||FIRST, THE NEWS:
NORWEGIAN-ROMANIAN COUPLE HAD 5 KIDS SEIZED OVER CHRISTIAN 'INDOCTRINATION.' WILL THEIR CASE FINALLY BE HEARD?
from: Lifesite News
(03 Mar.) Families all over Europe and the parents’ rights groups that defend them from state intrusion are watching closely as the European Court of Human Rights decides whether to take on the Bodnariu family's case.
The Bodnarius are a Norwegian-Romanian couple whose five children were all seized by the Norwegian child welfare agency Barnevernet in November 2015. The seizures took place reportedly because officials were concerned that the parents' strong Pentecostal Christian beliefs would harm their children, as well the fact that they use corporal punishment.
After Romanian expatriates organized an international campaign with protests in 50 cities and two dozen countries and gathered 50,000 signatures on a petition, the Norwegian government relented. Last June, it ordered Barnevernet to return the children. The petition supporting the family claimed that the parents were accused of "Christian radicalism and indoctrination."
Now lawyers on behalf of the Bodnariu family are awaiting the European Human Rights Court’s decision on whether to launch a formal examination of Barnevernet’s conduct. “It would be a good start,” Peter Costea, a Romanian-American lawyer who lobbied vigorously for the Bodnarius. “What the EHRC decides would set a precedent for 47 European countries to follow, not just the ones in the European Union.” [read more...]
RUSSIA: ALLEGED "MISSIONARY ACTIVITY" PROSECUTIONS CONTINUE
by Victoria Arnold: Forum 18 News Service
(01 Mar.) Prosecutions are continuing across Russia under severe restrictions on sharing beliefs (commonly and misleadingly called the "law on missionary activity") which came into force in July 2016. The first known deportation of a foreigner for allegedly violating the new Religion Law and Code of Administrative Offences restrictions on sharing beliefs took place in February 2017, Forum 18 has learned.
Judges in at least two cases have ordered confiscated religious literature to be destroyed, although one of these rulings was later overturned. This occurred despite courts having no legal right to do this if the confiscated materials have not previously been formally legally classified as "extremist", pornographic, or drugs-related. Also, religious organisations are receiving large fines for not displaying their "official full names" on publications, on websites, or on buildings.
More than seven months after the July 2016 restrictions were introduced, confusion still surrounds their implementation. This confusion and inconsistency marking decisions on whether to prosecute individuals and religious organisations for sharing beliefs has been present from the day the restrictions came into force. The current persisting confusion is primarily to do with whether and how people may share their private beliefs as private individuals, rather than as representatives of registered religious associations.
Indian Protestant pastor Victor-Immanuel Mani is the first known case of a foreigner being deported under Administrative Code Article 5.26, Part 5 ("Foreigners conducting missionary activity"). He is planning to appeal further, and his lawyers argue that the deportation order is in contradiction of a 2013 Supreme Court ruling that "expulsion from the country, which is home to members of [the defendant's] family, may violate the right to respect for family life." [read more...]
AFTER VISIT TO AVDIYIVKA, UGCC BISHOP TELLS ABOUT THE DAUNTING DAILY LIFE OF FRONTLINE RESIDENTS
from: Religious Information Service of Ukraine
(01 Mar.) Recently, Bishop Stepan Meniok, Donetsk Exarch of the UGCC, with the blessing of His Beatitude Sviatoslav, head of the UGCC, visited Avdiyivka with a team of CF Caritas, where previously the households suffered severe damages from shelling in the old part of the city.
Accompanied by CIMIC servicemen, they carried out the initial assessment of the needs to restore damaged households, food provision and health care. The Bishop visited Mariyinka where he talked to the pupils of the local Children and Youth Creativity Center. Here are some thoughts and impressions that Bishop Stepan shared after this visit:
“I had an impression, when roaming amidst these empty destroyed buildings, that it is a biological war. When people are poisoned and die, and only empty houses and belongings remain. Walking along an empty street, I met the poor and homeless animals. A cat came up to me, who was looking for his owners. I was returning in a bad mood and burden on my heart.
