||FIRST, THE NEWS:
RUSSIAN PRESIDENT AND PATRIARCH ON PILGRIMAGE TO MOUNT ATHOS
from: Russia Beyond the Headlines
(28 May) It doesn’t happen very often these days that heads of states make official pilgrimages. One such pilgrimage took place this Saturday when Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived on Mount Athos. This monastic polity on an isolated peninsula in northeastern Greece is hailed by Orthodox Christians worldwide as the “Holy Mount” and the “garden of Our Lady” and serves as the perennial source of spiritual gifts and ancient monastic tradition.
It is not Putin’s first visit to Mount Athos. In 2005, after two unsuccessful attempts, he was the first Russian head of state to set foot in this place, where Russian tsars had once competed with Ottoman Sultans through their respective patronages. Nor is he the only international dignitary who comes here – Britain’s Prince Charles is perhaps the best-known frequent visitor.
Yet this is the first time that the head of the Russian state and the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, are here together. They are marking the high point of a big campaign to observe the millennium of the Russian presence on Athos. The anniversary is being commemorated this year with dozens of exhibitions, conferences and church services to highlight modern Russia’s leading role in what has come to be known as Orthodox Christian civilization.
A document from 1016 bears the signature of Gerasimos, the hegumen (abbot) of the “monastery of Ross,” which is interpreted as proof that by that time monks from the medieval state of Kievan Rus, who converted to Christianity just 28 years before, had already established a presence in this Byzantine center of monasticism. What is more certain is that in the following decades and centuries, beginning with the Kiev Monastery of the Caves, Athos monks of various ethnic backgrounds had a huge effect on the way Christianity developed in the northeastern Slavic lands that today constitute Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. [read more...]
PASTOR AND WIFE IN CENTRAL ASIA FACED WITH DIFFICULT DECISION AS 6 Y/O SON BOLDLY SHARES GOSPEL
from: Gospel Herald
(24 May) A pastor and his wife living in a religiously restricted country in Central Asia are faced with a difficult decision as their 6-year-old son's zeal for Christ presents a danger to both the secret church and seminars they conduct. According to a report from persecution watchdog Open Doors USA, a fieldworker and his wife associated with the organization recently talked to the wife of a local house pastor in Central Asia.
The woman revealed that she and her husband have a 6-year-old son who she described as "joyful with a passion to sing, loudly" about his love for Christ. The little boy also shares Christ with everyone he meets; his mother revealed: "He recently asked me if his friend is going to heaven if he dies and I said, 'If he doesn't know Christ, then probably not,'" she recalled. Her son then said, "Then I have to tell him urgently about Jesus!"
While most parents would love their child to behave in this manner, the behavior is dangerous in Central Asia and could threaten the safety of their church and secret seminars. However, the mother revealed she does not want to dampen her son's passion for sharing the Gospel with others, and asked for advice and prayers from the Body of Christ worldwide. The persecution of Christians runs rampant in some former Soviet states; in fact, Open Doors International listed Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, and Kazakhstan on its 2016 World Watch List of the 50 places where it is most dangerous to be a Christian. [read more...]
(30 May) It's a conflict that's been raging in Ukraine for two years, costing thousands of lives and displacing millions of people. But the international community seems to have largely forgotten about it. And as one who's lived in the very heart of the crisis, the leader of Ukraine's Greek Catholic Church has some ideas as to why.
"Very often in international society so-called 'rich countries' are very much concentrated in their own interests and their own life in their own international policy,” Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk said. And very often, “modern politicians would rather close their eyes” and pretend that a problem doesn't exist, rather than make a commitment to solve it, he said.
The Catholic News Agency sat down with his beatitude May 23 at his residence in Kyiv, where he opened up on a panorama of issues: the conflict in east Ukraine, to relations with the Orthodox and his friendship with Pope Francis. The most urgent topic was what he called the “silent” war in the country’s east between Russian troops and Ukrainian soldiers fighting to keep their young independence in a climate of political and economic instability. [read more...]
ROMANIAN CHRISTIANS PUSH FOR SAME-SEX MARRIAGE BAN
from: Yahoo News
(23 May) Romanian campaigners said Monday they had collected three million signatures on a petition to block same-sex unions in the EU member state. Several groups linked to the Orthodox Church and united under the umbrella Coalition for Family are seeking a constitutional amendment to narrowly define marriage as the "union between a man and a woman." It is the second such move in Europe this month after a group of Italian politicians said they will push for a referendum to overturn the introduction of gay civil unions in their country.
"This is a historic moment," said Mihai Gheorghiu, one of the leaders of the Romanian initiative, which has been given strong backing by the Orthodox Church. "Three million Romanians, in an unprecedented show of solidarity, signed this proposed amendment." The campaigners want parliament to change the wording of the current law which says marriage is a union between "partners," but they face strong opposition from gay rights groups.
