||FIRST, THE NEWS:
THE DRAMATIC BLINDNESS OF WESTERN ORTHODOX THEOLOGIANS TOWARDS RUSSIA
by Antoine Arjakosky, Ukraine Today
(14 Sep) The open letter published by three American Orthodox Christians on September 3, 2015 reproaching the very respected American Catholic professor George Weigel for "having insulted the Russian Church," is symptomatic of the increasing malaise within the Orthodox Church both in Russia and among some of its representatives in the Western world. George Weigel did nothing more than denounce Russian aggression in Crimea, following the lead of almost the totality of the countries belonging to the United Nations with the exception of ten countries, and defend the Greek Catholic Church against the systematic and unfounded accusations of the Patriarchate of Moscow.
Two Orthodox priests and a lay person who felt wounded by the truthful words of the Catholic theologian chose to publish an argumentative letter stating the reasons why they continue to support Patriarch Kirill of Moscow. But they write this letter knowing that, above and beyond the brilliant analyses of G. Weigel, the whole world is now witnessing the astonishing moral collapse of the Patriarchate of Moscow and the end of the myth of the new Russian Church which so many sincere people wanted to believe in after 1991.
Anyone today, Christian or not, understands that a Christian Church which blesses an offensive war and promotes the annexation of a neighboring State, is in profound contradiction with its Founder's message of peace. This is why I don't think that the publication of the open letter to Professor Weigel should be considered as an act of propaganda. The famous photos of Patriarch Kirill blessing a military arms factory in Siberia or the Bishop of Volgodonsk blessing the Russian bombers on the Ukrainian border were certainly known by the authors of this letter. [read more...]
BELARUS: AUTOCEPHALOUS ORTHODOX ARCHBISHOP DENIED ENTRY
by Olga Glace, Forum 18 News Service
(24 Sep) The Belarusian Autocephalous Orthodox Church's parish in the capital Minsk has abandoned attempts to gain state registration after US-based Archbishop Sviatoslav (Lohin) was denied entry to Belarus in late July, Fr Leonid Akalovich has told Forum 18 News Service. This is the first ban on a pastoral visit by the Archbishop. Fr Akalovich stressed that the Church would like to have legal status and was planning to apply again for state registration this year. But, he added, due to the incident with Archbishop Sviatoslav "it makes no sense." Without registration it has to keep a low profile, as under the Religion Law, any exercise of the right to freedom of religion or belief without state approval is illegal. Officials have refused to explain to Forum 18 why they denied the Church registration and gave spurious reasons for this - including that the Church is allegedly new although its current statute was drafted in 1927.
The Minsk parish of the Belarusian Autocephalous Orthodox Church - which is independent of the Russian Orthodox Church - was most recently denied state registration in 2011. It thinks it would stand little chance of success in any future attempt. Without registration it has to keep a low profile. Under the Religion Law, any exercise of the right to freedom of religion or belief without state approval is illegal and subject to punishment. Asked about whether the Autocephalous Orthodox Church faces pressure from the authorities, Fr Akalovich of the St Ephrosinia of Polotsk parish in Minsk explained to Forum 18 on 31 August that they try to avoid any conflicts and have so far been allowed to meet for worship. This is the only parish the Church has organised in Belarus.
However, he noted that in earlier years they had suffered searches, fines and even detentions. In June 2008 Fr Akalovich was fined 1,050,000 Belarusian Roubles for participating together with 20 other people in the installation of St Ephrosinia of Polotsk crucifix and prayers commemorating the victims executed by partisans in 1943 in the village of Drazhino in the south of Minsk. On 17 May 2014 police detained him as he lay flowers at the memorial in Minsk to Metropolitan Melkhisedek (Paieuski), the primate of the Belarusian Autocephalous Orthodox Church who died in 1931. Otherwise, Fr Akalovich described the situation in recent years as "quiet." [read more...]
WEST SHOULD LEARN FROM RUSSIA TO ACCEPT MUSLIM REFUGEES - PATRIARCH KIRILL
(24 Sep) Patriarch Kirill has urged the West to follow Russia as an example of how to handle Muslim immigrants. "Unlike the West, which is already nervous about the arrival of refugees, Moscow alone has taken in more Muslims than the whole of Europe has done by now. And nobody in the world is aware of it. And there is no hysteria, no police, no gas, no physical clashes," the patriarch said at a meeting with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas at his residence in Peredelkino, Moscow Region, on Thursday. Russia has many Muslim migrants from the former Soviet republics, and "for them it is the only source of a good living," the church leader said.
