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ROMANIA’S ORTHODOX CHURCH: FIGHT AGAINST CORRUPTION MUST CONTINUE, THEFT DEGRADES SOCIETY MORALLY AND MATERIALLY
from: Romania Insider

Patriarch Daniel (03 Feb.) Romania’s Orthodox Church sent a powerful message related to the current situation in the country, where people have rallied for massive protests against the Government’s decision to change the criminal law and make some corruption offences more difficult to sanction.

A statement of the Romanian Patriarchy posted on the Basilica.ro website, states that “the Romanian society is very troubled these days, because there is a conflict between major state institutions and, consequently, a polarization among people. Although politically neutral, the Church is not socially indifferent and is sensitive to the people’s major desires: social justice, reducing poverty, and increasing the standard of living.”

“In this sense, the fight against corruption must be continued and those who are guilty must be sanctioned, because theft degrades society morally and materially,” reads the statement signed by the Patriarchy’s press office. “At the same time, the fight against corruption shouldn’t be used in partisan political purposes,” the Patriarchy mentions, calling for prayer, dialogue, and social responsibility. [read more...]


MINISTRY OF CULTURE URGES UOC(MP) LEADERS AND THEIR FAITHFUL TO PUBLICLY CONDEMN RUSSIAN MILITARY AGGRESSION AGAINST UKRAINE
from: Religious Information Service of Ukraine

(01 Feb.) The Ministry of Culture has expressed concern over the instances of blatant anti-Ukrainian activities conducted by the clergy of the UOC (MP) in the occupied territories and asked the church leadership to give them an adequate canonical and disciplinary assessment. They want to get same assessment of anti-Ukrainian actions of the UOC (MP) from the law-enforcement. This is noted in the statement of the Ministry of Culture. The Ministry of Culture has cited specific examples where the clergymen of the UOC (MP) flaunt their anti-Ukrainian and separatist stand, which is intolerant of other churches.

In particular, on November 16, 2016 Secretary of Simferopol and Crimean Diocese of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) Oleksander (Yakushechkin) in the presence of Metropolitan Lazarus (Shvets) during the plenary session of the Nativity educational readings themed “Crimea. Lessons of the century. 1917 – 2017”, said that previously the Crimean teachers had had to brazen out and invent excuses why the Crimean schools still spoke Russian and did not celebrate the anniversary of the OUN-UPA. “But the year 2014 came, and we have made a historical choice. The thing happened that many people could not dream of. We came back home,” he said.

“In connection with this we are calling on the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and its faithful to publicly condemn the military aggression of Russia against Ukraine that is recognized internationally, and to pay special attention and provide appropriate canonical-disciplinary assessment of systemic anti-Ukrainian statement and activities of some members of the clergymen and hierarch of the UOC, including members of the highest church government body – the Synod mentioned in our appeal - Metropolitans Platon, Lazarus, Mytrofan (the latter, among other things, also chairs the Department of External Church Relations), who adopted a frank collaborationist position, openly cooperating, justifying morally and spiritually supporting the Russian invaders,” the Ministry of Culture notes. [read more...]


RUSSIA 'RETURNS' ST. PETERSBURG CATHEDRAL TO ORTHODOX CHURCH
from: Deutsche Welle

(01 Feb.) The largest church in Saint Petersburg, Saint Isaac's Cathedral, is to be transferred from Russia's museum holdings into the hands of the Orthodox Church. The decision has caused protests and is not an isolated case. Saint Isaac's Cathedral is a "must" for tourists. It is the largest and most famous church in Saint Petersburg, and is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The magnificent building, with its highly visible golden dome, attracted some 3.8 million visitors in 2016. However, these days the cathedral is at the center of a fight in the Russian cultural metropolis; which also happens to be Russian President Vladimir Putin's hometown.

In early January, the office of Saint Petersburg's Governor, Georgy Poltavchenko, announced that ownership of Saint Isaac's Cathedral would be transferred from Russia's state museum holdings to the Russian Orthodox Church. A spokesperson from the governor's office said that Poltavchenko had made the agreement with Patriarch Kirill of Moscow. Details were yet to be finalized, the speaker said, but the "museum role" of the cathedral would remain. Initial plans foresee the cathedral being handed over to the Orthodox Church for 49 years, beginning in 2019 at the latest.

