE TO RECEIVE BLANKETS MADE BY NORTH IOWANS
(27 Dec) Orphans in the Ukraine soon will be receiving 174 hand-tied fleece blankets, as well as slipper socks and other items from Mason City, Iowa. The gifts will be distributed to the children in the Phishana orphanage in Odessa on Jan. 7, which is when Christmas is celebrated in the Ukraine. JoAnn Ermer-Seltun, who attends Praise Community Church in Mason City, said one Sunday in October "I felt a very strong nudging by the Spirit" to help the Phishana orphange. There was an item in the church bulletin about the orphanage, run by missionary Laura Rechkemmer, who is originally from Oelwein and has family ties to Mason City.
Due to the recent political unrest, more than 300 refugee orphans have been added to the Odessa region from eastern Ukraine. The Phishana orphanage had to restructure to add 50 more children due to poverty, social problems and parents killed during the war. The conflict also limits the availability of gas, meaning heat at the orphanage is severely limited this winter. Rechkemmer was requesting slipper socks for the children. Ermer-Seltun said she thought it would be nice if each child could also have a fleece tie blanket. She did an e-mail blast asking for people to make the blankets. She got responses from all over Mason City, as well as Des Moines, Iowa City, Omaha and even North Carolina. [read more...]
DESTINY OF CONTESTED CHURCHES IN RIVNE REGION TO BE DECIDED BY COURT
from Religious Information Service of Ukraine
(31 Dec) The religious communities in Rivne fail to share several churches between themselves. In Ptich village of Dubno district and Badivtsi village of Ostroh district most people chose to move to the UOC(KP). However, the minority is not going to concede rural churches. So clashes took place again near churches last week. So it is not the first month that the controversies between supporters of different religious communities have continued in Rivne region. As Rivne Vechirne reports,it is obvious that they will not end by Christmas.
Two weeks ago in Badivtsi, the adherents of both parishes had a fight.The Kyiv Patriarchate then declared that the fight was provoked by roughnecks brought by the UOC(MP). After the fight, at the last session regional deputies decided to intervene in the conflict and asked the SSU to control that no strangers were brought deliberately to the village. In this village 90% of people support the Kyiv Patriarchate. The church was sealed, but last Friday the UOC(KP) representatives and villagers were also not alone – they succeeded to get inside the church with the help of Right Sector activists. [read more...]
ORTHODOX CHURCH SPOKESMAN: RUSSIA HAS MESSIANIC MISSION TO STOP 'AMERICAN PROJECT'
from The St. Petersburg Times
(26 Dec) A spokesman for Russia's Orthodox Church believes that his country has a mission in the world: to stop "the American project," according to comments carried by Russian media. Russia has a history of stopping various "projects" through the centuries, spokesman Vsevolod Chaplin told an online conference, Interfax reported Thursday. "It is no coincidence that we have, often at the price of our own lives... stopped all global projects that disagreed with our conscience, with our vision of history and, I would say, with God's own truth," he was quoted as saying. "Such was Napoleon's project, such was Hitler's project. We will stop the American project too," Chaplin said.
Chaplin said that Russia will use its "ideological weapons" to combat Western ideas that are "running out of steam" because they "lack the drive, lack even a banner the population of Western nations could follow," according to the report. Once this "project" has been gotten rid of, Russia may take its rightful, leading role in the world, according to Chaplin. "Russia is the center, and maybe the only center, of the world... [Russia] has more grounds to be such a center than any European capital or the United States," he was quoted by Interfax as saying. [read more...]
OTHER NEWS HEADLINES:
IN UKRAINE, UNITY MUST BEGIN WITH THE ORTHODOX, SAYS CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP
from The Catholic World
TWO UOC(MP) CHURCHES SEIZED IN WEST UKRAINE
THE SITUATION IN UKRAINE AT YEAR’S END
from Russian Evangelical Alliance
RUSSIA’S ECONOMIC IMPLOSION OPENS DOORS FOR UKRAINE PEACE
from Mission Network News
DNR MILITANTS DISGUISED AS NATIONAL GUARD ROBBED THE IVERON ICON CONVENT
from Religious Information Service of Ukraine
APOSTOLIC ORTHODOX CHURCH AIMS TO MAKE GLEB YAKUNIN A SAINT
from Decree of Primate of AOC, Metropolitan of Moscow and All-Russia Vitaly
RUSSIAN ORTHODOX HEAD REFERS TO 'HISTORIC RUS' IN NEW YEAR SPEECH, BACKS PUTIN UKRAINE POLICY
from Kyiv Post
METROPOLITAN HILARION: THE LORD CALLS ALL OF US TO APOSTOLIC SERVICE
from Russian Orthodox Church - Moscow Patriarchate
WHAT ARE RUSSIANS IN SEARCH OF WHEN THEY ENTER A MONASTERY?
from Russia Beyond the Headlines
See HOSKEN-NEWS Daily for more of the latest news!
