||FIRST, THE NEWS:
SERBS SCEPTICAL ABOUT PATRIARCH’S ‘RETURN TO KOSOVO’ CALL
from - Balkan Transitional Justice
(25 Nov) Serbia’s Patriarch Irinej called for Serbs to return to their homes in Kosovo, but those who fled after the war said Belgrade and Pristina must guarantee their safety first. Patriarch Irinej’s call for a mass return of Serbs to Kosovo is not realistic due to fears about security and poor living conditions, Natasa Scepanovic of the Association of Families of Kosovo Serb Victims told BIRN on Wednesday:
“People have lost faith in Serbia and in the [Serbian Orthodox] Church. They were saying the same after the war ended in 1999 and many believed them. My parents believed both the state and the church and they were murdered,” explained Scepanovic, who said her parents were killed in their Kosovo hometown Istok/Istog after the war in 1999. Scepanovic said however that her family would gladly return to the north-western Kosovo town if both the Pristina and Belgrade authorities “ensure safety and a normal, better life there.”
During a visit to Kosovo’s Visoki Decani monastery on Tuesday, Patriarch Irinej urged all the Serbs who fled Kosovo to go back and continue their lives there in order to safeguard their heritage. “We know they live in hard conditions and circumstances, but the Lord will give them strength to endure,” the patriarch said. “I call on all the former residents of Kosovo and Metohija to return to their homes, temples and cemeteries, and to guard and preserve what they received from their ancestors,” he added.
But Olgica Bozanic from the Association of Kidnapped and Missing Persons in Kosovo said that the authorities in Pristina haven’t done enough to ensure the safety of post-war returnees. “We have the right to return. But we also have a request for the Kosovo authorities to promise us a safe return and peace there,” Bozanic told BIRN. [read more...]
RUSSIA: SOME BUT NOT ALL SACRED TEXTS EXEMPTED FROM BANNING
by Victoria Arnold - Forum 18 News Service
(30 Nov) A new Russian legal amendment excludes some sacred texts - "the Bible, the Koran, the Tanakh and the Kanjur, their contents, and quotations from them" - from being banned as "extremist". But about 4,000 Jehovah's Witness Bibles [which modify the text to promote JW doctrines - ed.] are among millions of their publications still held up at Russian customs as they may contain "extremism," Forum 18 News Service notes. The amendments aim to protect only books of those faiths considered as so-called "traditional." President Vladimir Putin signed into law on 23 November the amendment to the Extremism Law excluding the major sacred texts of so-called "traditional religions" from literature banned as "extremist."
Another amendment, still under consideration in the lower house of parliament, the State Duma, may remove the power to ban materials as "extremist" from lower-level courts. Some religious leaders and lawyers have welcomed the proposals, although other commentators think they will do little to prevent followers of beliefs and their communities from continuing to fall foul of "extremism" legislation. At present, any court may issue an "extremism" ruling, which obliges the Justice Ministry to place an item on the List. The Justice Ministry's Federal List of Extremist Materials currently runs to over 3,000 entries. Alongside violent nationalist and racist material, it also includes religious texts which have not been prohibited in other countries and which do not make calls for violence or hatred. [read more...]
ANOTHER CHURCH OF MOSCOW PATRIARCHATE ROBBED AND SET ON FIRE IN WESTERN UKRAINE
from - Interfax-Religion
(01 Dec) he Iverskaya Church, which belongs to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate and is located in the town of Rokitnoe in Ukraine's western Rovno region, has been vandalized. Overnight into Monday, the vandals slipped into the church, set fire to its altar, burned the antimins, the altar Gospel and the holy sacraments, robbed the church donation box and set fire to another three places inside the church, the press service of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church reported.
Also, Rokitnoe's Holy Trinity Church was set on fire and robbed on November 19. Altogether, ten churches belonging to the local diocese of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) were robbed and desecrated in 2014. [read more...]
UZBEKISTAN: POLICE RAID, TORTURE, STEAL AND PLANT DRUGS
by Mushfig Bayram - Forum 18 News Service
(25 Nov) Police in Uzbekistan's capital Tashkent raided a Protestant worship meeting on 8 November and detained and tortured members of the group and their nursing children, Forum 18 News Service has learned. Police also confiscated a large amount of Christian literature as well as personal property including computers and other electronic devices. The police victims were subsequently convicted of exercising freedom of religion or belief and fined.
