||FIRST, THE NEWS:
KYIV MAKING GAINS IN RELIGIOUS DIMENSION OF THE UKRAINIAN-RUSSIAN CONFLICT
by Katya Kumkova Eurasianet.org
(13 Jan) Russian President Vladimir Putin is trying to use religion to advance an expansionist agenda. But an increasing number of believers in Ukraine appear to be rejecting the notion that Putin and the Russian Orthodox Church are the defenders of the true faith.
Religion became a battleground in Ukraine long before the Euromaidan movement gained power in Kyiv, Russian troops snatched Crimea and separatists plunged eastern Ukraine into civil warfare. The struggle has been rooted mainly in differences over church polity, rather than doctrinal disputes. Its origin can be traced to the Soviet collapse in 1991. Having regained statehood at that time, Ukraine’s new political leadership helped some Ukrainian clerics declare ecclesiastical independence from the Moscow in 1992 by establishing the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kyiv Patriarchate.
Over the past year, as the conflict between Ukraine and Russia intensified, religion emerged as a proxy for the political struggle. The Kyiv Patriarchate has embraced the Westward-oriented outlook of the Euromaidan movement. Putin and Russian church leaders, meanwhile, have appropriated Orthodox religious motifs in honing a messianic message designed to help justify Russia’s Crimean land grab.
Several indicators suggest that Russia’s overbearing attitude on matters of faith is causing it to lose ground among the faithful in Ukraine. The pace of those shifting allegiance to the Kyiv Patriarchate is increasing noticeably. According to the Kyiv Patriarchate, since last spring at least 30 parishes have gone over to the Kyiv Patriarchate. [read more...]
KAZAKHSTAN: "SOCIAL JUSTICE" THE KAZAKH WAY
by Felix Corley, Forum 18 News Service
(12 Jan) Fined three times in two years, imprisoned for five days, and placed on Kazakhstan's exit ban list (and with a restraining order imposed on his car) for exercising his right to freedom of religion or belief, Council of Churches Baptist Nikolai Novikov is facing a further punishment: the confiscation of his garage. On 5 January he received a restraining order on his garage from Court bailiff Erkebulan Andakulov, as well as an order to establish its value ahead of a forced public sale to pay off at least one of the fines, Novikov told to Forum 18 News Service on 12 January.
The 34-year-old Baptist Novikov, who lives with his wife and four young children in Oral (Uralsk) in West Kazakhstan Region, refuses to pay any of the fines. These were imposed for his participation in a meeting for worship without state permission. "I didn't pay because I don't consider myself guilty," he explained to Forum 18. "These fines were illegal." Other Council of Churches Baptists similarly insist they should not be punished for meeting for worship. Their churches refuse to seek the compulsory state registration Kazakhstan demands. [read more...]
PUBLICATION OF CARTOONS ON RELIGIOUS ISSUES MAY BE CLASSED OF VIOLATION OF RUSSIAN LAW
(16 Jan) Roskomnadzor, Russia's media watchdog agency, may class the publication of cartoons on religious issues in the media as a violation of the law. "The dissemination in the media of cartoons on religious issues can be regarded by Roskomnadzor as insulting or belittling the dignity of people belonging to religious groups and associations and can be classed as the fanning of ethnic and religious strife, which is a direct violation of the laws On the Mass Media and On the Prevention of Extremist Activities," the agency said in a report posted on its website on Friday.
The report states that the said position and law enforcement practice has been approved by experts and industry communities. "The position of public bodies, including supervisory bodies in the sphere of the mass media, on cartoons on religious issues has always been definite and consistent," the report says. The report says that the publication in the Russian media of such cartoons contradicts ethnic and moral norms developed in the centuries in which people of different ethnicities and religions lived on one territory. [read more...]
RELIGIOUS HOLIDAY CELEBRATED IN ROMANIA ON JANUARY 6: PRIESTS BLESS WATERS ON THE EPIPHANY DAY
(06 Jan) Christians in Romania celebrate the Epiphany Day (Boboteaza in Romanian) today, January 6, one of the most important religious holidays for the Orthodox Church. This holiday marks the day when Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River by John the Baptist. On this day, priests across all Orthodox churches in Romania bless the waters. Numerous people attend the liturgy today and fill their bottles or other containers with holy water (Aghiasma in Romanian), which is believed to have miraculous powers and protect them. They use this water to bless their homes, their goods and their animals.
n Bucharest, the Patriarchy prepared some 276,000 liters of holy water, placed in 23 large containers. Holy water can be used to bless objects and people, but also to drink - the blessed water keeps its drinkable water properties for very long periods of time. Priests recommend believers to drink the aghiasma every morning before eating, between January 6 and 14. Some of the religious ceremonies take places outdoors, near a large body of water, such as a river or the sea. On this day, priests bless the rivers and the sea as well. In cities located near a river or the sea, it is customary for the priest to throw a wooden cross into the cold water and for young men to go to search for the cross. [read more...]
DAY OF MOURNING FOR THOSE KILLED BY TERRORISTS IN UKRAINE
from Religious Information Service of Ukraine
(16 Jan) The Ukrainian government has declared January 15 a day of mourning for all those who have died at the hands of terrorists, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said at a meeting with heads of regional state administrations. "I have decided to declare January 15 a day of mourning for all those who died at the hands of terrorists and, first of all, for the 12 civilians who were killed at a checkpoint near Volnovakha," he said.
