||FIRST, THE NEWS:
EUROPE'S WAR ON CHRISTIAN ETHICS
from CWR Archive
(28 May) Many Eastern European countries are facing increasing pressure from Western nations to abandon their traditional Christian values and religious heritage. There is a place in Slovakia called Bardejovska Nova Ves where pro-lifers have erected a poignant monument to the Unborn Child. It portrays a weeping mother, on her knees before a translucent child figure, depicted extending its hand towards the mother’s head in a gesture of forgiveness. The heartbreaking scene, placed at the geographical center of the European continent, brings home to observers the common cultural ground the remains at the end of the decades of fanatically enforced separation between West and East.
Reunified top-down a quarter of a century ago, Europe is now gradually coming together at the base, on the ethical battleground presided over by the central planners in Brussels, where people from both East and West have to choose sides and either adhere to the new anthropological paradigm or defend their convictions against growing encroachments on the rights of individual consciences. The monument in Slovakia attests to the generations lost under totalitarian oppression, but also to the irrepressible will of the people clinging to their humanity. Today the ex-captives, now ostensibly free, are confronted by the soft policies of the secularist establishment entrenched in both supra-national bureaucracies and non-governmental global organizations, all working to expand their influence eastwards.
The ethical issue that causes the most universal outrage, in both the East and the West, is the rampant financial corruption in political circles, an evil that no one questions. Instead, there are deep disagreements in the areas of “life issues,” the family, and education. There is no lack of examples of what the assault on traditional principles in these areas can look like in the West. The attacks are repeated and progressive. One of the most recent was the “Estrela Report on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights,” a motion presented to the European Parliament by a Socialist MP from Portugal, Edite Estrela. This was a radical call for all member states to provide access to safe and legal abortion and ensure non-discrimination, health care, and “sexuality training.” After a protracted and strenuous battle, Estrela was defeated in December 2013 by a thin margin of seven votes, thanks to a sprinkling of Catholic Social Democrats, who on this occasion broke ranks with their party. [read more...]
UZBEKISTAN: ONE TORTURED TILL HE LOST CONSCIOUSNESS, ANOTHER THREATENED WITH RAPE
by Mushfig Bayram, Forum 18 News Service
(04 Jun) In early May, Police in Navoi Region of central Uzbekistan stopped four Protestants from various Churches who were travelling together by car from Samarkand to Navoi. "We understood that the Police were informed of their arrival in town, and were waiting for them there," a fellow Protestant from the capital Tashkent, who wished to remain unnamed for fear of state reprisals, told Forum 18 News Service on 15 May. Officers at Karmana District Police Station then interrogated the four men, torturing one until he lost consciousness and threatening to rape another. The Criminal Police are believed to have already handed administrative cases against the four to court, the Protestant added.
The driver of the car, Murot Turdiyev, is under constant close police surveillance and his car has often been stopped. Like other individuals prominent in religious communities or punished earlier for exercising the right to freedom of religion or belief, his name appears to be listed in the Preventative Registry. When they detained Turdiyev and his friends, officers specifically asked if they were listed in the Registry at their home addresses. A very wide range of state agencies, from courts to health care and nature protection agencies, can put people on this Register, which was formalized in 2014. This subjects them to a variety of police "preventative measures" for one year or more. These measures can include someone being fired from their job and there are many possibilities for officials to arbitrarily keep people on the Register for many years. [read more...]
RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH BREAKS CONTACTS WITH PROTESTANTS OF SCOTLAND AND FRANCE
(03 Jun) The Moscow Patriarchate criticizes the decisions of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland to consecrate homosexuals and of the United Protestant Church of France to bless homosexual marriages. "These decisions of the Church of Scotland and the Church of France have deeply disappointed the Russian Orthodox Church as they seem incompatible with norms of Christian morals," the Department for External Church Relations says in its statement posted Wednesday on its official website.
Guided by definitions of the Bishops' Councils, which say that future relations with many Protestant communities depend on their faithfulness to norms of Gospel morality, DECR "does not see any prospects in further official contacts with the Church of Scotland and the United Presbyterian Church of France. In sorrow we state that today we have new divisions in Christian world, not only in theological, but in moral issues," the statement says. [read more...]
CRIMEA: NEW PUNISHMENTS FOR "RELIGIOUS AGITATION IN PUBLIC PLACES"
by Felix Corley, Forum 18 News Service
(04 Jun) A new draft Law which includes punishments for the undefined "offense" of "religious agitation in public places" was approved in May in first reading in Crimea's parliament, the State Council. Although fines would be relatively small, they would rise for repeated "offenses," Forum 18 News Service notes. No deputy or State Council official has been able to explain how this provision might be used if eventually adopted. The Crimean authorities already punish those who exercise their freedom of religion or belief in public. Nine Baptists were interrogated, photographed, fingerprinted and seven of them fined in May for sharing their faith in public in a village in central Crimea. Five have already lodged appeals with Crimea's Supreme Court.
