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COLLAPSING CHURCHES CAUSE DISMAY IN ROMANIA
from - BalkanInsight

churches collapse in Romania (24 Feb) The collapse of two Medieval church towers in Transylvania has put the spotlight on the perilous state of the country's ancient heritage. Often atopped with a stork's nest, the fortified towers of the Saxon churches of Transylvania have been a striking feature of the landscape here for many centuries. Some date back to the early Middle Ages, when Transylvania's then Hungarian rulers invited Germans to come and settle the borders of the kingdom. Now, however, two of them have collapsed, casualties of neglect rather than of acts of hostility.

The bell tower of the church in Roades, near Brasov, which dates from the 15th century fell down on Wednesday as a result of fissures in its already fragile structure. The tower of the fortified church in Rotbav - Rothbach in German - also near Brasov, collapsed two days later, allegedly because of the intense traffic on a nearby road. "The fall of the Romanesque church tower in Rotbav took us by surprise," said church architect Emil Crisan, his voice trembling with profound emotion.

"We don’t have yet an explanation for what happened. On the other hand, the bell tower of the church in Roades was included in a restoration plan, which was supposed to start soon. Now it is a bit late,” he added. The Evangelical Church, which owns the so-called fortified churches of Transylvania, is trying to gather funds for restoration work. "Refurbishment work at Roades will start next month, while in Rotbav they should start next year - but only if we get some EU funds,” Crisan said. [read more...]


KYRGYZSTAN: IMPUNITY FOR OFFICIALS, MOB AND TORTURERS IGNORING LAW
by Mushfig Bayram - Forum 18 News Service

(05 Mar) In the northern Chuy Region, the Inter-District Economic Court on 14 December 2015 rejected an appeal by the registered Elchilik Zhiyini (Embassy) Protestant Church against a decision by Kemin Kenesh (council) that the church's activity should be stopped. The church argued that the Kenesh had no such power, but the Court argued in a decision that Forum 18 has seen that under Article 269 of the Civil Procedure Code that it had such a power. Article 269 describes the competence of a court to uphold or reject administrative decisions by the authorities.

The church has not been able to meet for worship since August 2015 and was threatened with mob violence at the Kenesh meeting which halted its activity. Church lawyer Toktorbek Ahsirkul uuly told Forum 18 on 24 February that "we are challenging the unlawful decisions in the Regional Appeal Court. Church members are not gathering for worship officially, because they are afraid of more severe punishments by the authorities." [read more...]


UKRAINIAN HISTORIAN COMPARES WWII LIQUIDATION OF UGCC WITH "HYBRID WAR" WAGED AGAINST UKRAINE TODAY
from - Religious Information Service of Ukraine

(04 Mar) Russia has adopted the repressive methods of the Soviet totalitarian system. It is important to know the method of the repressive apparatus, which mechanisms are still in action in Russia, to understand what is happening in Ukraine and is called a "hybrid war". Volodymyr Viatrovych, head of the Institute of National Memory, said this today in Kyiv during the press conference opening the exhibition "To the Light of the Resurrection through the Thorns of Catacombs," He compared the Lviv pseudo-sobor (1946) and the present aggression against Ukraine.

The historian stressed that the policy of the Soviet regime against Ukraine was and remains the policy of genocide. An essential element of this genocide was the destruction of the Ukrainian national Church, which began in 1920s in Central and Eastern Ukraine. Later this methodology of extermination was exported to Western Ukraine. "Literally from the first weeks of the Soviet occupation of western Ukraine the repressive policy against the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church started. This process accelerated after the death of Metropolitan Sheptytsky and was completed by the pseudo-sobor in 1946. This is not just a sad page of our history which we must remember, but we also need to understand the mechanisms of the Soviet totalitarian system which are also used today. This is a classic example of what today is called 'hybrid warfare' - coercion, repression and informational provocation. In 1946 during the Lviv pseudo-sobor the participants voted similarly as during the so-called Crimean referendum in 2014. The repressive mechanisms used by Russia in 1946 are in action now,” - said Volodymyr Viatrovych. [read more...]


RUSSIA: FREEDOM OF RELIGION OR BELIEF "EXTREMIST" TEXT PROSECUTIONS INCREASE
by Victoria Arnold - Forum 18 News Service

(02 Mar) From September to December 2015 inclusive at least 35 individuals and three religious organisations exercising freedom of religion or belief were prosecuted in Russia under Administrative Code Article 20.29 ("Production or mass distribution of extremist materials"), Forum 18 News Service notes. Courts imposed fines in 34 of these cases, and one person was sentenced to a 10 day jail term later reduced to six days. Two individuals and one religious community were acquitted. This is an increase on the September to December 2014 figure of 18 such prosecutions.