"This initiative's only goal is to incite public opinion against LGBT people," countered Accept, a group that promotes the rights of the LGBT community. This initiative is aimed at "further curtailing the rights of these minorities," Accept member Florin Buhuceanu told AFP, denouncing a "worrying erosion of Romanian democracy."
Parliament will have to verify that the petition accords with the law and if no irregularities are found, Romania will organise a referendum on the issue. Homosexuality in Romania was illegal until 2000, when the country decriminalized it after harsh criticism from the European Union and the Council of Europe. [read more...]
RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF RUSSIA URGE BAN ON STATE-FINANCED ABORTIONS
(03 Jun) The Interreligious Council of Russia expresses concerns over mass abortion practice in the country The Council consisting of leaders and representatives of Orthodoxy, Islam, Judaism and Buddhism pointed out in its special statement that Russia holds one of the leading places in the world on the number of abortions - "the number of the violently aborted lives in mothers' womb on various estimations totals to a million or even exceeds a million."
The authors of the document are convinced that "human life starts from the moment of conception, which corresponds to views of our religious traditions and contemporary science. Those who deny life to the unborn child go against God, conscience and moral laws. Abortion of a life hidden in the mother's womb is a grave sin. No thoughts of individual comfort, profit, and false fears can justify the sin of killing a child, that inevitably results in negative physiological, moral and spiritual consequences of all participants in the crime," the statement further says.
Religious figures believe that abortions must not be committed at the expense of taxpayers, especially believers "who are the principal opponents of violent abortion of human life," and supported a proposal to exclude abortions from the Compulsory Health Insurance. They urged the state to work out an effective concept of opposing abortions and finance its prevention, and help women who decide to keep the baby and lonely women in a difficult situation. [read more...]
FIRST-HAND STORY OF WAR AND TORTURE IN EASTERN UKRAINE
(03 Jun) The following is an email message I received today: "My name is V. My family (wife and two children) and I are refugees from Donetsk. We are Christians. I finished Donetsk Christian University in 2004. My wife and I had work before war in Donestk and also I had a teaching and preaching ministry. We have never asked for financial support for this. We had our own little house, car and all that we need for normal life and ministry. But when Russian troops came into Donetsk and local terrorists and separatists seized power in the city we all became Bandera's Ukrainian nationalists. I was arrested by Russian troops and four days spent in a basement where I was tortured for being a Baptist and member of a group of Christians who were praying for peace in Ukraine. It was horrible and scary. I mentally said goodbye to my family and was ready to meet our Lord Jesus Christ."
"But God had another plan for me and I was released for a ransom which my wife gathered. We quickly packed up our summer clothes and with God's help escaped from Donetsk. We thought that the Ukrainian Government would decide it in a short time. We have lost everything that we had and for two years we live in West Ukraine in the city of ______. We rent housing. During this time we changed three apartments. All that we can earn we spend on rent and food. Unfortunately we can’t pay for studying of our children. It’s really hard but we firmly believe that with God we can do all."
As it turns out after a few exchanged emails, This man "V." (his name and current location are deleted for his security) and I have some friends in common: our friends were on the faculty at Donetsk Christian University, and were his instructors. This really brings home to me personally the impact of the Russian war against Ukraine (- editor).
OTHER NEWS HEADLINES:
BULGARIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH WITHDRAWS FROM PAN-ORTHODOX COUNCIL IN CRETE
from The Sofia Globe
FRANKLIN GRAHAM’S MOSCOW SUMMIT CANCELLED
from Russian Evangelical Alliance
FIFTH NATIONAL PRAYER BREAKFAST HELD IN KYIV
from Religious Information Service of Ukraine
MILITARY BIBLESTICKS ENCOURAGE UKRAINE
from Mission Network News
LUKASHENKO PROPOSES MEETING BETWEEN PONTIFF AND PATRIARCH OF MOSCOW FOR SAKE OF PEACE IN DONBASS
ROC PROPOSES CONVENING EMERGENCY MEETING BEFORE PAN-ORTHODOX COUNCIL
from RIA Novosti
PATRIARCH KIRILL CELEBRATES THE COMMEMORATION DAY OF SS CYRIL AND METHODIUS
from Russian Orthodox Church - Moscow Patriarchate
PUTIN THE MONK?
from Russia Insider
OUTREACH TO REFUGEES IN ZAPOROZHYE, UKRAINE
from Mission Eurasia
GEORGIA: HOW CLOSELY SHOULD THE STATE EMBRACE THE CHURCH?
