||FIRST, THE NEWS:
ORTHODOX COUNCIL BRIDGES TENSIONS, MOVES TOWARD INTERFAITH DIALOGUE
from: America Magazine
(12 Jul) During the week of June 19 on the island of Crete, the first global Orthodox Council to meet in more than 1,000 years—known as the “Holy and Great Council”—brought together more than 290 delegates, mostly bishops, representing 10 self-governing local Orthodox churches. I was privileged to serve as an external correspondent of the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s Press Office, headed by Rev. John Chryssavgis. Together with other members of my team, I lived through the dramatic events leading up to the council and was present at some conciliar sessions.
In my previous article on the global Council of the Orthodox Church, I described how the four self-governing churches of Bulgaria, Antioch, Georgia and Russia attempted to subvert the event by pulling out at the last moment. In this article, I analyze the main tensions underlying conciliar debates and assess the implications of the council for Catholics and other Christians by focusing on one of its eight official documents, “Relations of the Orthodox Church with the Rest of the Christian World.”
Perhaps the most significant achievement of the Holy and Great Council is that the bishops managed to meet at all, after decades of preparation and the last-moment attempt of four churches to stop the event. By meeting in a global council, the Orthodox churches proved to themselves and the rest of the world that they were not merely a loose confederation of local churches, but that they were also a unified body, historically continuous with the “one, holy, catholic and apostolic” church of the creed. The Christian communion that prides itself on being “the Church of the seven Ecumenical Councils” could henceforth not only profess conciliarity as its core ecclesiological principle, but also practice global conciliarity as an important dimension of its ecclesial life. [read more...]
KAZAKHSTAN: HOW MANY PUNISHED FOR EXERCISING FREEDOM OF RELIGION?
by Felix Corley: Forum 18 News Service
(15 Jul) Contrary to claims by Kazakhstan's Delegation to the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Committee in late June that just eight individuals had been so far in 2016 punished for violating the Religion Law, the true number is higher, Forum 18 notes. More than 20 individuals are known to have been punished for exercising the right to freedom of religion and belief without state permission.
Most of the Muslims, Protestants and Jehovah's Witnesses were punished for offering religious literature the state has not approved in places the state has not permitted, talking about their beliefs with other people without state permission, or meeting for worship without state permission. Also, two shop owners have been fined for having religious literature in their shops without state permission, and banned from commercial activity for three months.
At least one person, Baptist Roman Dimmel, was given a short-term jail term for refusing to pay earlier fines for such "offenses.” In addition to being jailed, these prisoners of conscience also have bank accounts blocked by the government without being informed of this, without additional legal process, and are also required to pay for "expert analyses” used to convict them. [read more...]
ATTEMPTS TO RUSH THROUGH KREMLIN PROJECTS UNDER RELIGIOUS GUISE ARE UNACCEPTABLE - VICTOR YELENSKYY
from: Religious Information Service of Ukraine
(13 Jul) The attempts to destabilize the political situation in Ukraine and piggyback the Kremlin projects under the guise of religious procession for peace are disgusting and unacceptable. MP of the faction “People's Front,” Deputy Chairman of the Committee on Culture and Spirituality Victor Yelenskyy said it in his speech at the session hall. “If the religious procession, which is so much discussed, is intended to unite the country, if this procession is obliged and called to pray for peace, why it does not appeal to the rulers of the Kremlin and the Kremlin walls, where the threat to peace in Ukraine comes from, in Europe and the whole world?” Yelenskyy said.
“If it is held for the unification of Ukrainians, then why they wear 'potato beetle' ribbons that have become a symbol of bloodshed in Ukraine? If this is a march for peace in Ukraine, why it is held under the portraits of Nicholas II, a Ukrainophobe? If this march is about relations, why they branded as devoid of God’s grace million Ukrainian who believe in Jesus Christ, and not the Russian world,” the MP said. “If Ukraine wants to be a state, not a territory, it must protect itself including from FSB-employed priests, including from those who cover a Kremlin project with their robes,” Yelenskyy concluded. It was reported by RBC-Ukraine. [read more...]
RUSSIA: PUTIN SIGNS NEW LAW BANNING THE SHARING OF BELIEFS, "EXTREMISM", PUNISHMENTS
by Victoria Arnold: Forum 18 News Service
(8 Jul) Russia's President Vladimir Putin has signed into law legislation on so-called "missionary activity," further restricting the public expression of freedom of religion and belief, including in the media and online, Forum 18 notes. The amendment - which has been rapidly introduced - caused widespread protests, but was signed on 6 July and the signing was made public at Moscow lunchtime on 7 July. It was published on the presidential website that day and comes into force on 20 July.