"Speaking about the victims, I have heard many complaints. People came to me to complain about the military who accommodated in their homes and the authorities... And there is the front-line line, our military are forced to live in the houses of locals. CF 'Caritas' continues its active operation within the city, the city authorities are supporting them." [read more...]
GEORGIA: GOVERNMENT AND ORTHODOX BLOCK MUSLIMS REGAINING MOSQUE
by Mariam Gavtadze, and Eka Chitanava: Forum 18 News Service
(28 Feb.) The Muslims of Mokhe have long sought the return of their half-ruined mosque, whose roof in the 1990s started collapsing after the walls started to fall down. The village has about 75 households, around half of whom are Muslim, and is located in Adigeni Municipality in the southern Samtskhe-Javakheti Region. Muslims have rented a place to pray in a local house, but still want to regain their former mosque.
A State Agency for Religious Issues commission to inquire into the building's future was set up, after October 2014 violent attacks by police against Muslims protesting at the planned demolition of the half-ruined building. The Commission included none of the Muslims and non-Muslims suggested by local Muslims, but did include Georgian Orthodox Church representatives who have started to also claim the building. Some other Commission members though have stated that the building was started as a mosque.
Also, village headteacher and Orthodox activist Natia Rekhviashvili tried and failed in December 2016 to impose a hijab ban on one final-year pupil. Despite the testimony of witnesses Forum 18 has spoken to, both Rekhviashvili and the Ministry of Education and Science have denied that this happened. [read more...]
EVERY TENTH RUSSIAN ASHAMED OF PERSECUTIONS AGAINST THE CHURCH - POLL
(01 Mar.) Every tenth Russian (11%) is ashamed of persecutions against the Church in the 20th century, the Levada-Center research shows. During the poll held on January 20-23 among 1600 Russians, sociologists asked their respondents what events in the country's history make them feel ashamed.
Besides the items mentioned, every fourth Russian is distressed about "rude habits, crude expressions, disrespect to each other" (24% against 45% in 1999). Russians are proud first of all about the victory in World War II (83%), returning of Crimea to Russia (43%), and "the country's leading role in space research." It is interesting that the space research until recently held the second place in the rating.
Russians are also proud about Russian literature (36% against 46% in 1999), and "the moral features of a Russian person - simplicity, patience, resistance (23%)." [read more...]
THIS WOODEN PREFAB CHAPEL IS A GORGEOUS TRIBUTE TO CHERNOBYL VICTIMS
(01 Mar.) At first glance, the area of Finchley in north London may seem an unlikely spot for a chapel memorializing the lives lost in a catastrophic nuclear accident some 30 years and 1,500 miles away. But the small, modern Belarusian Memorial Chapel was built to be the new heart of the U.K.’s 5,000-strong Belarusian community.
Funded by the Vatican, the church was intentionally planned and constructed to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986. The nuclear accident had massive impact on Belarus, which took 70 percent of the radioactive fallout.
Designed by London-based Spheron Architects, the 800-square-foot church was directly inspired by traditional Belarusian religious architecture. Architect Tszwai So traveled to rural Belarus and studied the domed spires, icon-covered screens, and shingled roofs that influenced his final design. So combined these classic elements with modern touches like glazed glass walls and angled timber slats on the sides of the building.
The chapel was made of Douglas Fir and was prefabricated offsite. Cross-laminated pine panels manufactured in Spain were used to finish the building. [read more...]
OTHER NEWS HEADLINES:
UKRAINIAN AUTOCEPHALOUS ORTHODOX CHURCH TO CELEBRATE ITS 100TH ANNIVERSARY OF REBIRTH AT STATE LEVEL
from Religious Information Service of Ukraine
UKRAINE: HOW ONE QUESTION CAN CHANGE LIVES
from Mission Network News
SCHOOLCHILDREN HELD A PHOTO SESSION IN STOLEN PRIESTLY ROBES AT A CHURCH IN LOCATION OF THE ROYAL FAMILY'S EXECUTION
RUSSIAN SANTA CONVICTED OF VIOLATING ANTITERRORISM LAW AT CITY HOLIDAY
from Moskovskii Komsomolets
METROPOLITAN HILARION ATTENDS EXHIBITION “IN MEMORY OF THOSE WHO LAID DOWN THEIR LIVES FOR THE FAITH OF CHRIST” IN 1917
from Russian Orthodox Church - Moscow Patriarchate
ALEX’S TESTIMONY: A MIRACULOUS TRANSFORMATION
from Mission Eurasia
ORTHODOX CHURCH IS MOST TRUSTED INSTITUTION IN BULGARIA
RUSSIA'S NEW SOCIAL CLASS: SERVANTS OF GOD
from Russia Beyond the Headlines
RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH FUELS POWERFUL PRO-LIFE MOVEMENT
NOW, OUR VIEWS:
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In his article The Liturgies Of Secular Democracy, Rod Dreher explains that many if not most people misunderstand his project "The Benedict Option" that he describes in his book of the same name (which you can pre-order from Amazon.com [see my link below] for less than he offers it for on his website).