Since it was built in the mid-nineteenth century, Saint Isaac's Cathedral has never been in the possession of the church, and belonged to the court during the Tsarist era. The cathedral's current museum status was established during the Soviet era, and it initially also hosted atheist exhibitions. Orthodox religious services have been regularly held in the cathedral since the 1990s. Recently, the Orthodox Church has made ever greater efforts to gain possession of the cathedral. In 2015 the church was turned down by the city. It is unclear why the city has now changed its policy, but it is known that Governor Poltavchenko is very religious. [read more...]


HEAD OF RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH BACKS ABORTION BAN
from: The Tablet

(30 Jan.) Action should be taken against the "cynical principle" of sacrificing children's lives for personal wellbeing, says Patriarch. Russia's Orthodox patriarch has called on members of the Russian parliament to press for a total ban on abortions, warning that the high numbers perpetrated annually are impeding the country's moral and social development. "I've appealed to deputies several times to consider restricting abortion, and I've seen some progress made in highlighting this evil," Kirill I told State Duma members on 26 January. "This would not be some revolutionary step, but a necessary return to normality, without which it will be impossible for men and women to achieve happiness."

The patriarch said Russia's predominant Orthodox church was independent from the state, but believed action should be taken against the "cynical principle" of sacrificing children's lives for personal wellbeing. He added that he had signed a petition last September against the "legal murder of children before birth" and would also demand tax relief for low-income families and an end to state-sponsored abortions.

"Co-operation between church and state, established over the last 20 years, entirely accords with the secular constitutional principle which is important to both parties," Patriarch Kirill told MPs, speaking at the opening of 2017’s Nativity Parliamentary Meetings. "However, while the church stands outside the state, it has a moral responsibility to raise its voice when people's lives are impaired," he added. [read more...]


RUSSIAN PERMANENT ENVOY TO OSCE SAYS KOSOVO AUTHORITIES ENABLE ATTACKS ON CHURCHES
from: Interfax-Religion

(03 Feb.) The Russian Foreign Ministry has criticized the Kosovo authorities over violations of the rights of Orthodox Christians and attacks on their churches. "Take, for example, the situations surrounding the [Cathedral] Church of Christ the Savior in Pristina and the Church of St. Nicholas in Prizren. One gets the impression that the obstructing of their operation has been raised to the status of policy by the Kosovo authorities," Russian envoy to the OSCE Alexander Lukashevich said at a meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council in Vienna, Austria. The text of his speech was posted on the Russian Foreign Ministry website on Friday.

Against this background, Lukashevich went on, "it's no surprise that many other churches and monasteries of the Serbian Orthodox Church are regularly subjected to attacks or desecrations by Kosovo Albanian radicals. The Kosovo authorities just cannot take control of them. They enable them or even themselves encourage incitement to hatred," Lukashevich said. [read more...]


YOUNG PROFESSIONALS QUIETLY TRANSFORMING MUSLIM-MAJORITY CENTRAL ASIA FOR CHRIST
from: CBN News

(31 Jan.) The growth of Islamic extremism helped make 2016 the worst year ever for Christian persecution. For example, Christians in a predominantly Muslim region of Central Asia risk almost daily harassment for sharing the Gospel. Artur, not his real name, is from Uzbekistan. "I am called to be a witness for Christ, but that has been a dangerous calling," he told CBN News. And he's not alone.

If you are a Christian living in any of the five former Soviet Republics of Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan or Turkmenistan, you can expect intimidation, harassment -- or worse -- jail time, for telling others about their faith. Maksim lives in northern Tajikistan. "When the authorities discover someone has converted to Christianity, they will gather relatives, friends and family of the accused and bring him or her before an Islamic Council of Elders," Maksim said. "The convert then stands before the group and has to decide between faith or family." [read more...]