NOW, OUR VIEWS:
Our first news article REMEMBERING THE PRIEST WHO FOUGHT CORRUPTION IN THE RUSSIAN CHURCH goes on to detail the life and struggles of Fr. Gleb Yakunin, whom I briefly met while we were working in Moscow. It explains that Fr. Gleb, imprisoned for his faith under the Soviet regime, later became a member of parliament. In 1992 after the USSR's dissolution "while serving as head of a commission investigating the short-lived 1991 coup by Soviet hardliners, Fr. Gleb Yakunin undertook the dramatic step of making public KGB files that exposed extensive collaboration between the church and the KGB in the Soviet era. The reality turned out to be worse than even the most cynical of dissidents had suspected: In the upper echelons of the church, nine out of 10 clerics worked for the KGB. While the identities of these clerics were obscured by code names, it is virtually certain that the current Orthodox Church leader, Patriarch Kirill, was one of them."
I can personally vouch for this KGB collaboration by the clergy: then-Metropolitan Kirill's press secretary was an aquaintance of mine who did some Russian-language proofreading for me, and he personally told me that he reported to the KGB about me, telling them I wasn't anti-Russian. He explained to me that reporting to the KGB was simply the patriotic thing to do. He assumed that I reported to the CIA about my contacts in Russia, but I emphasized that any such collusion between American missionaries and U.S. intelligence services was prohibited by our laws.
As we have been reporting for several years now, the hierarchy of the Russian Orthodox Church takes great care to follow the Kremlin's line in political matters, and in turn the Russian political leaders bestow a favored status on these religious leaders. Many conservative Christians in the West perceive the current top Russian politicians to be good Orthodox Christians because of the photo-ops showing them attending Liturgy and lighting candles in a church. But any such politician who in the same time period is committing adultery and then divorces his wife so he can live openly with his new bed partner would not be allowed to take communion in an Orthodox Church in the West. Politicians - including a recent U.S. president who was a similar moral reprobate - often show up in churches for photo-ops in order to win the support of gullible Christian voters.
Our sixth news article ORTHODOX CHURCH SPOKESMAN: RUSSIA HAS MESSIANIC MISSION TO STOP 'AMERICAN PROJECT' displays a messianic worldview often held by leading governments: their country - be it Russia, Germany, Great Britain or the U.S. - is God's specially annointed world power to usher in a new era of peace, prosperity and harmony among nations, a semi-secularized version of the Kingdom of Heaven on earth. Such a worldview is particularly dangerous when it harnesses religion to advance its political goals. We should be wary of any and all such pronouncements. This world's government is not the answer, it's a major part of the problems of sin and selfishness.
FOCUS North America's 2014 Annual Report says - "Together we have helped hundreds of thousands of individuals and families move from dependency to self-sufficiency. More than 250,000 children have participated in FOCUS’ Operation Lace Up, and data shows that these children are doing better in school as a result. We have fed the hungry, clothed the naked, provided free healthcare to the sick, employment for those coming out of prison and offered care and comfort to countless strangers. We have reunited families and kept many other families together through some of their darkest hours of illness, financial distress and pending homelessness. And most important, we have stood as a beacon of light and hope to those in need – a strong witness to our living Orthodox Faith." It has been our privilege to volunteer with FOCUS+Pittsburgh during 2014, and we look forward to helping provide free healthcare to the sick, employment for those coming out of prison and helping other poor, jobless people to find decent jobs in the New Year. Christ and His Church are the answer to this world's many problems!
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Please remember to pray for Christians in the former Soviet bloc countries, and for...
Bob & Cheryl
p.s. Live simply. Love generously. Care deeply. Speak kindly. Leave the rest to God.