"Of course, problems do arise sometimes with people who arrive but these problems get solved within the law, and most importantly, the good Orthodox-Muslim relations are creating an atmosphere for Muslims here to live peacefully and for the Orthodox to treat Muslims respectfully, with tolerance, like brothers," he said. The patriarch congratulated Abbas, who helped build the mosque, on its opening in Moscow. "You probably felt what remarkable, good relations have developed between the Orthodox people and Muslims in Russia. We are very glad that finally this big mosque has been built in the city of Moscow to become a place of prayer for many Muslims who live in Moscow and visit Moscow," Patriarch Kirill said. [read more...]
TAJIKISTAN: COMMUNITIES' FOREIGN CONTACTS BLOCKED, WEBSITES BANNED
by Mushfig Bayram and Felix Corley, Forum 18 News Service
(25 Sep) Several non-Muslim religious communities which function with the compulsory state registration have told Forum 18 News Service that since early 2015 state officials have consistently rejected their requests to be allowed to invite fellow-believers from abroad to participate in religious events in Tajikistan. The Orthodox Church was refused permission to invite two scholars from Uzbekistan to a July conference. Other religious communities asked Forum 18 not to name them for fear of state reprisals or to identify their would-be foreign guests.
One religious leader, who also asked not to be identified, told Forum 18 that each time their community asked the State Committee for Religious Affairs (SCRA) in the capital Dushanbe to endorse their invitation for receiving a visa for the foreign individuals, they were refused. When they asked why, officials would only respond: "It is not appropriate." The rejection of invitation requests for foreigners to visit appears to be part of a government desire to reduce religious communities' foreign contacts. All exercise of the right to freedom of religion or belief by both local citizens and foreigners in Tajikistan is subject to tight legal restrictions. [read more...]
UKRAINE: VINNYTSIA RESIDENTS ASK PRESIDENT TO PROTECT CHURCH IN CITY CENTER
from Religious Information Service of Ukraine
(25 Sep) An appeal from Vinnytsia residents was posted on home page of the President of Ukraine's official website on September 19, 2015. Its initiator was Ihor Ososkov, a resident of Vinnytsia. The purpose of the appeal is as follows: "Cease construction and demolish the structures already built - the Cloud-Square shopping mall in the historical center of Vinnitsa." The construction works near the church started in the spring. The scandal emerged because the work began without notifying the community, no public hearings were held. The landholder was private enterprise Reikartz Group Limited represented by Ruslan Melnik, Catholic Media Center reports.
"The community of Vinnytsia asks to consider the lawfulness of the construction of Cloud-Square shopping mall in Vinnytsia, Soborna Street," the statement says. "Please note that the shopping mall is being erected in the protected zone of the architectural monument of local importance, the Church of Our Lady of the Angels (1760) located at Soborna street 12. In addition, there is a great number of underground tunnels in Vinnytsia, which have not been fully studied yet. We demand to stop the destruction of the historic center of Vinnytsia, to prohibit the construction of a shopping mall and provide authorization for the demolition of structures already built and to arrange a general purpose recreation area in its place." [read more...]
BULGARIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH URGES GOVERNMENT TO STOP MIGRANTS
(25 Sep) The Bulgarian Orthodox Church said on Friday the Balkan country's authorities should not let any more migrants cross its borders, encouraging government's determination to tackle an influx that has overwhelmed its neighbors. "We consider that our government should in no way allow more refugees into our country," the church said in a statement, signed by Patriarch Neofit, the head of the Orthodox Church, and other members of the Holy Synod - the church's top executive body.
The Black Sea state, a member of the European Union but not of the border-free Schengen Area, has deployed more border police, installed cameras and motion sensors, and is extending a security fence to cover 160 km (100 miles) of its border with Turkey. But more migrants keep arriving. Tens of thousands of migrants, most of them fleeing war and hardship in Syria, are trying to reach Western Europe through Bulgaria's neighbors, non-EU members Macedonia and Serbia. The church expressed its compassion and solidarity for those already in the country but said the problem should be solved by those "who created it." [read more...]
OTHER NEWS HEADLINES:
RUSSIA: HAVE RELIGION LAW AMENDMENTS RENDERED UNREGISTERED RELIGIOUS ACTIVITY ILLEGAL?
