||FIRST, THE NEWS:
FIRST RELIGIOUS CEREMONY AT PEOPLE’S SALVATION CATHEDRAL IN BUCHAREST
(05 Sep) Thousands of Orthodox young people from around the world, as well as believers from Bucharest and across the country, participated on Sunday, September 4, at the first religious ceremony organized at the People’s Salvation Cathedral in Bucharest. Patriarch Daniel, the head of the Romanian Orthodox Church, officiated at the Divine Liturgy.
Some 2,500 young people attended the Orthodox Youth Meeting in Bucharest last week. The event ended on September 4, with the religious ceremony organized at the People’s Salvation Cathedral. The Cathedral, which is to be the largest church in Romania, is currently under construction near the Parliament’s Palace. According to Patriarch Daniel, the Cathedral could be consecrated on December 1, 2018.
The Bucharest General Council recently voted for the allocation of a RON 15 million (over EUR 3.3 million) financial support for the Cathedral. [read more...]
RUSSIA: "EXTREMISM" RELIGIOUS FREEDOM SURVEY, SEPTEMBER 2016
by Victoria Arnold: Forum 18 News Service
(13 Sep) "Extremism" legislation has been the biggest single threat to freedom of religion and belief in Russia for several years. while ostensibly aimed at preventing the incitement of violence and hatred on racial, religious, and social grounds, the 2002 extremism law and associated articles of the criminal and administrative codes are regularly used against religious communities and individuals for beliefs and practices which do not violate the human rights of others. "Extremism"-related freedom of religion or belief violations are so extensive that they are here examined separately from Forum 18's forthcoming general religious freedom survey of Russia.
The Extremism Law provides a range of restrictions and punishments which are aimed at combating the promotion of hatred on racial, religious, and social grounds, but which are frequently used to curb the peaceful expression of religious beliefs which do not incite violence. A key mechanism is the prohibition of religious literature as "extremist material". This can then trigger a sequence of legal measures which may result in the dissolution of communities and the possibility of criminal (as well as administrative) prosecution of individuals.
After a book, for instance, has been banned, anyone suspected of producing or distributing it may be charged under Article 20.29 of the Administrative Code ("Production or mass distribution of extremist materials"). If convicted, individuals face a fine of between 1,000 and 3,000 Roubles, or up to 15 days' imprisonment. Fines for people acting in an official capacity (including individuals such as bookshop owners) range from 2,000 to 5,000 Roubles. Fines for "juridical persons" (which include commercial, publishing, media and registered religious organisations) range from 100,000 Roubles to 1 million Roubles. Each 1,000 Roubles is the equivalent of 125 Norwegian Kroner, 15 Euros or 15 US Dollars. [read more...]
KRAVCHUK AND YUSHCHENKO PRESENTED TO PATRIARCH BARTHOLOMEW 5000 SIGNATURES FOR GRANTING AUTOCEPHALY TO ORTHODOX CHURCH IN UKRAINE
from: Religious Information Service of Ukraine
(09 Sep) Former Presidents of Ukraine Leonid Kravchuk and Victor Yushchenko were negotiating with the Ecumenical Patriarch on the Ukrainian church issue, and the possible granting of autocephaly. Ukrainian media have recently reported that the first and third presidents of Ukraine visited Constantinople and met with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to discuss religious issues.
The press service of BBC Ukraine confirmed information about Leonid Kravchuk’s visit but refused to disclose its details. This is not the first visit of the former presidents to Patriarch Bartholomew to address the church issue. The first time the two presidents’ church mission was reported in August 2015 by the Greek religious news agency Romfea, which highlights the life of the churches subordinated to the Ecumenical Patriarch. Then the ex-presidents and the Patriarch Bartholomew talked throughout two hours “about the political situation and ecclesiastical crisis in Ukraine.”
In 2015, Leonid Kravchuk and Viktor Yushchenko told the Patriarch that they see "the role of the Mother Church in addressing the ecclesial schism in Ukraine.” A spokesman for the UOC-KP Bishop Yevstratii (Zorya) in an interview with BBC Ukraine called "correct" the strategy of negotiation participants not to disclose details of the talks, “not to play up to Russia and not give it too much information. I know that the president handed over to the Patriarch five thousand signatures of Ukrainian intelligentsia application for granting autocephalous status to the Orthodox Church in Ukraine,” said Archbishop Yevstratii. [read more...]