Lawyers working to protect the right to freedom of religion and belief are already preparing for an appeal to the Constitutional Court. At the same time, they are preparing advice to individuals and religious communities on how to abide by the terms of the law. One Protestant leader, though, has warned that some of the restrictions ‘a good Christian cannot fulfil.'
Against international human rights obligations, the amendments to the Religion Law restrict those who can share beliefs to people with permission from members of state-registered religious groups and organisations. This excludes people from groups which have chosen to operate without state permission, such as certain Baptist congregations. The amendments also bar even informal sharing of beliefs, for example responding to questions or comments, by individuals acting on their own behalf. [read more...]
NATIONALISTS ATTEMPT TO INTERFERE WITH ALL-UKRAINE SACRED PROCESSION
(13 Jul) The All-Ukraine Orthodox procession, which is heading from the direction of Donbass, from the Svyatogorsk Monastery, came under attack of radicals from Right Sector, an extremist organization banned in Russia. As the website of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate reported, a total of 20 nationalists marched in a parallel to the Christians and interrupted the prayer for peace with shouts and insults. Moreover, the far-right extremists drove in constant close proximity to the sacred procession.
The nationalists marched parallel to the procession holding red and black banners. According to witnesses, the radicals shouted slogans, alternating them with obscenities addressed towards the participants in the procession. The participants in the procession were filmed and threatened. Some of the nationalists attempted to break through the procession to the sacred relics, but were prevented from doing so.
The All-Ukraine sacred procession with the prayer for peace in Ukraine started in the east of the country from the Svyatogorsk Monastery on July 3, and in the west of the country from the Pochaev Monastery on July 9. The participants in both processions will meet in Kiev at St. Vladimir Hill and will walk together to the Kiev Pechersk Lavra, where a ceremonial service will be held on July 27, the eve of the celebration of Christianization of the Kievan Rus Day. As reported, Ukrainian Verkhovnaya Rada Chairman Andrey Paruby said recently that among the participants in the sacred procession are not only civilians, but also provocateurs with banned symbols, and that the event itself will be used by the Kremlin for provocations on the streets of Kiev on July 26. [read more...]
ORTHODOX PROCESSION IN UKRAINE ‘NOT A ROAD TO KYIV, BUT TO CONSTANTINOPLE’ – OPED
from: Eurasia Review
(13 Jul) Many Ukrainians and their supporters have misunderstood the Orthodox procession organized by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Vitaly Portnikov says. It is not about putting direct pressure on the Ukrainian government as some suppose but rather about making an impression on the Universal Patriarch in Constantinople. The only way for that to be different, the Ukrainian commentator says, is for Ukraine to be made up of fanatic believers or even of people for whom religion is a central fact of life. But at the present time, Ukraine is, “albeit to a lesser degree than Russia … a land of Orthodox atheists.”
There are “millions” of them who are ready to light candles and bless kulich on Easter, he says; there are thousands who attend church; but “there are [only] hundreds who believe in God” and who are ready for real sacrifices in the name of the church. In fact, at present, Portnikov suggests, there are only two such individuals: Patriarch Philaret and Metropolitan Vladimir. Because this is the case, he continues, “any provocations during the Procession will have a clearly expressed political and not a religious character, something that will be obvious to the unaided eye.” That is because actions which suit the devil are always different from those which suit God. “And Putin can’t change that.”
This means that the Orthodox procession “is a test not for the Ukrainian state but for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate,” which has been put in the position that it must somehow demonstrate that it is “really a Ukrainian church and not simply the politicized branch of one of the Russian administrative centers.” They are acting now out of fear of “the real possibility” that the Orthodox world or at least large segments of it will recognize Ukrainian Orthodoxy as “canonical” and that they won’t be part of that because they will come to be viewed not as Ukrainian but rather as Russian on a space which is canonically not Russian. [read more...]