TWO MOSCOW PATRIARCHATE CHURCHES BURGLED IN WESTERN UKRAINE
from Russia Beyond the Headlines
LATVIAN LUTHERAN CHURCH OFFICIALLY BANS WOMEN'S ORDINATION
from The Baltic Times
See HOSKEN-NEWS Daily for more of the latest news!
NOW, OUR VIEWS:
Our first news article RUSSIAN PRESIDENT AND PATRIARCH ON PILGRIMAGE TO MOUNT ATHOS illustrates Russia's efforts to claim leadership of the "Russian world" - all lands and territories inhabited by Orthodox Christians who use the Church Slavonic language for worship. Slavonic is the ancient language that was the colloquial tongue about 1,000 years ago. But this does not automatically mean that most Slavs today speak or understand Slavonic (they don't), nor that Russia should conquer or control all these lands.
The proto-Slavs, Scythians mentioned in the New Testament 2,000 years ago, were living on or near the Crimean penninsula. At that time, the Greco-Roman Empire had outposts on Crimea including the fortress of Chersoneus, now called Kherson. Some Scythians intermarried with Greek settlers there. Since N.T. times Crimea and Ukraine have been controlled by the Mongol "Golden Horde," the Ottoman Empire, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Russian Empire, and the modern Ukrainian government. This does not mean, however, that Greece, Mongolia, Turkey, Austria or Russia should control modern Ukraine. Languages change, populations shift and their governments come and go.
Our Other News Headline PATRIARCH KIRILL CELEBRATES THE COMMEMORATION DAY OF SS CYRIL AND METHODIUS tells of the famous brothers, Saints Cyril and Methodius, Evangelizers of the Slavs. These saints were Slavs born in the Balkans and educated in Greece. They converted many Slavs to Christianity, developed an alphabet for the Slavonic language, and translated Scripture and liturgical texts into Slavonic for the peoples living in the areas of Bohemia and Moravia, but they never evangelized the area that is now Russia. Orthodox Christians consider these saints the greatest missionaries who ever lived, but many Orthodox today downplay or even forbid evangelism.
Pray for the upcoming Pan-Orthodox Council to be held on the island of Crete beginning on June 15, Orthodox Pentecost. Ask the Lord that it will bring about a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit leading to a sweeping spiritual awakening throughout all Orthodox Churches around the world!
Please support Agape Restoration Society by e-check or credit/debit card: click on the "Donate" button there.
Seek the Welfare of the City
Where does the concept of "philanthropy" come from? Where did we get the idea of erecting hospitals, orphanages, homes for the elderly and infirm? Today we might think that these institutions were created by billionaires who made their money off railroads, steel mills or the stock market, or perhaps the government dreamed them up. But the historical fact is that these institutions for the public well-being were created during the one-thousand-year-long Byzantine Christian Empire. Only later did these ideas take root in Western Europe, and from there to the rest of the world.
When the people of Israel were carried away to Babylonian captivity because they had forsaken the Lord, many of them thought they should form their own closed cultural group to preserve their identity, having as little to do as possible with Babylon. But the prophet Jeremiah told them - "Seek the welfare of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray to the Lord for it; for in its welfare you shall have welfare. ...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. 29:7, 11-14)
Thus the idea of seeking the welfare or well-being of society at large seeped from the Jewish nation to surrounding nations such as Babylon, Greece and Rome, but those nations limited such social programs to "their own kind," not sharing their wealth with other tribes and peoples. It took Christ's Great Commission to "Go into all the world and make disciples of all nations" before this idea of sharing one's well-being with others - even one's enemies - could take root.
For the first three hundred years Christians were "in captivity" of frequent persecutions, but still reached out in love to those around them. Why? Because Christ Himself was and is the great Philanthropos, the "Lover of Mankind." This divine love for mankind enables us to perform genuine philanthropy:
"The philanthropy of man is theologically grounded in the philanthropy of God. Although God is completely unknown in His nature, He becomes known through His revelation to mankind and in history as philanthropic and merciful. The philanthropy of God is apparent, among other signs, in the nature of man, in his destiny, and in his place in creation. Only man is created 'according to the image and likeness of God' (Gen. 1:26). Only he exists as a person who comes into communion with God. Only man has as his destiny an eternal progress, through a process of inner purification and sanctification, towards the attainment of the divine likeness." (Miltiadis Vantsos and Marina Kiroudi, "An Orthodox View of Philanthropy and Church Diaconia," Christian Bioethics, 13:251–268, 2007, Taylor & Francis Group, LLC, p. 253)
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Please remember to pray for Christians in the former Soviet bloc countries, and for...
Bob & Cheryl
p.s. Due to budget cuts, the light at the end of the tunnel is being turned off.