OTHER NEWS HEADLINES:

RCC BISHOPS EXTEND CONDOLENCES TO THOSE AFFECTED BY CONFLICT ESCALATION IN ATO AND URGE FAITHFUL TO PRAY FOR UKRAINE
from
Religious Information Service of Ukraine

PARISH OF THE RUSSIAN CHURCH IN VENICE CAN BE DEPRIVED OF THE CHURCH
from
Interfax-Religion

RUSSIAN PRESIDENT'S COUNCIL ON HUMAN RIGHTS OPPOSES ANTI-EVANGELISM LAW
from
Vedemosti

HOPE AND PRACTICAL HELP FOR INESSA
from
Mission Eurasia

RUSSIA, THE ROMANOVS AND THE RED CROSS: VIENNA EXHIBITION HIGHLIGHTS CHARITY OF ST. ELIZABETH
from
Pravoslavie.ru

MOSCOW TO GO AFTER ALL FAITHS RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH DOESN’T LIKE? – OPED
from
Eurasia Review

UKRAINIAN YOUTH ASSOCIATION PROJECT BRINGS GIFTS TO UKRAINE’S REFUGEE CHILDREN
from
The Ukrainian Weekly


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Feb. 04, 2017 - Bill Clinton talking like Trump on immigration

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The above article RUSSIA 'RETURNS' ST. PETERSBURG CATHEDRAL TO ORTHODOX CHURCH brings out the fact that the Saint Isaac's Cathedral actually never belonged to the Orthodox Church, it was built by and for the imperial family, and belonged to the royal court. On our first trip to the USSR in summer of 1983, we visited this "cathedral" that had been converted to a museum of atheism. The inscription in Russian around the edge of the dome was: "My house shall be called a house of prayer for all people," as Christ quoted from the Old Testament, but the following words of Christ were omitted: "but you have made it a den of theives." The Bolsheviks had confiscated that church and thousands of others in Russia and turned them into centers of godlessness.

Our fourth news article HEAD OF RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH BACKS ABORTION BAN should be understood in light of the low birth rates in Russia: for two decades after the dissolution of the USSR, fewer babies were being born than the number of people dying there. The polulation by 2050 was projected to be just 80 million people. This would be a death spiral for the Russian state. The abortion rate in Russia is among the highest in the world, so by outlawing abortions the state and the Russian Orthodox Church are hoping to insure their survival.

As our "Daily News and Views" article Putin’s Art of the Ukrainian Deal relates, last week's upsurge in the war in eastern Ukraine is a crucial effort by the Russian/separatist forces to capture an important junction of two highways that - if controlled by the Russian/separatist fighters - would cut off Ukraine's supply lines to the fronts and would virtually guarantee Russia's seizure of a land bridge from its mainland to the Crimean penninsula. This is no time for the West to dally or make a deal with Russia, because it would essentially make permanent Russia's annexation of Crimea.


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How to Relate to Foreigners Among Us

foreigners in the BibleAs Christians, we are commanded to care for the foreigners (“strangers”) among us, because like the Israelites we too are strangers in a strange land. For centuries after Jesus Christ lived, died and rose from the dead, Christians were a discriminated minority in the Greco-Roman world.

Alex Hill, former president of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, whom I worked under and highly respect, recently posted the following on Facebook:

"Throughout Scripture, the Lord commands us to care for the displaced/stranger/alien/refugee. The following three passages are illustrative:

"Leviticus 19:34
'When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt; I am the LORD your God.'

"Isaiah 16:4
'Hide the fugitives, do not betray the refugees. Let the Moabite fugitives stay with you; be their shelter from the destroyer.'

"Matthew 25:34-40
'Then the King will say to those on his right, "come, you who are blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited me in; naked, and you clothed me; I was sick, and you visited me; I was in prison, and you came to me." Then the righteous will answer Him, "Lord, when did we see you hungry, and feed you, or thirsty, and give you something to drink? And when did we see you a stranger, and invite you in, or naked, and clothe you? When did we see you sick, or in prison, and come to you?" The King will answer and say to them, "truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of mine, even the least of them, you did it to me."’