OTHER NEWS HEADLINES:
TURKMENISTAN: CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTORS FACE CORRECTIVE LABOUR SENTENCES
from Forum 18 News Service
KEEP COOL AND CARRY ON - A COMMENTARY ON RUSSIA’S NEW ANTI-TERROR LEGISLATION
from Russian Evangelical Alliance
SECURITY SERVICE AND MINISTRY OF INTERIOR MONITORS THE SITUATION AROUND THE ‘PROCESSION’ - GERASHCHENK
from Religious Information Service of Ukraine
UKRAINIANS RECEIVE MUCH NEEDED TRAINING
from Mission Network News
RUSSIA WILL ALWAYS STAND FOR TRADITIONAL MORALS - STATE DUMA SPEAKER
UAOC SEEN AS LACKEY OF MOSCOW PATRIARCHATE
TEACHERS’ HOLIDAY IN UKRAINE
from Mission Eurasia
AN EXCLUSIVE CREED, NOT "INCLUSIVE"
U.S HATE GROUP FORGING TIES WITH THE “THIRD ROME”
RUSSIA’S STRICT NEW ANTI-TERROR LAWS: WHAT IS THE DEBATE ABOUT?
from Russia Beyond the Headlines
CARDINAL: MEETING BETWEEN POPE AND PATRIARCH IN BELARUS COULD HELP RESOLVE UKRAINE CRISIS
from Belarus News
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NOW, OUR VIEWS:
The implications for religious freedom in Russia have raised alarms among many non-Orthodox there. Irina Yarovaya, the Russian Duma legislator who proposed this package of new laws, seems to be saying, "What's all this fuss about?" - see RUSSIA’S STRICT NEW ANTI-TERROR LAWS: WHAT IS THE DEBATE ABOUT? To many Russians, the idea of religious freedom is questionable: better to keep out of trouble and stick with a nominal allegiance to the official religion. And our news headline U.S HATE GROUP FORGING TIES WITH THE “THIRD ROME” illustrates how easy it is for converts to an exclusive religious worldview to transfer this mindset to an absolutist socio-political worldview.
But the news headline AN EXCLUSIVE CREED, NOT "INCLUSIVE" brings out an important point: there is a time and place for an exclusive religious worldview. These days, many people feel we should be "inclusive" of all beliefs and lifestyles. But the notion that we should simply accept everybody, their beliefs and practices, just as they are, is defective. There are some beliefs that lead to unacceptable behaviors: we have witnessed this far to often through the mass killings in Syria, Iraq, Turkey, France and the U.S. It is also visible, however, in self-gratifying behaviors that refuse to accept personal responsibility for maintaining our society and culture.
Several of this issue's news articles and headlines concern the hundreds-mile-long religious procession in Ukraine promoted by the Moscow Patriarchate, carrying Russian flags and an icon of Tsar Nicholas II. It is clearly an attempt to block the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople granting autocephaly to Orthodox Christians in Ukraine. Read the article behind our news headline UAOC SEEN AS LACKEY OF MOSCOW PATRIARCHATE for a good in-depth grasp of the complicated religious situation among the various Orthodox jurisdictions in Ukraine.
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"Sloppy Agape" - Phony Love, Part 2
You've no doubt known people who have an artificial smile plastered on their face and say - "I'm fine!" or "That's OK by me!" or other pleasantries and niceties, while deep down inside they are angry or depressed or hate you. In my previous essay I quoted Romans 12:9 - "Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good." At times we need to stop pretending that everything is just fine, and say - "Enough of this phony inclusivism!"
In Ephesians 4:15 we read - "...but speaking the truth in love, we may grow up in all things into him, who is the head, Christ." Often people take this to mean we should be kind and gentle when telling another person the truth that might be hard to hear. Of course, that's part of the meaning, but we should look at the whole context of that verse. St. Paul begins by reminding the believers in Ephesus to preserve the unity of the faith (v. 3). Then he continues:
"He gave some to be apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers to equip the saints to do the work of ministering to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a full grown man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we may no longer be children, tossed back and forth and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in craftiness, after the wiles of error; but speaking the truth in love, we may grow up in all things into him, who is the head, Christ; from whom all the Body, being fitted and knit together through that which every joint supplies, according to the working in measure of each individual part, makes the Body increase to the building up of itself in love." (Eph. 4:11-16)
We see here that apostles (and bishops, their successors), evangelists, pastors and teachers are agents of truth, to pass on the unity of the faith, true doctrines, to the next generation. They do this by equipping the saints to do the work of ministering. That is, they don't try to "run the whole show" all by themselves, but rather they are to train others and delegate responsibility to them to build up the Body of Christ, the Church. So in this context, the laypeople in the Church also become agents of truth, speaking the truth in love, so that the Body of Christ, the Christian community, is built up in love. This shows the societal impact that our words and actions should have. But some will object...
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Please remember to pray for Christians in the former Soviet bloc countries, and for...
Bob & Cheryl
p.s. Communism doesn't work because people like to own stuff. - Frank Zappa