"The liberal-democratic order is founded on suspending the question of whether God exists or not (and has authority over human life) and relegating that to the level of personal opinion. This means that democracy itself functions as though atheism is metaphysically true — there is no God whose demands on people must be embraced — but gives people the freedom to shape their own lives around theism (or deism, or polytheism etc). In the short term this is a great solution to the problem of religious wars, by simply punting ultimate questions of morality and metaphysics and seeking to create a society where people can live together despite deep differences.
"The problem is that this arrangement is unstable for two reasons. First, living in a western democracy catechizes people into practical atheism. Because the underpinnings of society forecloses the question of God and makes material reality the ultimate horizon, then society itself is run on atheistic presuppositions. The more you invest in being a good citizen and are part of democratic public life, the more you are shaped by the rituals of democratic life into thinking, dreaming, desiring, acting, as an atheist."
Basically, the problem is this: most people in the West have been so thoroughly immersed in the Western liberal, democratic, secular-humanist worldview that they are totally unable to conceive of a society that is anything other than a statist, politically-oriented world in which the state encompasses everything, and excludes any metaphysical option, especially the Christian one. Socialism has become the default option. We've become practical atheists, despite what we say we believe. See "Share Our Vision" below for our answer to this dilemma.
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Koinonia: Communion, Community and Fellowship
"The things which you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit the same to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also" (2 Timothy 2:2). This verse aptly describes passing along the Gospel from one generation of faithful and capable believers to the next generation. What is it that we pass along?
"The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?" (1 Cor. 10:16). This is the most important meaning of koinonia in the New Testament because it is when we commune in the Body and Blood of Christ that we become the Church, the Body of Christ on earth:
"For I received from the Lord that which also I delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night in which he was betrayed took bread. When he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, 'Take, eat. This is My body, which is broken for you. Do this in memory of Me.' In the same way, He also took the cup, after supper, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in My blood. Do this, as often as you drink, in memory of Me'" (1 Cor 11:23-25).
It should be very clear that "This is My body... This cup is the new covenant in My blood." When we partake of communion, we take His very Body and Blood, and thereby we are united with Christ. Thus communion is the very real, physical foundation for Christian community and fellowship. Second, by repeating this, it keeps in our memory the saving act of Christ on the Cross.
There's another important element in this context that we have in common: in verse 23 we read - "that which also I delivered to you..." and in verse 2 - "hold firm the traditions, even as I delivered them to you." The Greek verb for "deliver" is "paradidomi" - literally to "transmit" or "pass along"; and the noun "tradition" is "paradosis" in Greek, or "that which is transmitted or passed along." St. Paul teaches us here that we must hold firm to what binds us together in the fellowship or communion of the Body and Blood of Christ. It was "passed along" at first orally, then in writing: "So then, brothers, stand firm, and hold the traditions which you were taught by us, whether by word, or by letter" (2 Thes. 2:15). Tradition is both oral and written. In a semi-literate culture such as in the first-century church, much of what holds it together is oral songs and stories that are memorized and repeated over and over, shared and passed along from one generation to the next.
So the next aspect of koinonia is "community" or "common, shared life." In Romans 15:26-27 we read, "For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make some contribution (koinonia) for the poor among the saints at Jerusalem. For they were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have come to share in their spiritual blessings, they ought also to be of service to them in material blessings."
