||FIRST, THE NEWS:
POPE BOOSTS ARMENIA'S EFFORTS TO HAVE OTTOMAN KILLINGS RECOGNISED AS GENOCIDE
from The Guardian
(12 Apr) Armenia’s efforts to promote greater awareness of the massacre of 1.5 million of its people by Turkey during the fall of the Ottoman empire were given a dramatic boost on Sunday by the pope’s description of the atrocities as “the first genocide of the 20th century” – days ahead of the centenary of the event. Pope Francis used a special mass in St Peter’s Basilica to mark the anniversary, and referred to “three massive and unprecedented tragedies” of the last century.
“The first, which is widely considered the first genocide of the 20th century, struck your own Armenian people,” the pontiff said. “Bishops and priests, religious women and men, the elderly and even defenseless children and the infirm were murdered.” Historians estimate that as many as 1.5 million Armenians were killed in state-organised violence between 1915 and 1922. Russia, France and about 20 other countries recognise it as genocide. The U.S. and Britain do not, however: most likely to avoid angering their NATO ally. The Turkish government rejects the term and emphasises wartime conditions, although in recent years it has acknowledged Armenian suffering.
Turkey immediately summoned the papal ambassador to Ankara to express its displeasure and later recalled its ambassador from the Vatican. The foreign ministry said the pope had contradicted his message of peace and dialogue during a visit to Turkey in November. Expressing “great disappointment and sadness,” it called the message discriminatory because it only mentioned the pain suffered by Christian Armenians, and not Muslims and other religious groups. [read more...]
ARMENIAN CHURCH CANONIZES VICTIMS OF OTTOMAN GENOCIDE
(24 Apr) The Armenian Apostolic Church canonized all Armenians murdered during the Armenian genocide in the Ottoman Empire a century ago. Between 1 million and 1.5 million people were killed in the massacres, but the Armenian Church stated neither the number nor the names of those it canonized, calling the genocide collective martyrdom. The canonization ceremony finished at 19:15 hours local time, symbolizing the year 1915, when the killings began. The ceremony was led by Catholicos Karekin II of All Armenians and Catholicos Aram of the Great House of Cilicia.
Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan and representatives of the Coptic, Syrian, Ethiopian and Malankara Churches were among those present. The Russian Orthodox Church was represented by a delegation led by Metropolitan Varsonofy of St. Petersburg and Ladoga. The general secretary of the World Council of Churches also attended the ceremony, and the Conference of European Churches was represented as well. The Armenian Church had restored its rite to canonization for Thursday's ceremony. Until then the rite had been considered lost - the previous canonization had been performed in the 17th century when Movses Tatevatsi was proclaimed a saint. [read more...]
SERBIAN PRESIDENT ATTENDS GENOCIDE COMMEMORATIONS IN YEREVAN
(24 Apr) Serbian Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic was in Yerevan on Friday, attending commemorations on the 100th anniversary of the massacre of Armenians. He addressed the gathering to say that Serbia, having itself suffered in wars, has a deep understanding of the suffering of Armenians. "I arrived in Yerevan to, in the name of the Serbian people and in the name of the Serbian state, bow in front of the victims of the terrible tragedy of the Armenian people during the first great world war in the 20th century," said Nikolic. "If anyone can understand and feel the misfortune of biblical proportions that in 1915 befell Armenians in the Ottoman Empire, and its permanent consequences that cannot be healed, it is the Serbian people, it is Serbia," Nikolic said.
He explained that Serbia in the First World War had the highest percentage of losses among all countries and peoples affected by the war. "Serbia's total losses from 1915 until 1918 reached a terrifying figure of 1,247,435 victims, which was approximately 28 percent of the population, of which 402,435 soldiers and 845,000 civilians. The remains of Serbian victims of the Great War are scattered in 1,815 burial sites in 18 countries. The burial places of many are not known," Nikolic said. He added that the Armenian victims are "a perpetual reminder to the living" and that they must not be forgotten - "especially not today, when, in the words of Pope Francis, 'a piecemeal Third World War' is happening, and when once again hundreds of thousands of people are losing their lives, dignity and property." [read more...]