from Forum 18 News Service
THE RIGHT SECTOR AND POLICE HELP "SCHISMATICS" SEIZE A UKRAINIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH
DANISH THEOLOGIAN: ONLY THE WEST IS STILL MARXIST
from Russian Evangelical Alliance
CAMPS MEET CHILDREN WITH SPECIAL NEEDS IN BELARUS
from Mission Network News
OSCE MISSION RECORDED SIGNIFICANT PERSECUTION OF RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN CRIMEA
from Religious Information Service of Ukraine
CONTROVERSIAL STATUE OF RUSSIA'S FOUNDING SAINT FINDS HOME NEAR KREMLIN
from Russia Insider
CELEBRATIONS BEGIN IN KHABAROVSK TO MARK THE CENTENARY OF THE REPOSE OF ST VLADIMIR EQUAL-TO-THE-APOSTLES
from Russian Orthodox Church - Moscow Patriarchate
TROIKA REPORT: POPE FRANCIS MAY HELP DEFUSE RUSSIA-WEST DIALOG (AUDIO)
from Russia Beyond the Headlines - Religion
ARMENIA: MEGA-MILLIONAIRES MIXING FAITH AND PHILANTHROPY
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The war of words between those supporting "Western values" of freedom and tolerance vs. those supporting "Traditional values" of Christianity and conservatism has taken a new twist. Our first news article THE DRAMATIC BLINDNESS OF WESTERN ORTHODOX THEOLOGIANS TOWARDS RUSSIA refers to an open letter published on the American Orthodox Institute website condemning theologian George Weigel's condemnation of Russian Orthodox leaders supporting Putin's annexation of Crimea.
Our third news headline DANISH THEOLOGIAN: ONLY THE WEST IS STILL MARXIST tells of Iben Thranholm's "praising the emergence of a conservative movement in Russia," saying - “While the West is deriding and disowning Christianity and Europe revels in self-loathing, Russians are returning to Christianity. Christianity is associated with being modern and progressive. It is the spirit of the young, the hip, the wise and the wealthy” in Russia. While in the West the word "progressive" refers to leftist, socialist ideas, in Russia "progressive" indicates the way out of the mess that 70+ years of socialism created.
On the other hand, in our third article WEST SHOULD LEARN FROM RUSSIA TO ACCEPT MUSLIM REFUGEES - PATRIARCH KIRILL the Russian Orthodox leader claims that the West needs to learn how the city of Moscow alone has successfully managed to accept more Muslims than all of Western Europe has. This may be an exaggeration: there are many millions of Muslims living for decades now in France, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Holland, Denmark and Sweden, not counting the hundreds of thousands of Muslim refugees fleeing to the West in recent weeks: note that almost none are fleeing to Russia. And our sixth article BULGARIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH URGES GOVERNMENT TO STOP MIGRANTS. Russia has learned the hard way via Muslm terrorist attacks in Moscow, Grozny, Beslan and other cities how to deal with Muslim extremists: with massive force.
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Are Freedom and Tolerance Bankrupt?
This sign appeared in an article "The Double Standards of France Over Freedom of Expression" shortly after the massacre at the Charlie Hebdo magazine's Paris office in January this year. The article referred to a recent visit by Pope Francis to the Philippines - "'There are limits to the freedom of expression.' He said that freedom of speech and expression are fundamental human rights. However he added that he believes there should be limits to offending and ridiculing the faiths and beliefs of others. By way of example, he referred to Alberto Gasparri, who organizes his trips and was standing by his side on board the papal plane. 'If my good friend Dr. Gasparri says a curse word against my mother, he can expect a punch,' Francis said while pretending to throw a punch in his direction."
It seems that the "progressive" liberal-leftists in the West, especially in politics, the media and academia, have failed to grasp and heed this warning. Freedom of expression and toleration of others' views neither means that we must agree with and accept as true other's beliefs or practices, nor does it mean that we must withdraw into our corners and ignore or shun others, nor attack or hurl insults and scorn on them. The first postition is relativism, the second is passive retreat, and the third is aggression.
Western media and politicians frequently take this relative-passive-aggressive approach: Christianity and Islam are two equally valid religions (relativism), but Christianity is regressive and out-of-touch with modern society (passive withdrawal), so we ought to demean and insult Christianity (aggression), while downplaying the almost daily atrocities committed in the name of Islam because the "Christian West" provoked them to anger.
A few websites have noted this not-too-subtle shift in emphasis coming from Pope Francis: we ought to try to understand Islam as a peace-loving, tolerant religion and have dialog with the Muslims. This is quite different from the previous pope's statements that caused quite a furor among Muslims and may have led to his early retirement. The article Cardinal Danneels admits: “Mafia” club brought down Benedict XVI to make Church “much more modern” mentions a dialog between "the erudite Byzantine emperor Manuel II Palaeologus and an educated Persian on the subject of Christianity and Islam, and the truth of both. It was presumably the emperor himself who set down this dialogue, during the siege of Constantinople between 1394 and 1402" as follows -
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Please remember to pray for Christians in the former Soviet bloc countries, and for...
Bob & Cheryl
p.s. Taking a middle of the road position is dangerous. You can get knocked down by the traffic from both ways.