There was one prosecution each in Bryansk, Omsk, Perm, Samara, Stavropol, and Sverdlovsk regions, the Y04amalo-Nenets Autonomous District, and the Republics of Bashkortostan, Kalmykiya, Khakasiya, Mari-El, Udmurtiya, and Yakutiya. Arkhangelsk, Khabarovsk, Kirov, Primorye, Smolensk, and Ulyanovsk regions and the Republic of Kabardino-Balkariya each saw two prosecutions. There were three court cases in Voronezh Region and five in Krasnodar Region. More than 10 million books and brochures - including 4,000 Bibles in Russian and Ossetian - remain impounded by customs at the Finnish border, as they may or may not contain "extremist" content. None of the impounded literature has been declared "extremist" in Russia. [read more...]


LAVROV DRAWS UN'S ATTENTION TO STATEMENT OF PATRIARCH AND POPE ABOUT MASS EXODUS OF CHRISTIANS
from - Interfax-Religion

(01 Mar) Moscow expects that the call to stop the mass exodus of Christians from the Middle Eastern countries, which was recently made by Patriarch Kirill and Pope Francis on the international community, will receive a practical reaction in the activities of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said.

"I would like to draw attention in this regard to the joint statement recently signed in Havana by Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia and Pope Francis, in which they call on the international community to act immediately in order to stop the mass exodus of Christians from the Middle Eastern countries," Lavrov said while speaking over the course of the high-level segment of the 31st UNHRC session in Geneva. [read more...]


PATRIARCH OF UKRAINIAN GREEK CATHOLIC CHURCH CONSOLED BY POPE'S WORDS
from - Catholic News Service

(23 Feb) The head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church said he was consoled by Pope Francis' words of understanding and tenderness after he expressed the disappointment of Ukrainians with a joint declaration signed by the pope and the Russian Orthodox patriarch. The pope's remarks were "truly the opening of the doors of mercy," said Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev-Halych, head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church. Pope Francis and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill of Moscow signed a joint declaration in Cuba Feb. 12 and, in an interview the next day, the archbishop said it contains unclear statements on the war in Eastern Ukraine and on the identity of the Ukrainian Catholic Church. He also said his people were deeply disappointed in the declaration's wording.

Responding Feb. 17 to a reporter's questions about the archbishop's critique, Pope Francis said everyone has a right to his or her own opinions about the declaration and the archbishop's criticisms must be read in light of the experience of Ukrainian Catholics. But Pope Francis also spoke about how his friendship with Archbishop Shevchuk began when they were both ministering in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and how the archbishop had given him an icon of Our Lady of Tenderness, which is one of the few things he asked to have brought to the Vatican after his election in 2013. Mentioning their friendship and the icon, the archbishop said, "He is inviting us to lower our voices. You cannot have a dialogue shouting." [read more...]


OTHER NEWS HEADLINES:

A THEFT IN OLD BELIEVERS COMMUNITY IN WESTERN UKRAINE
from
Ukraine Today

HOPE IS HANGING BY A THREAD IN UKRAINE
from
Mission Network News

"WE WOULD LIKE TO BE THE VOICE OF THE SUFFERING UKRAINE", PATRIARCH SVIATOSLAV SHEVCHUK ABOUT THE VISIT TO ROME
from
Religious Information Service of Ukraine

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT MAY INTERVENE IN CHURCH SEIZURES
from
Institute of Religious Liberty

MOSCOW PATRIARCHATE'S CHURCH SET ON FIRE IN WESTERN UKRAINE
from
Interfax-Religion

CONFERENCE ON THE RESULTS OF THE MEETING BETWEEN PATRIARCH KIRILL AND POPE FRANCIS TAKES PLACE IN LEBANON
from
Russian Orthodox Church - Moscow Patriarchate

HOW THE RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH IS BACKING VLADIMIR PUTIN'S NEW WORLD ORDER
from
Christian Today

See HOSKEN-NEWS Daily for more of the latest news!


NOW, OUR VIEWS:

Our first news article COLLAPSING CHURCHES CAUSE DISMAY IN ROMANIA illustrates the dilemma of ethnic minorities in Central Europe. The Hungarian Protestants were once overlords in Transylvania and numbered over 100,000. With wars and shifting borders that led many to migrate back to Hungary, they're now down to a 12,000 minority of mostly elderly people, and can't maintain their church buildings themselves. They have appealed to the EU to help preserve these archetectural and historical landmarks. As we have reported earlier, however, some repairs made by EU contractors have destroyed the hand-crafted original materials.