On January 13 at around 1430, Russian-backed insurgents in Dokuchaevsk fired shells at a Ukrainian checkpoint near Volnovakha as a passenger bus was passing by. Ten passengers were killed at once, and 18 more hospitalized with injuries of varying severity, including one soldier. Later, two more people died of their injuries in hospital. [read more...]
WHY RUSSIA’S EVANGELICALS THANK GOD FOR PUTIN
from Christianity Today
(07 Jan) Evangelicals in Russia have become ardent fans of President Vladimir Putin because of Russia’s efforts to maintain its influence in Ukraine, its takeover of Crimea in 2014, and the widespread Russian belief that the West is to blame for the present economic woes on the home front. This realization dawned on me during my November visit to Russia. The evidence is hard to ignore. Meeting in St. Petersburg back in May, the official Congress of the Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists ended their meetings with a strong endorsement of Putin just two months after brutal conflict broke out in eastern Ukraine.
Addressing Putin, they said, "We express to you sincere appreciation for your labor in the post of president. . . . We reaffirm our principled loyalty with respect to state authority, based on the unchanged words of the Bible, 'Let every soul be in subjection to the higher powers: for there is no power but of God; and the powers that be are ordained of God'" (Rom. 13:1, ASV). The evangelical congress also directly challenged the legitimacy of Ukraine’s Maidan Revolution and the February 2014 overthrow of pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovich. Originally, I suspected backroom state pressure must have been at play. But after conversations with more than a dozen Protestant and Orthodox believers in Moscow, I have to admit that no outside interference was necessary to generate such high praise for Russia’s president. [read more...]
OTHER NEWS HEADLINES:
CHURCH OFFICIAL CRITICIZES ATTEMPTS TO IMPOSE FALSE CHOICE BETWEEN SUPPORTING TERRORISM AND CHARLIE HEBDO POLICY
"KEYS FOR KIDS" RADIO PROGRAMS TO AIR IN ALBANIA
from Mission Network News
UOC OF THE USA DELIVERS AID TO THE WOUNDED SOLDIERS AND REFUGEES OF UKRAINE
from Religious Information Service of Ukraine
LATVIAN ORTHODOX REFUTE OFFICIAL'S CHARGE OF MOSCOW'S INFLUENCE
MISSION EURASIA'S TOP TEN MINISTRY HIGHLIGHTS FOR 2014
from Mission Eurasia
RUSSIAN ORTHODOX ACTIVISTS SAY CHARLIE HEBDO SHOOTING WAS 'JUST PUNISHMENT'
from The Moscow Times
See HOSKEN-NEWS Daily for more of the latest news!
NOW, OUR VIEWS:
In our first news article KYIV MAKING GAINS IN RELIGIOUS DIMENSION OF THE UKRAINIAN-RUSSIAN CONFLICT we read that control of Orthodox churches in Ukraine seems to be slipping from Moscow's grasp, as more and more Orthodox parishes switch to the Kyiv Patriarchate. It pains me to see that one group of Christians feels compelled to fight against another group in the name of Christ, Who taught us to love one another - even our enemies. How can we love our enemies and at the same time kill them? It seems clear that some are merely using religion as an excuse to grab other people's territory and possessions.
The next new article KAZAKHSTAN: "SOCIAL JUSTICE" THE KAZAKH WAY tells of a case where unregistered Baptists are being fined for not registering their church. During the Soviet era this might have been understandable because of the government requiring all churches not only to register but also to provide lists of all members, all children who attend and all baptisms. Registration currently in post-Soviet states doesn't require this, but the unregistered Baptists still refuse to register as a matter of principle. They also flout the law in areas such as ignoring copyright and import laws. Does "obeying God rather than men" really require breaking such laws?
And our third news article PUBLICATION OF CARTOONS ON RELIGIOUS ISSUES MAY BE CLASSED OF VIOLATION OF RUSSIAN LAW barely touches the vast number of articles on the response in Russia to the terrorist massacre at the "Charlie Hebdo" satirical magazine in Paris - virtually all of the articles against the magazine's practice of ridiculing religion, thus provoking terrorist acts. Of course murdering people is wrong and evil, but slandering and ridiculing others' religious beliefs is also wrong-headed and insensitive.
The problem in the West is that secular humanism portrays itself as rational and tolerant, but in reality is often quite irrational and intolerant of religious worldviews, frequently using ridicule (which is an irrational way to win arguments) to put down religious beliefs. Now the dangers of this tactic has become evident. It's not an either-or case: either satirizing religion in the name of freedom of speech, or striking back when someone ridicules one's religious beliefs - this creates a false dichotomy. Rather, it's both-and: we should both respect others who have religious beliefs different than our worldview, and not retaliate violently if others provoke us.
But this is a specifically Christian position. Christ taught us to turn the other cheek, to forgive, to be peacemakers, etc. This isn't what a significant minority of Muslims believe, however, and we now know these radicalized Muslims have hidden cells and training camps in the West. Several of these cells are being broken up in Western Europe, and roughly two dozen such secret training camps are known to exist in the U.S. - http://counterjihadreport.com/tag/terror-training-camps-in-us-2/. Tolerance does not mean that we should ignore those who are plotting to either forcibly convert us to their beliefs or destroy us.
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Please remember to pray for Christians in the former Soviet bloc countries, and for...
Bob & Cheryl
p.s. The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of its blessings;
the inherent blessing of socialism is the equal sharing of misery. -W. Churchill