UZBEKISTAN: SHORT-TERM JAILINGS, FINES AND HARASSMENT
by Mushfig Bayram, Forum 18 News Service
(24 Apr) Doniyor Akhmedov, a Baptist, was one of three Protestants in Uzbekistan known to have been imprisoned for between seven and 15 days in March and April. He was held after offering a religious leaflet to a passer-by on the street. For the last part of his 15-day imprisonment, Akhmedov "was held in a small cell with more than 10 people, where they were squeezed in and there was barely space to sleep on the floor," fellow Baptists complained to Forum 18 News Service. After he was freed he was summoned to court and fined more than three years' official minimum wage. Laziz Kurbonov, Deputy Chief of Ahangaran Police, refused to discuss Akhmedov's case with Forum 18. "I have hundreds of cases, I don't want to talk about this over the phone."
The two other prisoners of conscience known to have jailed for short periods in March and April for exercising their right to freedom of religion or belief were: a Protestant in Bukhara who received seven days' imprisonment for "illegal" religious activity; and another Protestant elsewhere in Uzbekistan who received 10 days' imprisonment for "teaching religion illegally," fellow Protestants who wished to remain unnamed for fear of state reprisals told Forum 18. They declined to reveal the identity of those short-term prisoners for fear they might suffer further state reprisals. [read more...]
UAOC OFFICIALLY DECLARES ITS READINESS TO REAL ASSOCIATION TO ESTABLISH A UNIFIED NATIONAL CHURCH IN UKRAINE
from Religious Information Service of Ukraine
(24 Apr) On April 23, the UAOC episcopate issued a statement endorsing the unification of Orthodox Ukrainians into one local church. According to them, it will help strengthen the Ukrainian state, especially in the war. By this statement, the bishops officially reassert that the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church seeks to begin the real process of unification with the UOC-KP after the Local Council, which will be held on June 4-5, 2015. A special commission on negotiation process comprising five persons was set up by the decision of the Council of Bishops. This commission is empowered to negotiate with the UOC-KP under several conditions to be adopted and approved by the Local Council, namely:
- Combining the two titles of the Churches into one as follows: "The Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate."
- All dioceses of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church that existed before the unification shall retain their boundaries and ruling bishops and deans until the final merger of all three branches of Ukrainian Orthodoxy in one Local Orthodox Church.
The UAOC bishops proposed the UOC-KP to formulate their requirements to unification or agree with the proposal of the UAOC, and to approve this decision by the Synod or Council if they agree to these proposals. Further the UAOC proposes to convene a joint council and choose one Primate for the united local church. If the UOC (MP) wants to participate in the unification process, the bishops of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church expressed willingness “to negotiate on the terms of sincerity and brotherly Christian love.” [read more...]
KAZAKHSTAN: BAPTIST FACING THREE YEARS JAIL FOR BREAKING STATE CENSORSHIP
by Felix Corley, Forum 18 News Service
(17 Apr) A Baptist, Nikolai Novikov, could face up to three years in jail for refusing to pay a 2013 fine for offering on the streets religious literature which has not been censored by the state, Forum 18 News Service has learned. He has refused to pay that and other fines, as he asserts they are unjust. Prosecutor Aydin Rashidov insistently claimed that as Novikov's "crime" was of what he described as "middling seriousness," if convicted Novikov would not be imprisoned. However, Rashidov stated that he would have to live under restrictions - such as being subject to a curfew every night at his house - for up to three years.
Novikov is due to meet police Investigator Ispolov on 20 April to hear what the next moves in the case will be. "He wants me imprisoned, for one, two or three years," Novikov told Forum 18 from Oral on 17 April. Forum 18 was unable to reach Investigator Ispolov. Council of Churches Baptists have a policy of civil disobedience, refusing to pay the many administrative fines imposed on them. These are for such "offenses" as meeting for worship without state permission, or sharing religious literature which has not been censored by the state. [read more...]