The proposed new fines to punish individuals for "religious agitation in public places" were included in a draft Law on Administrative Offenses in the Republic of Crimea. Article 24, Part 2 of the current draft declares: "Fortune-telling, begging and religious agitation in public places are liable to a warning or imposition of an administrative fine of 100 to 1,000 Roubles." A fine of 100 to 500 Russian Roubles would be imposed under Part 1 on those "pestering citizens" in public places (it remains unclear if this would punish those sharing their faith). Part 3 of the same Article would impose a fine of 1,000 to 3,000 Russian Roubles (1000 Roubles = 19 US Dollars) for repeat "offenders" under both these Parts. [read more...]
RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATIONS GRANTED RIGHT TO ESTABLISH SECONDARY SCHOOLS
from Religious Information Service of Ukraine
(02 Jun) On June 2, the Ukrainian Parliament adopted the Law “On amendments to some laws of Ukraine regulating the establishment of educational institutions by religious organizations.” It entitles the religious organizations, whose regulations (provisions) have been registered according to established procedure, to establish educational institutions (primary, secondary, after-school, vocational and higher institutions). The respective draft bill has been registered under No. 1447. It was drawn up by the MPs of the Popular Front faction: Pavlo Unguryan, Lilia Hrynevych and Victor Yelenskyy. According to the parliament website, the bill was supported by 237 deputies.
Before voting on the bill in the first reading, Chair of the Committee on Science and Spirituality Lilia Hrynevych said: “Today, any person, any citizen is entitled to establish their own private educational institution, and religious organizations are devoid of this right! This is a result of our post-Soviet interpretation of the principle of separation of church and state. Yes, the state has no right to interfere in church matters, and the church should not interfere in state matters, but they may interact. This interaction is most successful in the realm of education,” the deputy says. Note that for the first time the initiative regarding the rights of religious organizations to establish general educational institutions emerged in the 1990s. Then the first such educational institutions appeared, being established by charitable foundations or individuals. Today there are dozens of schools belonging to different faiths, but their official founders are not religious organizations. [read more...]
MOSCOW PATRIARCHATE RAPIDLY LOSING OUT IN UKRAINE – AND BEYOND
by Paul Goble for Ukraine Weekly
(29 May) The Moscow Patriarchate is rapidly losing influence in Ukraine and may be dissolving from below. These trends could open the way to the formation of a single autocephalous Ukrainian Orthodox Church, independent of Moscow, and undermine the influence of Patriarch Kirill and his Church at home and abroad. More than half of all the parishes of the Moscow Patriarchate and a significant share of its bishoprics, including many whose incumbents were selected by Kirill, are in Ukraine. Thus, the likelihood that many if not most of them will soon shift their allegiance to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church not only will represent a significant reduction in the size and wealth of the Moscow Patriarchate but also will reduce Kirill’s influence in the Kremlin and in Orthodox Church discussions worldwide.
Were the Moscow Patriarchate to lose all of its parishes and bishoprics in Ukraine – something that is not likely to happen overnight – the Russian Church would cease to be the largest Orthodox jurisdiction in the world. But, even if only a sizeable share of them do – and there are indications that is already happening – the influence of the Moscow Church and Patriarch Kirill personally among the Orthodox and as a spokesman for Orthodoxy in conversations with the leaders of other Christian denominations, will fall. Furthermore, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church emerging from this shift would become a major player in the Orthodox and Christian worlds. As a result, Moscow is going to fight this as much as possible and deny the obvious as long as it can.
In late April, Patriarch Filaret, the head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kyiv Patriarchate, called for the unification of all Orthodox Churches in Ukraine so that Russia could no longer influence that country through its religious institutions. In turn, the Ukrainian Gordon news agency asked four experts to discuss these developments, which have the potential to determine not only the outcome of the struggle for Ukraine but also the fate of Orthodoxy as a political and moral force in Russia and more generally. Their judgments, rather than the notoriously unreliable statistics about religious affiliations, are especially valuable in that regard (Gordonua.com, May 12). [read more...]