Also, "By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution (koinonia) for them and for all others" (2 Cor. 9:13). The context here is that St. Paul is encouraging the Corinthian believers to voluntary give aid for the church in Macedonia - "So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to go on ahead to you and arrange in advance for the gift you have promised, so that it may be ready as a willing gift, not as an exaction. The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver" (2 Cor. 9:5-7). Again, this assumes private ownership of property, not communal ownership or forced communism.
Writing to the Hebrew Christians, St. Paul says, "Do not neglect to do good and to share (koinonia) what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God" (Heb. 13:6).
But living in community requires responsibility for oneself - "Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. But let each man test his own work, and then he will take pride in himself and not in his neighbor. For each man must bear his own burden" (Gal. 6:2,4-5). While we ought to care for someone who is unable to care for himself, it is each person's own primary responsibility for himself and his family. Also: "But if any provide not for his own, and especially for those of his own house, he has denied the faith and is worse than an infidel" (1 Tim, 5:8). Just as in the case of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5, there may be some who "fake it," pretending to share while they only want to "take it," not give. St. Paul warned against this: "For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: 'If a man will not work, neither shall he eat.' We hear that some among you are idle. They are not busy; they are busybodies" (2 Thes. 3:10-11).
Thirdly, koinonia is "fellowship" - 1 Cor. 1:9 tells us, "God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship (koinonia) of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord." Jesus Christ is the foundation of our fellowship. The Early Church experienced real fellowship: "They continued steadfastly in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship (koinonia), in the breaking of bread, and prayer" (Acts 2:42). How did they do this? "All who believed were together, and had all things in common. They were selling their possessions and goods, and distributed them to all, according as anyone had need" (Acts 2:44-45). The word for "common" is "koinos" in Greek, from the same root as koinonia. It is important to note here that the verb tense "were selling" indicates a continuing, incomplete or unperfected action: the first disciples didn't immediately give up all of their possessions: the story of Ananias and Sapphira tells us that their right to continue owning private property was kept intact, their fatal problem was lying about giving to the Church the full price of the property they sold.
Act 4:32 repeats this practice: "And the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul. And not one said that any of the things which he possessed was his own. But they had all things common." Again, this was a gradual, unperfected action: "Nor was there anyone needy among them; for all who were owners of lands or houses were selling them, and were bringing the proceeds of the things which had been sold, and were placing them beside the feet of the apostles; and they were distributing to each, to the degree that anyone had need" (Act 4:34-35, EMTV).
Writing to the church in Ephesus, St. Paul tells of the ministry God gave him "...to bring to light what is the fellowship (koinonia) of the mystery which from eternity has been hidden in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ" (Eph. 3:9). The Apostle Paul thanked God for the Philippian believers - "for your fellowship (koinonia) in furtherance of the gospel from the first day until now" (Phil. 1:5). And finally, looking forward to his martyrdom, St. Paul writes, "that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship (koinonia) of His sufferings, being made conformable to His death; if by any means I might attain to the resurrection of the dead" (Phil. 3:10-11).
Thus we see the scarlet thread of koinonia woven throughout the New Testament, in the lives of the Apostles and the Early Church. May we become sharers of this Good News!
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. - Pray for Marius and Ruth Bodinariu whose children were seized by authorities due to "Christian radicalism and indoctrination."
Mon. - Ask the Lord that Russia's severe restrictions on sharing beliefs will be overturned in the Russian Constitutional Court.
Tue. - Pray for the remaining residents of Avdiyivka, Ukraine, whose town was demolished by shelling in the recent surge of fighting.
Wed. - Ask God to change the hearts of the Orthodox in Mokhe, Georgia, who are denying Muslims their right to recover use of a mosque.
Thu. - Thank the Lord that every tenth Russian is ashamed of persecutions against the Church in the 20th century, according to a poll.
Fri. - Praise God for the beautiful new chapel in Finchley, north London, to honor the Belorussians affected by the Chernobyl disaster.
Sat. - Pray that we Christians will comprehend the richness of the koinonia (communion, fellowship) that we possess in Christ Jesus.
Please remember to pray for Christians in the former Soviet bloc countries, and for...
Bob & Cheryl
p.s. No armor? Unclean life? Then don't mess with dragons, for you are crunchy and taste good with ketchup.