Protestants in the central Samarkand [Samarqand] Region have also been raided and fined, some on fabricated drugs charges, for meeting together for worship. Police also confiscated a large amount of religious literature and private property, including computers and mobile phones, from those present. Subsequently, two female Protestants were arrested on the street and then tortured. Contrary to Uzbekistan's international human rights obligations, the police torturers were apparently neither arrested nor prosecuted for their actions.
The Tashkent raid was sparked by the headteacher of a school in Tashkent's Yashnobod District telling the District Police that two pupils, who are anonymous for fear of state reprisals, were sharing their beliefs with fellow-pupils, local Protestants told Forum 18 on 13 November. The two "came to a Protestant meeting only twice and shared the good news on their own initiative," After the headteacher contacted police, the pupils allegedly wrote statements against Sarvar Zhuliyev, a local Protestant, on 5 November in Yashnobod Police Station. On 8 November they accompanied police on the raid. [read more...]
UOC(MP) TRIES TO TAKE BACK A CHURCH OF UOC(KP) IN TRANSCARPATHIANS BY COURT ACTION
from - Religious Information Service of Ukraine
(03 Dec) The UOC (MP) is trying to regain by court action a church in Pylypets village, where the community has moved to the UOC(KP). On behalf of the Khust Diocese of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate), a newly registered community of the UOC(MP) in Pylypets village has filed a claim to cancel the re-registration of the local community as an entity of the Kyivan Patriarchate. Press-secretary of Khust Diocese Archpriest Ivan Rozman was quoted as saying this by Zakrpattya online.
According to the diocesan representative, after the community of the Nativity of Theotokos in Pylypets village was re-registered as an entity of the Kyiv Patriarchate, the community of the UOC (MP) completely renewed its leadership and chose the new “twenty” of parish members. By now, the renewed congregation has appealed the court ruling of Transcarpathian Regional State Administration, according to which the community was re-registered as the one of the UOC(KP). The date of the first court hearing has not been determined so far. [read more...]
ROMANIA HOLDING THE LINE AGAINST ANTI-FAMILY SEX EDUCATION
from - LifeSite News
(25 Nov) The battle to defend children from harmful forms of sex education was dealt a damaging blow by the 94% of cardinals and bishops attending the Ordinary Synod of the Family who voted in favour of paragraph 58 of the final report of the synod, which undermines the rights of parents as primary educators of their children. Antonia Tully, leader of the Safe at School initiative, a project of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, was invited to Romania this month by the Metropolitan of the Orthodox Church of Moldova and Bukovina and pro-life groups to speak about the impact on children of graphic sex education. Here is her encouraging report about parents’ resistance in Romania which she concludes with the words: “If mandatory sex education is stopped at the Romanian border it will deal a much needed blow to the global campaign to sexualise and defile the innocent hearts and minds of the world’s children.”
"The global drive to make school sex education mandatory for the world’s children is finding strong and organised resistance in Romania, where the issue currently hangs in the balance. The country’s Minister for Health favours pro-abortion/LGBT style sex education while the Minister for Education would like to see Romanian children taught the family values promoted by the pro-life lobby. The good news is that introducing graphic sex education into Romanian schools will not be a pushover. Having recently returned from a week-long visit to Romania at the invitation of the Metropolitan See of Moldova and Bucovina, I saw parents and the Orthodox church standing shoulder to shoulder determined to protect their children from damaging sex education. The bad news is that the sex education lobby has been given access to the political and civic infrastructure to promote its position and materials," she stated. [read more...]