There are many more such Scripture passages emphasizing our duty to care for the needy foreigners among us. In the discussion of this current issue, however, we need to examine contrasting Scripture passages on how to relate to foreigners in our midst. David Klinghofer has written an excellent article, “What the Scriptures Say About Immigration,” posted last year on Beliefnet.org and reposted here: http://www.discovery.org/a/3475, from which I quote a few excerpts:

“The classic instance is Ruth, the Moabite. She had a Jewish mother-in-law, Naomi, whom she met when Naomi’s family fled the land of Israel and moved to neighboring Moab to escape a famine. When Ruth’s husband, Naomi’s son, died, along with Naomi’s husband and her other son, Ruth decided to return with the older woman to Israel. Said Ruth, “For where you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people are my people, and your God is my God; where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. Thus may the Lord do to me, and so may He do more, if anything but death separates me from you” (Ruth 1:16-17).

“Notice that the main thrust of her speech is the passionate joining of her own fate with Naomi’s, and thus with Israel’s. To this day, that remains the primary criterion by which potential converts to Judaism are evaluated. Ruth thus became, according to Jewish tradition, history’s most beloved “proselyte” or “convert” to Judaism—a status celebrated at the Jewish festival of Shavuot... when her story is chanted in synagogues.”

Notice carefully what Ruth said: “Your God is my God.” She adopted the religion of Israel. This is what was expected of foreigners who came to Israel. When Abram was given the covenant of circumcision and his name was changed to Abraham, God commanded him to circumcise all of the males in his household, including his slaves:

“Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. And Ishmael his son was thirteen years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. That very day Abraham and his son Ishmael were circumcised. And all the men of his house, those born in the house and those bought with money from a foreigner, were circumcised with him.”(Gen. 17:24-27)

This became the standard or rule for following generations in Israel, expecting foreigners to adopt the Jewish religion and follow its laws:

“If a stranger shall sojourn with you and would keep the Passover to the LORD, let all his males be circumcised. Then he may come near and keep it; he shall be as a native of the land. But no uncircumcised person shall eat of it. There shall be one law for the native and for the stranger who sojourns among you. (Exo 12:48-49)

“Likewise, when a foreigner, who is not of your people Israel, comes from a far country for the sake of your great name and your mighty hand and your outstretched arm, when he comes and prays toward this house, hear from heaven your dwelling place and do according to all for which the foreigner calls to you, in order that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your people Israel, and that they may know that this house that I have built is called by your name.” (2 Chron. 6:32-33)

In his article, Klinghofer continues along this line:

“The subject of conversion isn’t quite so simple, however. For there are actually two sub-classes grouped under the category of the “ger.” There is the ger, the convert, like Ruth – a full member of Israel. But there is another, the ger toshav, or resident alien.

“The latter occupies a middle ground between Jew and foreigner. It is this individual whom Jews are, in the verse we saw earlier, commanded to provide for: “If your brother becomes impoverished and his means falter in your proximity, you shall strengthen him — stranger or resident (ger v’toshav) — so that he can live with you” (Leviticus 25:35).

This resident alien too must fulfill criteria to join his new society, agreeing to certain basic moral propositions, including forswearing idolatry, murder, and sexual immorality. He is called a “resident alien” because it is only having satisfied this condition that a non-Israelite who doesn’t formally convert may live in the Holy Land. While inviting us to admire and love a person who would give up his citizenship in a foreign country to join our own, the Bible also commands us to give material aid, whatever is needed, to any immigrant — if he agrees to abide by an unwavering moral law.

“Here is where the Bible may be hard for a modern reader to accept, for scriptural tradition expects that any immigrant, any ger, will meet demanding moral criteria. It is not an undiscrimating welcome. The idea that a sojourner would be allowed to live in the land without having accepted one of the two sets of conditions is unthinkable: ‘They shall not dwell in your land lest they cause you to sin against Me, that you will worship their gods, for it will be a trap for you’ (Exodus 23:33).”

Let us look at the context of this last quotation: “And I will set your border from the Red Sea to the Sea of the Philistines, and from the wilderness to the Euphrates, for I will give the inhabitants of the land into your hand, and you shall drive them out before you. You shall make no covenant with them and their gods. They shall not dwell in your land, lest they make you sin against me; for if you serve their gods, it will surely be a snare to you.” (Ex. 23:31-33)

The definition of a nation is that it shares a common culture and common laws. There can’t be contradictory cultural norms and laws if “this nation or any nation may long endure,” as Abraham Lincoln said in his Gettysburg Address. Further along this line:

“Take care, lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land to which you go, lest it become a snare in your midst. You shall tear down their altars and break their pillars and cut down their Asherim.” (Ex. 34:12-13)

“And if a stranger sojourns among you and would keep the Passover to the LORD, according to the statute of the Passover and according to its rule, so shall he do. You shall have one statute, both for the sojourner and for the native.” (Num. 9:14)

“And if a stranger is sojourning with you, or anyone is living permanently among you, and he wishes to offer a food offering, with a pleasing aroma to the LORD, he shall do as you do. For the assembly, there shall be one statute for you and for the stranger who sojourns with you, a statute forever throughout your generations. You and the sojourner shall be alike before the LORD. One law and one rule shall be for you and for the stranger who sojourns with you.” (Num 15:14-16)

“Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When you pass over the Jordan into the land of Canaan, then you shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you and destroy all their figured stones and destroy all their metal images and demolish all their high places.” (Num 33:51-52)

"And you shall consume all the peoples that the LORD your God will give over to you. Your eye shall not pity them, neither shall you serve their gods, for that would be a snare to you.” (Deut. 7:16)

“When the LORD your God cuts off before you the nations whom you go in to dispossess, and you dispossess them and dwell in their land, take care that you be not ensnared to follow them, after they have been destroyed before you, and that you do not inquire about their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods?—that I also may do the same.’ You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way, for every abominable thing that the LORD hates they have done for their gods, for they even burn their sons and their daughters in the fire to their gods.” (Deu 12:29-31)

“For if you turn back and cling to the remnant of these nations remaining among you and make marriages with them, so that you associate with them and they with you, know for certain that the LORD your God will no longer drive out these nations before you, but they shall be a snare and a trap for you, a whip on your sides and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from off this good ground that the LORD your God has given you.” (Josh. 23:12-13)

“And you shall make no covenant with the inhabitants of this land; you shall break down their altars. But you have not obeyed my voice. What is this you have done? So now I say, I will not drive them out before you, but they shall become thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare to you.” (Judges 2:2-3)

“They despised his statutes and his covenant that he made with their fathers and the warnings that he gave them. They went after false idols and became false, and they followed the nations that were around them, concerning whom the LORD had commanded them that they should not do like them. And they abandoned all the commandments of the LORD their God, and made for themselves metal images of two calves; and they made an Asherah and worshiped all the host of heaven and served Baal.” (2 Kings 17:15-16)

From all of the above Scripture passages, we can see that there must be a balance between welcoming the stranger who is in need and preserving our own faith, laws and cultural norms. Major cities in Europe such as London, Paris, Bonn and Berlin now have Muslim neighborhoods where it is dangerous for a European native to walk, especially for a woman who does not wear a veil. Dearborn and Detroit are becoming similar. Liberal democracy only works when all people – citizens and resident aliens alike – abide by the same set of values and laws. But when the majority is liberal and tolerant while the minority is rigid and insists that the rest bend to its demands, there’s trouble ahead.

YOU CAN ALSO READ THIS at my Hosken-News Blog, and write your COMMENTS there!


Prayer and Praise:   For a daily reminder to pray for the items below, go to My Daily Prayer Guide and click on the "H-N pr." link! For our Daily News & Views, click HERE!

Sun. - Thank the Lord that the Orthodox Church in Romania is taking a strong stand against the endemic corruption in government.
Mon. - Ask God for the UOC(MP) to actively support the Ukrainian government and to publicly condemn Russian military aggression.
Tue. - Praise the Lord that the Saint Isaac's Cathedral in St. Petersburg will be converted from a museum to be used as a church.
Wed. - Pray that the Orthodox Patriarch's call for a ban on abortions in Russia will be fulfilled, ending this inhuman tragedy.
Thu. - Intercede with God for the Kosovo authorities to protect the Christian church buildings, not allow them to be desecrated.
Fri. - Thank the Lord that Christian young professionals are quietly working in Central Asia to spread the Good News there.
Sat. - Ask God that Christians in the West will take the time to gain a balanced view of Biblical teaching on welcoming foreigners.

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

  Your fellow-servants,

  Bob & Cheryl

  p.s. Taking a middle of the road position is dangerous. You can get knocked down by the traffic from both ways.