It is difficult to read the religious news coming out of the former USSR: mob violence, torture, liquidation of religious minorities, confiscation of Bibles and other Christian literature, etc. We have been involved in this area of the world for over 50 years now, and it seems that things have not changed much. The fall of the Iron Curtain and dissolution of the USSR brought some religious freedom to some of the new countries that rose up from the ashes of the USSR and its satellites. In the early and mid-1990s there were bright signs of hope. But Christians in Russia, Ukraine and the Central Asian countries are still struggling to achieve freedom of religious expression: the ability to meet freely, to own a building, to share their faith, to teach their children their faith, to own or print or import Christian literature - all these religious freedoms are still being frequently denied by the authorities.

While religious leaders, Patriarch Kirill and Pope Francis, and Russia's Foreign Minister Lavrov make speeches about protecting religious minorities in Ukraine and the Middle East, the reality on the ground appears to be much different: minorities in Ukraine, as well as those in the Middle East, are still being forced to migrate under the threat of death. The subtext of the meeting between Patriarch Kirill and Pope Francis seems to be a dividing up of spheres of influence, and raising Patriarch Kirill's status as the apparent world leader of Eastern Orthodoxy in preparation for the upcoming Great Council of Orthodox Churches this June. We need to "read between the lines" and watch carefully for the outcomes of these public pronouncements.

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Let's keep the comments coming! When you've finished reading, leave your COMMENTS in our Hosken-News Blog below. Thanks!


The Fullness

Jesus Christ PantokratorThe photo here, taken from inside the dome of a church in Romania, shows the halo around Christ, in which are the Greek letters "HO ON" for "I AM", and on each side the Greek letters "IC XC" for "Jesus Christ" around it, and below "HO PANTOKRATOR" for "The Almighty." He is surrounded by the Seraphim, Cherubim and the angelic host. This gives you an inkling of understanding of the awesome greatness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ!

In our 04 Jan. 2015 Hosken-News essay, "The Fullness of Christ," we considered several passages dealing with this topic: Eph. 1:19-23 & 3:19; Col. 1:14-20 & 27-28; 2:9-10. Take a few minutes to re-read that issue and meditate on the Scripture passages. But today let's consider the question: "What exactly is this Fullness?"

Perhaps the central text is - "For in him all the fullness of the Godhead dwells bodily," (Col. 2:9) where St. Paul tells us that the man Jesus Christ is also fully God. As well as being fully man with a rational mind, human emotions, and a free will - all that makes up human nature - He also possesses the infinite love, power, wisdom, knowledge and authority of the Godhead. When the Virgin Mary conceived, she gave human nature to the divine nature. In Christ Jesus from that very moment, our weak, fallen human nature was transformed by being united to the divine nature. This is not to say that Christ assumed sinfulness, but He did take upon Himself our human nature that was weakened by the Fall. And by uniting this human nature with His divine nature, He began the process of redeeming and transforming human nature.

What does this mean for us? St. Paul continues in the very next verse - "and you have this fullness in Him, Who is the head of all principality and power" (Col. 2:10). We possess the same fullness of the Godhead! That is rather astounding, but it is exactly what St. Paul wrote and taught. Because Christ took upon Himself our fallen human nature with all its weaknesses, redeemed and transformed it, He gives us the privilege of participating in His divine nature. And just as He did not lose His divine nature by taking up human nature, we do not lose our human nature and personhood by partaking of the divine nature. Christ is fully God and fully human, and we become fully human and fully divine - deified not in our essence, but by participating in the divine energies flowing from Christ. We do not lose our human personhood, but rather we are being transformed into the perfect human beings that Adam and Eve were before the Fall.

Continue reading in our Hosken-News Blog.


For a daily reminder to pray for the items below, go to My Daily Prayer Guide and click on the "H-N pr." link!

Prayer and Praise:

Sun. - Pray that the two collapsed Medieval church towers in Transylvania will be rebuilt soon and with care to restore their beauty.
Mon. - Intercede for the registered Elchilik Zhiyini (Embassy) Protestant Church in Kazakhstan to be able to resume holding meetings.
Tue. - Thank God for Volodymyr Viatrovych, head of the Institute of National Memory in Kyiv, who clearly explained Russia's actions.
Wed. - Pray for the 35 individuals and three religious organisations exercising freedom of religion prosecuted in Russia in late 2015.
Thu. - Thank the Lord that Sergey Lavrov spoke up at the UN about the mass exodus of Christians from the Middle Eastern countries.
Fri. - Pray for the head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, who was deeply disappointed in the pope's recent declaration on Ukraine.
Sat. - Praise the Lord for the fullness of the Godhead in Christ, and that we can have this same fullness in Him!

Who Are We?   Please remember to pray for Christians in the former Soviet bloc countries, and for...

  Your fellow-servants,

  Bob & Cheryl

  p.s. Democracy can only survive until the people find their way to the public purse. - Plato
        Socialism can only survive until it finally runs out of other people's money. - M. Thatcher