OTHER NEWS HEADLINES:
IS RUSSIA'S SYRIA INTERVENTION A 'HOLY WAR'? RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH: 'YES'
from Yahoo! News
CHURCH APPRECIATES OF PUTIN'S POLICY FOR HIS 'IRON WILL' AND READINESS TO GO ALL THE WAY
FINDING NEW LIFE IN CROATIA
from Mission Network News
MOSCOW WANTS TURKEY TO RETURN CATHEDRAL OF ST. SOPHIA TO THE ORTHODOX CHURCH
from Religious Information Service of Ukraine
LOCATION OF 2016 WORLD MEETING OF ORTHODOX CHURCHES IN DOUBT
from RIA Novosti
4TH FORUM ON “THE SANCTITY OF MOTHERHOOD” OPENS IN KAZAN
from Russian Orthodox Church - Moscow Patriarchate
BUILDING BRIDGES OF PEACE AND RECONCILIATION BETWEEN RUSSIA AND UKRAINE
from Mission Eurasia
RUSSIAN-TURKISH CRISIS COULD OPEN WAY TO INDEPENDENCE FOR UKRAINE’S ORTHODOX: OP-ED
from Eurasia Review
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We just finished updating our Agape Restoration Society website this week, after noticing that our "Support the poor and disabled" page and our "Donate" page weren't working -- the foundation that processes our finances had revised their website! It's just in time for year-end charitable giving, so please support Agape Restoration Society by e-check or credit/debit card: click on the "Donate" button there.
Also, our "Support" website page now links to our Agape Restoration Society home page that displays our volunteer Personal and Career Counselling work with the poor at FOCUS+Pittsburgh. In order for our clients to find good jobs and move up the career ladder, we need to first help them set good spiritual and career goals. So we have a link to "God's Plan for Your Life" and several links to Scripture passages that emphasize how the Lord wants them to find freedom from habits that might be binding them in poverty.
We encourage those of our clients who might be interested in the healthcare field to enroll in these free courses. As you'll see on the "3. Several healthcare organizations that have lots of temporary and permanent job openings" link of our home page, we list over 40 healthcare organizations that advertise for workers in this field.
Actually, there are about 10 times that many, around 400 of these organizations in the Pittsburgh area! We explain to our clients that it's such a booming field because the "baby boomers" are now reaching retirement age, and many of them need healthcare. We also include a link on our home page to our "Social Ministry of the Church" online training courses.
Speaking of our online courses, I (Bob) am currently teaching three students in the Russian version of our "Foundations of Psychology" course that Cheryl wrote while we were in Russia. My students are from Russia, Ukraine and Moldova, three separate countries that 25 years ago were all part of the USSR. Having a few students creates great online exchanges between them and me about the discussion question in each lesson. Cheryl's M.S. degree in Rehabilitation Psychology equipped her to develop these lessons, and she's able to use her skills with our clients as they come in looking for help with goal setting, cover letters, resumes and searching for jobs.
Please support Agape Restoration Society by e-check or credit/debit card: click on the "Donate" button there.
THE GLORY OF GOD
Working with a Christian organization is great: if our clients agree, we're free tell them that God didn't create them to live in poverty, He created them to share in His glory! This isn't some phony "health and wealth gospel" scam that promises people riches and health if they would tithe just 10% of their meager income to a diamond-studded televangelist. No, the glory of God isn't anything material; in fact, the glory of God is His uncreated Energy that radiates from God's unknowable, unfathomable Essence.
The majority of our clients are Afro-Americans living in the inner city, trapped in the bondage of inter-generational poverty. We share with them - "For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you hope for your future. You shall call on me, and you shall go and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You shall seek me, and find me, when you shall search for me with all your heart. I will be found of you, says the Lord, and I will return you from captivity" (Jer. 29:11-14). God is good, and wants to share His goodness with us!
Some bad habits may be keeping us from experiencing God's glory - "Or don't you know that the unrighteous will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don't be deceived. Neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor male prostitutes, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor slanderers, nor extortioners, will inherit the Kingdom of God. Such were some of you, but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and in the Spirit of our God" (1 Cor. 6:9-11). "Such were some of you" - put the past behind you! "But" shows a change taking place: being "washed" refers to baptism into Christ, and being "sanctified" refers to receiving the Holy Spirit at chrismation, right after baptism.
We shouldn't set our hearts on becoming super-rich, but it's alright to ask the Lord for enough to live in moderation: "Two things I have asked of you; Don't deny me before I die: Remove far from me falsehood and lies. Give me neither poverty nor riches. Feed me with the food that is needful for me; Lest I be full, deny you, and say, 'Who is the Lord?' Or lest I be poor, and steal, And so dishonor the name of my God" (Prov. 30:7-9). We've seen times in Russia when good people were driven to stealing just to survive, which dishonors God's name.
Continue reading in our Hosken-News Blog.
Please remember to pray for Christians in the former Soviet bloc countries, and for...
Bob & Cheryl
p.s. There are two kinds of pain: the pain of discipline, and the pain of regret. The choice is yours.