OTHER NEWS HEADLINES:
RUSSIAN CHURCH: WESTERN CALLS FOR RELIGIOUS NEUTRALITY OF STATE PLAY INTO THE HANDS OF CHAOS SCENARIO
CUTTING THE POWER CORD IN TWO
from Russian Evangelical Alliance
UKRAINE TRUCE ON THE BRINK OF FAILURE, PASTORS SAY
from Mission Network News
PATRIARCH FILARET IN EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT: STOP PUTIN BEFORE HE STARTS THIRD WORLD WAR
from Religious Information Service of Ukraine
MOSCOW PATRIARCH KIRILL APPROVES UKRAINIAN REBELS
from Religiia v Ukraine
ROC(MP) DEP'T FOR EXTERNAL RELATIONS AND SAMARITAN’S PURSE PROVIDE AID TO UKRAINIAN REFUGEES
from Russian Orthodox Church - Moscow Patriarchate
MISSION EURASIA RESTORING LIVES IN UKRAINE TORN APART BY HATRED AND VIOLENCE
from Mission Eurasia
THE SECRET ROOTS OF LIBERATION THEOLOGY
from National Review
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Our first news article POPE BOOSTS ARMENIA'S EFFORTS TO HAVE OTTOMAN KILLINGS RECOGNISED AS GENOCIDE says this was the first of three genocides in the 20th century. The second genocide was Stalin's "holodomor" (forced famine) in Ukraine during 1932-1933 that resulted in 7,000,000 deaths and his bloody purges in the USSR in 1927-1939 resulting in at least another 13,000,000 deaths: Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and others estimate the true number of Stalin’s victims might be as much as 60,000,000. The third genocide was the Nazi Holocaust of 1938-1945 causing 6,000,000 deaths. Now you know which genocide was the worst.
The second and third news articles ARMENIAN CHURCH CANONIZES VICTIMS OF OTTOMAN GENOCIDE and SERBIAN PRESIDENT ATTENDS GENOCIDE COMMEMORATIONS IN YEREVAN demonstrate that Russia and Serbia both support Armenia's assertion that the atrocities committed 100 years ago by Turkey amount to genocide. The third article link shows a photo of Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic and Russian President Vladimir Putin sitting next to each other at the genocide commemoration ceremony. Although Serbia's loss of lives was smaller in number by just a few hundred thousand, it was the greatest in percentage of population for WWI losses. But by focusing on the deaths of Christians at the hands of Muslim Turks they draw attention away from Russia's massacring tens of millions of its own people.
There seems to be a shift in Russia's position: in another Interfax article LAVROV: ISLAMIC STATE IS RUSSIA'S MAIN ENEMY NOW the Russian foreign minister listed Russia, western Europe and America as being threatened from within by hundreds of their citizens fighting with ISIS. And yet another article 70 YEARS AFTER THE LINK-UP AT THE ELBE RIVER, RUSSIA AND U.S. SHOULD START DIALOGUE appears to indicate that Russia is seeking to improve its relationship with the West. It may be that Russia is tiring of its misadventure in Ukraine, and is seeking rapprochement with the West.
But the HUGE news today is in our fifth article UAOC OFFICIALLY DECLARES ITS READINESS TO REAL ASSOCIATION TO ESTABLISH A UNIFIED NATIONAL CHURCH IN UKRAINE. This should prove to be a real game-changer for Ukraine, if the UOC(KP) and UAOC are able to bring about this merger: it would very likely be recognized by the Ecumenical Patriarch, and would attract many Ukrainians from the Moscow Patriarchate's Orthodox parishes as well as from the Greek Catholic parishes in Ukraine. At this time Ukraine needs to have a United Christian Church, and drawing together most of the eastern-rite Christians would greatly strengthen and unify that country.
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Please remember to pray for Christians in the former Soviet bloc countries, and for...
Bob & Cheryl
p.s. The answer to the ever-present "Why?" is the everlasting Who.