KAZAKHSTAN: PENSIONERS FINED AS PARLIAMENT AWAITS NEW LAW
by Felix Corley: Forum 18 News Service
(31 Aug) On 29 August a Judge in East Kazakhstan Region fined seven members of a small Baptist church for meeting for worship in a home without state registration. The punishments came a week after one of those fined celebrated her 79th birthday, and less than three weeks before another is due to celebrate her 79th birthday. The congregation is a member of the Baptist Council of Churches. They have adopted a policy of civil disobedience, refusing to pay the many fines handed down in Kazakhstan and other countries of the region for exercising their right to freedom of religion or belief.
Meanwhile, the government is likely to sign off within days a draft anti-"extremism" Amending Law to be presented to the Majilis (parliament) in the capital Astana for consideration in September. The Amending Law is set to amend six Codes and 18 individual laws. While many provisions of the draft currently available would widen or increase punishments for those involved in violence - such as attacking foreign diplomats, distributing illegal weapons or committing acts of terrorism that kill or maim people - some provisions appear unrelated to the stated goal of "countering extremism and terrorism." [read more...]
70% OF PREGNANCIES END IN ABORTIONS IN RUSSIA - EXPERT
(14 Sep) The majority of pregnancies in Russia are consciously aborted, head of the movement Women for Life Natalya Moskvitina says. "70% of pregnancies end in abortion. Three quarters of marriages ends in divorce during first four years of life together. Every three seconds a baby is killed in abortion clinics," Moskvitina said during a video bridge Moscow-Kazan on Wednesday. She is a mother of four children and three times doctors persuaded her to make an abortion, saying that her next baby would have certain deviations.
"Three times they made a mistake, and three times I tried to prove that even if my baby is a disabled, I want to be the mother for my child," Moskvitina said. According to her, first of all, "abortions are business" and those who are involved in it, tell people that it is a "principle of freedom. It is legalized, and every woman faces this terrific choice. No one tells her that life is the norm, the norm is to struggle for your child," she said. [read more...]
CHRISTIANS IN UKRAINE FACE VIOLENCE WITH UNITY, RESOLVE
from: Crux Now
(06 Sep) To overcome conflicts, to fight hatred with goodness, and to make Ukraine a free and European country: these are the tasks of the Catholic Church in Ukraine, according to a priest with knowledge of the situation. Christians in Ukraine are facing a difficult experience. Despite the near-constant conflict, the humanitarian emergency Ukrainian Christians face has disappeared from the world’s sight.
But how exactly is the Church persecuted in Ukraine? While Ukrainian Christians have been key supporters of Ukrainian independence, the Greek-Catholic Church of Ukraine has been keen to state that it wishes to be close to all the people, and not take a political position. “The persecution of the Church in Ukraine has lasted for the entire period of the Soviet Union, when the regime wanted to eliminate any sign of Christianity,” Khalayim told CNA. “Today, the Church in Ukraine has great authority, even if a few problems in the conflict zone and in Crimea survive.” [read more...]
OTHER NEWS HEADLINES:
PUBLIC RELIGIOUS MEETINGS IN UKRAINE CAN BE CARRIED OUT WITHOUT PERMITS OF AUTHORITIES – COURT'S RULING
from Religious Information Service of Ukraine
CHRISTIANS IN RUSSIA MARKED AS TERRORISTS
from Mission Network News
PATRIARCH KIRILL PRAYS FOR PEACE NEAR THE USA FRONTIER
CASE OPENED ABOUT ILLEGAL EVANGELISM AGAINST DIRECTOR OF SEVENTH-DAY ADVENTIST CHURCH IN BIISK
from Sova Center
VICTIMS OF 9/11 TERRORIST ATTACK COMMEMORATED AT OCA MOSCOW REPRESENTATION CHURCH
from Russian Orthodox Church - Moscow Patriarchate
A MIRACULOUS ENCOUNTER
from Mission Eurasia
ST. JOHN OF KRONSTADT'S TEACHING ON SUICIDE
MEET RUSSIA’S NEW CHILDREN’S OMBUDSMAN: AN ORTHODOX PRIEST'S WIFE AND MOTHER OF SIX
from Russia Beyond the Headlines
RUSSIAN BLOGGER UNDER HOUSE ARREST FOR PLAYING POKEMON GO IN CHURCH
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The current news stream on Russia is filled with articles about the teenager arrested in St. Petersburg for recording himself playing Pokemon Go in an Orthodox Church. He was swearing, blaspheming and calling out the government in his YouTube video. His motivation was apparently in response to the "extremism" law passed that went into force in July.