OTHER NEWS HEADLINES:
CRIMEA: INTERROGATED, PHOTOGRAPHED, FINGERPRINTED, FINED
from Forum 18 News Service
CHURCH URGES TO FIGHT AGAINST SOROS AND HOSPITALS PRACTICING ABORTIONS WITH VIOLATIONS OF LAW
'UKRAINE IS NOT OUR WAR' - INTERVIEW WITH PRESIDENT OF RUSSIAN BAPTIST UNION
from Russian Evangelical Alliance
RUSSIAN LAWS TO CURB RELIGIOUS FREEDOM COULD HARM MINISTRY
from Mission Network News
UAOC ELECTS A NEW PRIMATE
from Religious Information Service of Ukraine
MICHAEL BOURDEAUX: 'THE RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH IS BETRAYING RELIGIOUS FREEDOM'
PATRIARCH KIRILL PASSES ON OPPORTUNITY TO MEET POPE FRANCIS
RUSSIAN STATE AND THE CHURCH ARE INCREASINGLY INTERFERING IN THE WORLD OF ART
from Russia Beyond the Headlines
PUTIN'S HOLY WAR AND THE DISINTEGRATION OF THE 'RUSSIAN WORLD'
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Our first news article EUROPE'S WAR ON CHRISTIAN ETHICS illustrates the ideological battle taking place around the world today. Traditional Christian doctrines and values are under siege by the same forces of Social Darwinism that the "civilized Christian West" fought against in WWI and WWII. The video Biology of the Second Reich clearly describes this worldview's destructive effect on our humanity. In the name of science the Imperial German Empire and later the Nazi German Empire destroyed the lives of tens of millions of "inferior" humans.
But today we in the U.S. have permitted the extermination of over fifty million babies in the womb for the supposed crime of simply being "inconvenient." Worldwide, both in East and West, this horrendous death toll is in the hundreds of millions. Russia, while under the yoke of communism, had one of the hightest abortion rates in the world - the average woman would have 3 or 4 abortions because it was promoted as the main means of contraception. Now Russia, having learned this bitter lesson by experiencing a steep decline in its population, has reversed its position: see CHURCH URGES TO FIGHT AGAINST SOROS AND HOSPITALS PRACTICING ABORTIONS WITH VIOLATIONS OF LAW. When will the West come to its senses?
In our third news article RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH BREAKS CONTACTS WITH PROTESTANTS OF SCOTLAND AND FRANCE we see that the Orthodox Church sensed the need to break off official dialogs with religious groups in Scotland and France that call themselves "Christian" while at the same time promoting homosexuality. It is one thing for the Church to receive repentant sinners such as Mary Magdalene, the Woman at the Well, or Saul the Persecutor. But it is quite another thing for the Church to advance unrepentant sinners to the rank of bishop, or to bless the "marriages" of homosexuals. Yes, fornication, homosexual acts and murder happen; sin is the average behavior for most people. But they're not to be held as "norms" of human conduct. To normalize these and other sinful acts is to abandon Christ's call for His followers to be holy, set apart from the world. Our church leaders must be examples of holiness, not merely indistinguishable from the average.
The Russian Orthodox Church, as we see in these three articles, likes to portray itself as the champion of traditional Christian morality. But in matters of religious freedom it is closely identified with the suppressive measures taken by the state in Russia and former Soviet countries, as our second UZBEKISTAN: ONE TORTURED TILL HE LOST CONSCIOUSNESS, ANOTHER THREATENED WITH RAPE and fourth CRIMEA: NEW PUNISHMENTS FOR 'RELIGIOUS AGITATION IN PUBLIC PLACES' news articles show. The right to believe according to one's conscience certainly is at least as valuable as the right to life.
For the past 18 months since events in Ukraine have flared up, this newsletter has attempted to point out their spiritual significance. If the various Eastern Rite jurisdictions in Ukraine were to unite, it would create one Ukrainian Church that is larger than the Russian Orthodox Church, as our sixth news article MOSCOW PATRIARCHATE RAPIDLY LOSING OUT IN UKRAINE – AND BEYOND very aptly explains. This would mean that the Russian Orthodox Church, now overwhelmingly the largest Orthodox jurisdiction in the world, would be dwarfed by a new Ukrainian Orthodox Church. This would greatly diminish Russia's championing itself as a moral authority in the world... as if its invasion of Crimea and eastern Ukraine hadn't already diminished its moral authority.
Not only is the Russian Orthodox Church trying to portray itself as the champion of moral purity, it has partnered with the Russian state in promoting the illusion of the West being totally given over to moral bankruptcy, homosexuality and Naziism. There are thousands of paid "Internet trolls" in Russia, as "The Agency", an article in the New York Times Magazine, illustrates. This on-the-scene reporter describes "a nondescript building in St. Petersburg" where "an army of well-paid 'trolls' has tried to wreak havoc all around the Internet." By assuming fake identities on Twitter, Facebook, Skype, etc., these trolls are producing a tidal wave of phony posts, writing made-to-order opinions on all matters concerning religion, politics, rights, etc. My wife and I have received over Skype fake opinions supposedly from our some friends in Russia: long rants about how glorious, moral and righteous are Russia's actions, and how depraved and shameful are our Western behaviors. While there is a grain of truth in the latter, there is more than enough blame to go around for the former as well.
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Please remember to pray for Christians in the former Soviet bloc countries, and for...
Bob & Cheryl
p.s. Be fishers of men: you catch them - He'll clean them.