This law was instigated in response to the 2012 "P**** Riot" scene in an Orthodox Church in Moscow: see "Punk Rockers in the Cathedral: Another View" on page 16 of East-West Church & Ministry Report, Winter 2015. With the secularization and moral decline in the West, most Westerners can't fathom how seriously the Orthodox believers react to this sort of blasphemy.
It appears that the process of Ukrainian Orthodox achieving autocephaly is inching forward bit by bit. This process may take years, but with the antipathy created by Russia's annexation of Crimea and proxy war in eastern Ukraine, the Moscow Patriarchate is losing parishes and influence in Ukraine, and the result appears inevitable.
In contrast to the "extremism" legislation in Russia forbidding all religious meetings outside of registered church buildings, a court in Ukraine recently ruled that such meetings are perfectly legal in Ukraine: see PUBLIC RELIGIOUS MEETINGS IN UKRAINE CAN BE CARRIED OUT WITHOUT PERMITS OF AUTHORITIES – COURT'S RULING. The same sort of legislation as in Russia "countering extremism and terrorism" is being toughened in Kazakhstan: see KAZAKHSTAN: PENSIONERS FINED AS PARLIAMENT AWAITS NEW LAW.
The strategy of militant, atheistic secularism, whether called "Socialism" or "progressive democracy," is to force the expression of religion into the four walls of churches, synagogues and mosques. Any public, free expression of religion is labeled "extremism" and is linked to "religious fundamentalist terrorism." The free expression of religion is a delicate balance between toleration that can tend toward relativism, and ideological totalitarianism - whether religious or secular.
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The Freedom of Morality
In my essay TRUE FREEDOM OR "LIBERATION"? of 17 April this year, I attempted to explain the difference between the true, genuine spiritual freedom that we have in Christ, and the false "liberation" that the secular world offers.
I've just begun reading a book entitled The Freedom of Morality, by Christos Yannaras. He expounds - in very deep, thick prose - on the seeming paradox of freedom that is found in morality of the heart, versus the bondage found in a legalistic view of morality. There is even the mystery of "holy fools" who would identify themselves with harlots and drunkards in order to rebuke the hypocritical self-righteousness of those practicing a legalistic morality.
As stated in the pithy quote by James Anthony Froude, shown on the right, genuine morality is only possible when people are free; true morality is impossible when a person is not free to choose or reject it. This is why freedom of religious expression is so important: a totalitarian, authoritarian approach to religion in which every person in a society is forced to adhere to one religion causes most people to have only a superficial adherence to that religion.
The same holds true with secular or anti-religious worldviews: the majority of people will merely "go along to get along," and as soon as that totalitarian worldview crumbles away the people happily begin to enjoy real freedom. This is what we witnessed in August of 1991 in Russia after the failed coup against Gorbachiov. Churches were filled with people and Bibles were for sale in street kiosks. But alas, with freedom to believe and to choose morality, along came pornography and freedom to choose immorality.
Jesus Christ often experienced confrontations with the Pharisees who practiced only a superficial, legalistic morality. They were judgmental and strict, they upheld the letter of the Old Testament Law. In chapter 8 of John's Gospel, they brought Him a woman, confronting Jesus: "Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses, in the Law, commanded that such should be stoned. But what do You say?" (v. 5). Jesus bent down and simply wrote something in the dust - we don't know what He wrote, perhaps He traced out all of the Ten Commandments, and the Pharisees knew they hadn't kept all of them perfectly.
Then He said, "He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first" (v. 7). They all began to wander away, one by one, because they were convicted in their conscience. "He said to her, 'Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?' She said, 'No one, Lord." And Jesus said to her, 'Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more'" (vv. 10-11).
Thus our Lord Jesus Christ perfectly melded together justice and mercy: He did not condemn her, but neither did He condone her actions. He didn't say, "Go and sin some more!" - excusing away her actions as not really bad or sinful. Instead, he granted her forgiveness and freedom from her bondage to sin: "Go and sin no more!" As St. Paul wrote later, "For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death" (Romans 8:2).
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Please remember to pray for Christians in the former Soviet bloc countries, and for...
Bob & Cheryl
p.s. If you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything.